So it’s finally here – the big day. After eighteen months of relentless, ear-splitting propaganda, with thousands, if not tens of thousands, of reporters humping the horse-race (jumping on every single poll like heavily-panting boy-dogs with their little red wieners showing) and day after day swinging the heavy horseshit-hammer of Thor, braining us with one meaningless, made-up non-controversy after another – after all that angst and stress and directionless aggression, it’s finally going to end.
That it’s all going to be over finally, thank God for that. But today will still go down as a truly sad day, no matter who wins.
Years from now, when we look back at these last days and weeks before this 2012 election, what we’re going to remember is how intensely millions of Americans hated during this time, how many shameless and dishonorable lies were told as the race tightened (we scratched and clawed at each other like sewer rats over every absurd factual dispute, finding ways to shriek at each other even over things that by definition are nobody’s fault, even over acts of God like Hurricane Sandy) and how reflexively people on opposite sides of the race disbelieved each other and laid blame at each others’ feet over just about every issue, important or (more often) not.
People who live in other countries, who grew up in the third world or live now in terminally wobbling mob states of the ex-Communist variety, they must look at our behavior now in election years and think we’re crazy. You have to have lived in a country with real problems and real instability to realize this, but life doesn’t change too terribly much in America no matter which party wins the presidency – not real change, the way people in the rest of the world understand real political change, i.e. in terms of reprisals and collapsed currencies and assassinations and other such disasters. For most of us, our day-to-day lives won’t change a lick no matter who wins tonight. If we just turned off our cable channels and stayed off the net, it would take months, maybe years, for most of us to guess who won.
So all this freaking out and vicious invective-trading looks nuts from the outside: it looks like we’re making up reasons to hate and fear each other, summoning the language of violent civil unrest with a hedonistic zeal that only people who haven’t experienced the real thing could possibly enjoy.
What’s become clear in the last few weeks is that the last real taboo in America is admitting that the world isn’t going to end if the other guy gets elected. The corollary to that taboo is an apparent new national prohibition against having even the slightest faith in the essential patriotism of the other side.
When push comes to shove, we all should know most Americans want the same things, but just disagree on how to get there, which is why it should be okay to not panic if the other party wins. If some foreign agent attacks us, I seriously doubt a president Mitt Romney would wave the white flag and invite the enemy in. Right? He’ll try his best as Commander-in-chief, just like Obama has, and just like Bush did, and Clinton did, and Reagan did and so on.
That should be the way we think. We should be confident that whoever wins has our collective best interests at heart, even if we don’t agree with his or her ideology, the same way we reflexively assume that the pilot of any plane we board doesn’t want to fly us into a mountain.
But we don’t make that assumption about our politicians anymore. We don’t believe the other side would have our backs even in an emergency. People today on both sides are genuinely terrified of a wrong outcome in this election. They’ve been whipped into a state of panic – people everywhere are freaking out and muttering to themselves and firing off vitriolic emails. That’s incredibly sad. As a member of the media, I feel sick about it. I think all of us in this business owe America a hug, or something . . . All of this has gone too far, and man, we’d better pray this doesn’t end in a 2000-style mess tonight. Year 2000 America seems like a veritable Buddha of perfect composure compared to the already-terminally-pissed, stress-crazed populace that has been dragged to the final lap of this terrible contest. Like crime victims, we deserve closure. Can we at least have that?