I don’t know about you, but I’ve been finding it more and more difficult to get work done the last few weeks. I sit down to start grading papers or write that review, and instead I find an excuse to start surfing politico.com or MSNBC’s First Read or any of the dozens of political websites I’ve tripped over this election season.
I’ve been a political junkie for most of my life. I distinctly remember being enthralled with the 1976 presidential primaries when my third-grade teacher decided to put a big chart on the wall. I had no idea who Reagan or Carter were, but the steadily building numbers of delegates seemed almost mystical. A few years later I discovered a game about presidential campaigns and electoral votes at a friend’s house. I’m embarrassed to say I’d sometimes ignore him just so I could finish the game that he’d got bored of.
In high school, I became passionate about Model UN, and my political interests broadened. Ever since, my reading has revolved around newspapers and magazines that let me indulge my passion for understanding how the world--especially the political world--works and doesn’t work.
I’ve consciously avoided getting too involved in the political blogosphere. Part of it is elitist disdain--most political blogs feel like they were written by some troglodyte who wouldn’t know the difference between its and it’s if it bit him in the ass. And this immature desire to be the first to say something--a trait endemic to online political discussion, as well as film--leads to a lot more heat than light. And have you checked out the comments thread on some of those sites? It’s like all the frat houses of the world made a rule that you had to post a comment after each shot of Jagermeister.
Still, it’s election season. And since my vote doesn’t matter (I live in blue-blue Illinois) and I don’t have the resources to travel to Indiana and help out the cause, I’m stuck in my apartment. Waiting. Wondering. Worrying. Some pundits have remarked that this is the most important election of our generation. That’s wrong, of course. The correct answer is the 2000 presidential election. But since we can’t change that travesty of history, then this election is the most important.
Even if I didn’t have a passionate rooting interest, I’d still find myself clicking on link after link. I mean, I can’t get over how much polling information is out there. And it’s not just data. It’s thoughtful analysis of how polls are conducted, how likely voter models are determined, and whether the Bradley Effect might still exist. I realize that seems like arcane trivia to almost everyone, but I find it riveting. As if my third-grade teacher hadn’t created a chart but a whole book full of fascinating numbers.
The focus on details also helps me avoid the dread I feel when I worry that Obama might not win. As I wrote earlier (in a delightfully prescient post, I say with outsized pride), I can understand that some people might vote for McCain because of certain issues (abortion, the military, the psychotic need to continue to revisit the debates of the late ‘60s). But as the campaign has gone on, I’ve become less and less tolerant of both McCain and his supporters. But then they’re obviously intolerant of people like me--I live four blocks from the domestic terrorist Bill Ayers, and I don’t fear for my safety!!!--so we’re square.
Can I also just say that I’m a bit piqued at all the undecided voters? I believe this amazingly great David Sedaris quote sums up my feelings:
I look at these people and can’t quite believe they exist. Are they professional actors? I wonder. Or are they simply laymen who want a lot of attention? To put them in perspective, I think of being on an airplane. The flight attendant comes down the aisle with her food cart and, eventually, parks it beside my seat. “Can I interest you in the chicken?” she asks. “Or would you prefer the platter of shit with bits of broken glass in it?” To be undecided in this election is to pause for a moment and then ask how the chicken is cooked.
As you can see, I’m a bit out of sorts. Reading all that political commentary will do that to even the most rabid of junkies. My apologies to all I offend.
Fortunately, we’re only one week away. Who knows how I’ll go to bed that night? Elated or depressed. But at least my obsessive need to click on Salon or Slate will have passed. I can wake up on Nov. 5 and get back to work, back to watching movies and writing about them, back to reading whatever book or article interests me, back to life. I can’t wait.
[By the way, any right-winger who wants to leave a contradictory comment shouldn’t bother. I will quickly and gleefully delete any comment that irritates me. It's just that time of year.]