I am addicted to the presidential election. Others may have their morning coffee, their smoking breaks and their computer games. I have Salon and Slate, Talking Points Memo and Tom Paine, The New York Times and The Washington Post, NPR and Charlie Rose, CNN and — gotta watch what the other guys are saying — Fox News. It all started in 2000. Back then I was a normal recent college graduate working in Cambridge. But when Gore won the election, then Bush did and then no one did for days and later long weeks, my hackles rose. I sat for hour upon hour, glued to the television, watching David Boies and Ted Olsen go toe-to-toe at the Supreme Court. I couldn’t believe what was happening. This was way more compelling than the O.J. trial.
But then the unthinkable happened. The Supreme Court stopped the recount, and Bush was sent to the White House. I was livid. I didn’t know what to do. Finally, after getting into a war of words with a well-scrubbed young banker at a friend’s house party, I realized it was time to take action. Two roommates, a friend and I piled into a car and drove down to Washington, D.C., to protest at Bush’s inauguration.
It was a sight. The Capitol was a free-for-all of scruffy sign-wielding protesters and cowboy hat-sporting, fur coat-wearing Republicans. Since I was among the scruffy sign-holders, I had a hard time even getting to the parade route. Black-clad policemen with clubs poured out of unmarked vans like the Keystone Kops, cutting off the (fully permitted) protest march far away from the presidential motorcade. Finally, we threw down our signs and stood in line with the Republicans, waiting to pass through a massive security check under the watchful eyes of sharpshooters while staffers from Comedy Central’s “Daily Show” plied the queuing inauguration-goers. Then we waited and waited on Constitution Avenue, chanting slogans until Bush’s car flew by us at a healthy clip, his handlers apparently eager to speed the newbie Commander-In-Chief to friendlier audiences at the Inaugural Ball.
Since then, I’ve had political fever. Occasionally my interest has waned, like when I spent two weeks in the Himalayas and couldn’t access a newspaper. But for the most part my addiction has only grown, and now with the election looming only two weeks ahead, I find myself feverishly checking online polls, reading articles and dissecting the spin. I click incessantly on “interactive graphics” of the electoral maps, determined to construct an electoral victory for Kerry, one woman at a time. Heck, I even drove out to Wisconsin with some classmates to spend a week knocking on the doors of swing voters and handwriting personal notes to undecideds. I solemnly prodded any Democrats I turned up to the voting booths. “It’s a crucial election,” I intoned. “Please remember to vote.”
Now, I wonder what I’ll do after the election. I’ve spent so much energy worrying about politics for the past four years that it’s difficult to imagine how I’ll fill my time beginning Nov. 3. What enriching and pleasant activities will I partake in after my political addiction fades? Will I take up knitting or finally learn to play the guitar? Will my grades skyrocket as I focus single-mindedly on academics, finally able to stifle my impulse to check out the latest political commentary only one short click away?
The first step is admitting you have a problem. I am addicted to the presidential election, and I’m not the only one. We are the opposite of undecided voters. We are the engaged, the informed, the “base.” We are the political junkies. No one cares about us, no one runs ads on our TVs and no one ever comes to visit us. We live in non-swing states, and we are taken for granted. But we’re out there, and we will talk to each other until there’s no doubt in any of our minds that we are right. Too bad no one else is listening.
Emily Levin is a second-year graduate student at the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.