It was Tuesday night and about twelve people sat in the downstairs lounge to watch the election play itself out. Ten Democrats, one Libertarian, and one Republican-- and he was from Ohio.
As the first few states came rolling in, the mood was jubuliant. We weren't winning, but we weren't out of the running. Elections became closer and closer, and the discrepencies between when MSNBC called states and when CNN did grew. Pennsylvania turned blue, Florida red, and then a long, bitter battle for Ohio. When MSNBC called Ohio for Bush, in the middle of interviewing a Democratic representative from Tennessee (I believe), you could see the tears form in his eyes as he was badgered into responding.
"Well, we haven't heard those results here... (gulp) and we'll have to check the war room and see... I'm not... I don't... We'll still have to crunch some numbers, if what you're saying is true..."
"I'm going to have to disagree with you there. We here at MSNBC have called Ohio for George W. Bush, which makes it almost impossible for Kerry to win the presidency. What do you have to say about that?"
"Well, I... um... again, I'm going to have to check back in the war room and..." The tears in his eyes grew more and more evident.
"I hate to disagree with you so much, but you're wrong."
It was then that the waterworks started. For the Congressman, and for us.
We switched stations after that, back to CNN, where we remained for the rest of the night. Even though they didn't have Dee Dee Myers (one of my favorite, if not my favorite, political pundits), they had balance and nuance, and weren't in such a bind in the later hours of the night. Other states had gone to Bush, but since MSNBC, FOX 'News,' and others called Ohio too early and weren't men enough to admit their mistake, the counting became skewed as they didn't want to competely tip the scales to Bush prematurely. He sat at 269 for most of the 'witching hour'.
Our building is skewed towards foreign exchange students; it's just the way the building is marketed, and a few stopped by the lounge to grab a soda or to check out the results. By midnight, they were just as shocked as we were. They were scared about their student visas being revoked; we have a guy from the Sudan whose family won't speak to him when he's in the states, they hate his decision to come here so much. Our RA is from Canada, though for some odd reason he's a US History grad student, and he came in around one and said everything that we were too scared to say.
It's funny, because growing up, even in high school and college, it was drilled into our head that checks and balances was the greatest part of American democracy, that was the golden ideal, that no one party could ever take control like this. I think you're screwed... You really should have just let the South go. Most historians believe that slavery would have been eliminated by 1900, with or without the civil war. Slavery was on its last legs, and Southern abolitionists were gaining more influence and respect. The South is what's holding you guys back. You've got a lot of backwards, stupid hicks who are confusing religion with government, and it will be your downfall. Look at all those red states; they're the Bible Belt. They're the people who believe that WMDs were found, and that Saddam and Osama were linked. The mantra down there is "Guns, Gays, and God." They're voting on things that don't matter, and things that the president doesn't have control over.... I just, I feel really bad for you guys, because you're never going to know the financial security your parents did during the 90s. You're going to slip and slip down the drain if these people keep on winning and keep on taking control.
(via Daily Kos)
As each state crossed that line, we grew more and more panicked, talking about Roe v. Wade, social security, Supreme Court justices, education, health care, foreign policy, the debt, etc.
"Just think of how large the deficit will be for our children!"
"Just think! I'll never get to have children!"
That shut everyone up.
We stayed up until 4:15, when Wisconsin was called for Kerry. At the time, we thought it would take days, if not weeks, for Ohio to work its way to a close. It was just too close to call, we thought. We'll wake up in the morning and things will be the same.
As we silently made our way up the stairs, back to our room, when I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was the Republican, from Ohio.
"Listen, Bob. I, um... I didn't realize... err... Listen, I... I just wanted to let you know... I'm sorry."
I still didn't sleep well that night, but it was that thought that kept my heart from breaking until the next morning.