Our neighbors in the next block all had their Obama signs stolen over the weekend. When I talked to one woman, she had already cruised by Obama headquarters to get a replacement and a spare. “Those creeps aren’t going to stop me,” she said.
Signs or no, you can’t get away from the election. I’ve become a total election bore. I think and talk and write about it night and day. Wake up to NPR telling us the very latest. Agonize over every poll that comes out. Wonder what dirty tricks will be played and whether they’ll work.
A friend (he knows who he is) recently turned down a visit at our house the weekend before the election. He said he couldn’t stand to be around a political junkie that close before the election. I’m pretty sure he was talking about me. What? I’m not a junkie. I’m just deeply obsessed and highly interested, bordering on the maniacal, sure, but also capable of talking about other things for minutes at a time before I go electoral-college bonkers again. I don’t have a problem! I can quit when I want to! I’m balanced, kind of!
Then, I wonder something equally horrifying: What are we going to do, once the election is over? What are we going to talk about, pore over? For eight years, we’ve paced and kvetched and whined about the ineptness and sheer dangerousness of the Bush administration. For months or years, we’ve duked it out in the primaries, from New Hampshire to Texas. We’ve argued over Hillary and Obama, we’ve threatened to move to more liberal countries. Between the 24-hour news cycle and the tremendous stakes at risk, we’ve inhaled this election like an illegal drug.
But then, November 4 will dawn. And maybe, I’m hoping, it will be over early. But then what?
It all reminds me, too much, of the frenzy my husband and I whipped ourselves into during the Watergate era. We watched three broadcast TV news programs every day (which is what passed for obsession in the 1970s), we listened to the hearings on radio, we rushed out to get the morning newspaper, we delighted in every catch phrase from “twist slowly in the wind” to “the big enchilada” to “The President is not a crook.”
All those months and years, those sayings, those dramas, those keen glimpses of patriotism and a knowledge we were seeing our country at its very best during a dark time, that our system worked. All that — and then, finally, the sight of Richard Nixon climbing up the ramp to his helicopter, leaving the White House and heading back to California.
It was wonderful and heady, then oddly flat, reminiscent of the last scene of The Graduate, where the young, runaway couple first looks exhilarated, then slightly bored. After all this tumult, what now?
When Watergate was over, I was actually semi-mature enough to wonder whether the best days of our lives had just passed. But, no. This election makes that clear: It wasn’t over then. Hang around long enough and, if you’re lucky and patient, you can find new thrills every 30 years or so.
(Copyright 2008 by Ruth Pennebaker)