How our writers took in the 2012 results
On Election Day I headed to the White House, determined to see what Washington D.C. had to offer by way of protests, gatherings and general hubbub. Imagine my surprise as the closer I got, the more aware I became of how this Tuesday looked like just another weekday. When I arrived at tourist central, I found a smattering of people at best. Not to be defeated, I hoofed it around to the north end of the White House where Secret Service police politely suggested there might be some action, only to find a lone protestor. Puzzled, I trekked to Capitol Hill. The only action there was construction related to its refurbishment. Drat. I’d officially had it — time for a beer. I headed to Union Pub, a neighborhood bar in Capitol Hill. That’s where the action was. The bar was teeming with people who cheered at results and made towers from beer cans. It soon became standing room only and as the evening wore on, the noise level grew. Some excited young Aussie boys bent my ear while people feverishly checked their phones and passionately carried on. Then suddenly the whole place erupted — CNN called the election. There was chanting, high fiving and contagious euphoria. Caught up in the fervor, I longed to stay, but suddenly realized I’d better dash for the Metro. I barely caught the last train of the night at Union Station, because for DC Metro Rail, it was just another weekday.
I woke up on November 6 at 5:30 in the morning to make it to work by 7. I already had my Election Day planned. I took advantage of early voting, so I would go to work, burn off my nervous energy at the gym and follow the election coverage until 10:30 that night, when I would go to bed. My husband would wake me up if Obama won, or let me learn the next morning that Romney won so my sleep wouldn’t be ruined. The day went as expected, and after running three miles and lifting weights, I was physically exhausted. After dinner and grocery shopping, I opened my browser to the Huffington Post, and canceled my plans for a decent night’s sleep. Thanks to Nate Silver’s predictions on his FiveThirtyEight blog, I hadn’t worried much about the election. However, when I saw Romney leading in Virginia and Florida, and Obama leading unexpectedly in North Carolina, I was glued to my screen. I stayed there until Huffington Post put Obama above the required 270 electoral votes. Even though I was tired from my workout, I had so much adrenaline in my system that I stayed up to watch Romney’s concession speech and Obama’s victory speech. Then I looked at the time and realized I had to wake up in four hours. The next day was rough, but Facebook updates from horrified relatives and elated friends helped me through it.
-Caryn Livingston (HOU)
I spent Election Night furiously checking text message updates during timeouts of a basketball game that I was playing. When I finally got off the 6 train at Spring Street, I heard a level of noise from the bars usually reserved for Friday night. Three or four different places were packed with people, beers in hand, celebrating as the results of the election came in just after 11 o’clock. I couldn’t help but stop, bundled up and stare through the large windows at the revelry inside. Seeing my reflection, it was impossible not to think of myself as a character in a movie, longingly staring at a scene I wasn’t part of. Since 2008, election results have become cause for group celebration, like a typical sporting event. As happy as I am that my generation feels such an emotional connection to the results, I also hope that the cheering is as close to sports as the election comes. In sports, we associate ourselves with a team, knowing full well that while we’ll cheer and cry with their successes and failures, we have no control over the outcome. Politics needs to be something different. It’s not merely a spectator sport. Our voices need to be heard, and our actions need to be felt, in order to continue moving the country in the direction we all want it to go. It’s a team that we can take ownership of. Now, we just need to start doing it.
-Eric Samulski (NY)
The 2012 Presidential Campaign is finally over and I, for one, couldn’t be happier. It isn’t just the fact that Barack Obama was re-elected with a clear majority in both the popular and electoral vote (even though he was) or the fact that I can finally stop defending my left-leaning perspective to virtually anyone who disagrees with me (even though I can, but probably won’t want to). No, I’m happy simply because this day marks the first time in months I don’t have to worry about a direct infiltration of our country’s highest office by people whose idea of economic reform is letting one of our nation’s biggest industries go bankrupt. I no longer have to worry about our chief executive being a man whose idea of paying for college involves borrowing money from one’s parents and sees nothing harmful or antiquated in his approach toward women’s issues. Most of all, I’m grateful that a man who doesn’t believe in the plight of those lacking health insurance, thinks cutting Federal Disaster Relief is a good idea to save money and sees no merit whatsoever in the arts or culture of our nation will soon be banished back to the private sector he helped to corrupt and pervert with every underhanded tactic and shady dealing — hopefully never to return. Am I getting a little too Biblical for you? Consider just how mythic this race got and how heavily faith played into it on both sides. Hopefully, in another four years the stakes won’t seem quite as dire. Still, when talking politics, the future of our world is what’s in question. I know I feel more comfortable with Barack Obama at the helm. Here’s hoping we can put away the divisiveness of this race and focus on fixing the nation together.
-Corey Pajka (NY)
My Election Day journey was something I will never forget. An elderly man named Matt asked if I could drive him home from the polling place and, after a brief instinctual hesitation, I was off with him in my car. He told me that he was 92 and that his cane had helped him on the walk to the polling place, but he wasn’t sure he could make it back up the hill. He had been through a lot in his day. Metal detectors at airports go off when he flies because of shrapnel still lodged in him from the Battle of the Bulge. He’s going back east as usual for Thanksgiving this year and he knows it will happen again. He said he had major cancer surgery when he was 85. Despite these handicaps, he still made it out to vote and I asked him what he thought about this election. He told me that his life is almost over but he cares about the future of young people having education and health care. He believes that Romney would crush hopes of any progress in those departments. Where Matt doesn’t believe “half of what Romney says” he thinks Obama is honest, “as far as politicians go.” Nixon had the number one spot on his list as the worst president of all time, but then Bush came in and “deserves to be arrested” for what he did. I could have spoken with this man all night, but as I was about to ask him the secret to long life, a woman yelled that I had to move out of the driveway. Matt got out of the car and I went around to lend him a hand. I took his number and said we should have coffee sometime. He then ushered me out of the driveway and I waved goodbye to my new old friend.
-Jennifer Schoch (LA)
I’m still not sure whether it was optimism or fear, but in the days leading up to the election, I barely give the proceedings any thought. In years past, elections were a very exciting experience for me. I’d either been volunteering or involved in some strange type of celebration — such as 2008’s M.I.T. newspaper headquarters debauchery. This year, I just planned on getting pleasantly drunk and seeing what happened. We’d have the TV on at work and I’d see the results as they came. Besides, deep down, I knew Obama could do it. As my co-workers and friends anxiously watched the returns come in, I drank wine in the office and wandered around. Somehow it all felt hollow. As we approach the 2016 campaign, I’ll surely become more engaged as new contenders emerge. Until then, it almost feels like with the same president in place, I’m off the hook to focus on my own life. I really do trust him to keep us on track. While freeing, this cynicism also worried me. When the inevitable victory projections came in, I still didn’t feel anything. The bar erupted in cheers and jokes, while I sat quietly at the end. Even during Obama’s speech, it still wasn’t kicking in, until I finally managed to focus and pay attention. Whether it was the whiskey or his words is hard to say, but slowly the life crept back into me. By the end, my emotions — anger, excitement, pride, hope and relief — were so high that I had to go downstairs and be alone for a minute. It was finally over. Preferring a clear head, I poured the rest of my whiskey out and went back upstairs to face whatever came next.
-Cole Rosengren (NY)
After a couple of dull hours spent serving the few tables that showed up to my restaurant — which does not have a TV and thus has no appeal on Election Night — I made my way over to Cole’s restaurant to watch the results with friends. When I walked in the door, I received a welcome worthy of Norm from Cheers. I made my rounds to different friends at the bar and settled in with a glass of Cava. As we watched the results slowly filter in, I chatted with people about topics political and otherwise. Whenever Obama would win a state’s vote, the group of about 20 would cheer. Throughout the night, I learned the results of other important elections I was following: Kristen Gillibrand, Elizabeth Warren and Angus King were elected to the Senate and marriage equality passed in Maine. When it was announced that Obama had won the election, there was a feeling of electricity in the air. Listening to President Obama’s acceptance speech, I felt a sense of pride in my country. After the long and arduous election, we as a nation had chosen to move forward. The proof is not only in the re-election of our president, but in the record number of women who will serve in the Senate and the passing of marriage equality and legalization of marijuana in many states. I hope that this progress continues, and perhaps in four years, we’ll even see a woman elected president.
-Katie Dinardo (NY)