Opening Letters

Post-Election Blues

now what am I supposed to look forward to?

Heather Brunner, illustrated by Ryan Carpentier |

For the past few days, I have been having the craziest hallucinations. I have the shakes. My stomach hurts. I have this empty feeling inside that nothing comes close to filling. If you haven’t already guessed, I am in withdrawal. From what you ask? No, not from heroin, alcohol, or even caffeine. Instead, I am suffering from election withdrawal.

You must admit, no matter what side you were on, it was the best election ever. I know some of you out there are happy that November 4 has passed and gone. And in an attempt to seem normal, I would even agree with people when they said frustratingly to me, “I can’t wait ‘til the election is over.” But inside, I was so into this thing that I couldn’t stand to think of anything else. And I can tell you I come by this honestly.

 Growing up, I would help my parents pass out leaflets around town and attend rallies with them, sitting on my dad’s shoulders to see above the crowd. The one instance that influenced me the most and began my political obsession, though, was after one certain presidential election. I remember waking up to find my mom weeping. Realizing that I caught her in this weak moment, she sat me down on her lap and said (and no, I am not making this up), “The world as you know it will never be the same.”

Fast forward until a year-and-a-half ago when I became a body double for my mom. I would wake up everyday and get my fill of the morning news. Any time I was in my car, I would listen to NPR. When I got home from work, I would quickly turn on the TV and flip from CNN, to Fox, to MSNBC, to whatever station was covering the stories that I found most interesting. While listening to the news, I would simultaneously search various websites on my laptop for stories the pundits weren’t talking about. I would hold my breath every time a new poll came out, which was like every 23 seconds I think I heard somewhere.

You probably wouldn’t be surprised at this point to know that I DVR’d the debates. I even became engrossed by the petty stories – how much did Sarah spend when she went shopping in Minneapolis, will Malia and Sasha get their puppy, how long have Bristol and Levi been dating, does Cindy only like to wear monochromatic outfits, where did Michelle buy the dress that she wore on The View, does Sarah like Tina Fey’s impersonation, why would Barack get pancakes to go, why does McCain think everyone is his friend, what did that fist bump really mean? You get my drift.

 So, election day comes. You can imagine my nerves. This is the day I have been waiting for. I drag Shawn, my husband, out of bed an hour-and-a-half before his normal time to go to the polls with me at 7am. I was worried if I went after work I would have to wait in a long line and miss the first state’s (Indiana’s) results. When we arrived at polls, the line is shorter than expected and goes very quickly. As a side note here for polling places: please remember the “I voted” stickers next time. Shawn was so disappointed that he couldn’t wear one around all day.

To prove my point to Shawn about the long lines to come later in the day, I drove by the church after work. I so badly wanted to be able to tell him the line was out the door, around the block three times, and people were starting to erect pyramids in order to fit more people on the sidewalk. To my dismay, there wasn’t a visible line out the door at all. I was disappointed.

That night, I attended a party at my parents’ house. It has been a tradition for us to watch elections together since Gore v. Bush, when I had moved back to their house “temporarily” after graduating college. It has also been a tradition to consume too many glasses of wine. We drink when a state goes to our candidate of choice and we drink more when a state goes to the other guy (or hopefully girl sometime in my lifetime). Any excuse, right?

In addition to wine, we also cheer really loud and do our happy dances when we hear good news, confusing the four dogs at the house: Sippi, Duke, Deke and Chuck. In their minds, either our candidate won a state or the Packers scored a touchdown. In the end, though, this year was different than other years. It seemed anticlimactic. 10 o’clock came. The election was called. Pictures were shown of people cheering around the world. But, immediately after I thought to myself, “Now what?”

This “now what” feeling is still plaguing my existence. I come home excited to continue the routine I had established for so long, but the adrenaline is no longer there. I just can’t get as excited about who is on the transition team or who may become Secretary of Defense. I suppose I could look forward to 2012. Will Palin/Romney run against Obama/Biden? Will Hillary try another run? But no, no matter which way you look at it, it just won’t be the same.  Like I said, this was the best election ever. Probably better than any I will ever experience again.