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Love/Hate

3.November 2008

I love this election and I hate this election. To be more accurate, I don’t really HATE it… I think I’m suffering some election fatigue – not in the sense that I just want it to be over as if I were bored, but in the sense that I’m exhausted by the anxiety I’m feeling about it. Now, only 24 hours (and change) away from a result and I’m still obsessively looking at polls and reading the news and hoping for some definitive sign of who’s going to win. But no. There’s are positive profiles of both Obama and McCain in the NYTimes today, so no help there. fivethirtyeight.com is still showing very positive numbers for Obama, but there’s the fear that too much comfort will jinx it. Both candidates are “confident” they will win, but of course that can’t be. I VERY clearly know who I want to win, but there are still (24 hours out!) undecided voters in states that could swing the whole thing! And I still get all worked up thinking about the supreme court eight years ago making me (and Al and all our good Dem friends) cry about the Electoral College (is it outmoded or not?), and I completely freak out about vote flipping in electronic voting machines, but I also don’t want to hear about hanging chads, either. What if I go in and the computer registers my vote the wrong way? Getting it corrected makes my personal ballot look suspicious. Luckily (or not) I’m in a state where it’s unlikely to matter, but I’m sad to not be voting in my home state, which for the first time since 1964 is tilting toward the light blue. It’s a very stressful time.

But, it’s also a really exciting time. I always said that if Hillary got the nomination, I would quit what I was doing and work for her. That didn’t happen and I was disappointed for a long time. But now, I’m wishing I had quit a couple months ago and worked for the Obama camp. It’s really exciting to feel the political juices get going again and to want to be involved again (even if too little, too late). The 2004 election left me really depressed for a really long time and I even stopped reading the news until the 2008 campaigns started spooling up. But even then for a long time I was only reading out of fear – what crazy candidate will the GOP dig up? Will the Dems find someone exciting and electable? It feels like I’m thawing out after almost eight years of numb apathy and despair that things couldn’t get any better.

In this election I love a lot of things. I love so much that so many people (on both sides) are engaged in the campaigns. Obama’s effort to get young people involved has also been simply inspiring and I’m sincerely hoping it will result in a LOT of young people turning out to vote. In fact, I hope (and believe) voter turnout in general this year will be really high. I guess that’s the good thing that has come out of the Bush administration. It became very clear in 2000 and 2004 just how much just a few votes count when the situation is right. I also think it’s wonderful that people are starting to see that this decision actually does make a difference, even in their own lives. There has been a sense in the past that every candidate is just looking out for Number 1 and that they are all similar. Even I (shamefully) complained that Bush and Gore were saying the same things and running on the same platforms (save Gore’s continued interest in the environment, which didn’t seem as urgent then, somehow). And that continues to be a problem – in fighting for the same undecided voters, both candidates find themselves forced to tone down their positions for fear of alienating anyone on any single issue. But that’s the case with a two party system, I suppose.

The other thing that I love about this election is that even some jaded politicians and reporters are getting caught up in the hope of things getting better. I think it’s relatively safe to say that no matter who gets elected, things can’t get much worse. I don’t personally believe that McCain will dramatically change the direction our country is going in (down the toilet), but I also don’t believe he’s as stupid as Bush. I do believe that Obama has the desire and courage to try to stop the bad things and to start some new good things, and it looks like the Congress may be shifting in a direction that will help him (and at least forestall McCain a bit, should he get elected, God forbid). I love the enthusiasm that has come about as a result of the feeling that our country is teetering on a precipice and I sincerely hope that tomorrow doesn’t crush us all again. If we have another disappointment in this election, I fear that my political engagement will sputter and die for good. Or, will at least be transplanted to another country – one where I won’t be able to vote, but where I will be able to get away from this one.

But back to the positive. There is a sense that history is being made in the way that there wasn’t even with Gore/Bush back in the day. Then I think we (Dems) were too cocky that that election was just a formality that had to be put up with before we could continue the happy reign of the Clinton years. In 2004, I feel like there was a general political anaesthesia in place which made voter turnout dip and which made everyone believe that Bush was inevitable. Much as I wanted to see him defeated, I didn’t really believe he could be and I didn’t lift a finger to stop his reelection. But this time it’s different. In the media there’s a lot of talk about the history books and both campaigns seem conscious of the potential historical heft of their campaigns (this is also clearly influenced by the historic nature of both campaigns) and both seem aware of the potential for changing the trajectory of the nation.

The thing I like most, though is the fact that it’s possible to feel about this campaign. Politics is always emotional, but the emotions in these campaigns have seemed especially potent and palpable. Obama’s passion comes across in his calm intensity and McCain’s has come across (somewhat less positively) in his sarcasm and huffiness. But they both really want this. There’s no apathy anywhere in this campaign, which is novel and encouraging. I really want the election to go well and for the first time in a LONG time, I feel like it just might.

If it doesn’t, you might have to scrape me off the walls and ceiling. But I do have hope and believe in the potential of this country to recognize it’s time for a real CHANGE.

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