8 weeks before Election Day:
My boyfriend hangs up a poster of the 44 presidents of the United States. The first 43 are arranged in a nice even box. “One of these is not like the other!” we say and stab our fingers at the 44th portrait. “That one! That one!” Obama is alone at the head of an empty row of future leaders. The poster’s designers tried to cover the big white space next to him with OBAMA ’08 block letters, but the whole thing seems so unlikely.
6 weeks before Election Day:
I give money to the Obama campaign. I do so mainly because I find myself in the category of bewildered, bitter Hillary gals who need to get over it and haven’t yet. I will not be a sour bitch. I will get into this. (Also, Sarah Palin, holy shit!)
I now receive e-mails from David Plouffe, David Axelrod and Michelle Obama on a daily basis. Sometimes Barack himself sends me one. “Steven — We need more money for Change! For Hope! Pretty please?” I admire the tenacity of their efforts, the audacity of their spam. I do not give more, but I tell my parents to.
1 week and 5 days before Election Day:
A girl from my hometown scratches a backwards B into her own face and claims that a big scary black man did it. I guess she was trying to start a race war? I am briefly terrified that people will pay attention to this, that the politics of College Station, Texas, will once again take over the national stage. I hear both campaigns have called her. I watch as Wonkette and Drudge have a late-night post-off.
Then nothing happens. I feel like there have been many more absurd moments than this in American politics recently, and it reassures me that everyone now has the sense and courage to recognize lunacy. Should I be Ashley Todd for Halloween? She’s not even worth it.
1 week before Election Day:
This is about when I realize that Proposition 8 is going to pass and Boo-Boo and I will no longer be able to get married in the Golden State. I look up what Barack Obama has to say on gay marriage. The New York Times reports that he does not support it for religious reasons (this being the crucial distinction between miscegenation and gay marriage — God blesses the former but not the latter). I despise him for this, but I understand that he may be the American politician with the most to lose by supporting gay marriage. I try to imagine how vigorously he would be lambasted by some members of the Yale community if he held the same views and were on the right. “Doesn’t he know that religion has no place in politics! What an intolerant moron!”
5 days before Election Day:
I vote for the first time by absentee ballot in Brazos County, Texas. My ballot is less than half a page long, and in many races there is not even a Democratic contender. Do I want my Railroad Commissioner to be Republican or Libertarian?
I contrast this with my friend voting absentee in San Francisco. She receives a thick dossier of materials on municipal ballot propositions — each one stated, argued for and against, and cost-estimated. Does she want to virtually legalize prostitution in the City by the Bay?
5:00 pm on Election Day:
I phone bank for Obama at the Af-Am house.
“Hi, may I speak to Ms. Curtis, please?”
“Abubu. Dunno. Clack clack. He he. Who you?”
“This is Steven calling with Barack Obama’s Campaign for Change.”
“He he he. Bama!”
“Is Ms. Curtis there?”
“Mommy! Back Bama’s on phone!”
“Hi Mr. Obama, could you tell your organizer or whatever that this is about the fortieth call I’ve gotten today? I’m gonna vote, okay, ya’ll just gotta give me some time.”
“Thank you, ma’am, have a nice day.”
“Hi, may I speak to Mr. Bitch please?”
“This is he.”
“I’m Steven calling on behalf of —”
“Oh I voted. Earlier today. For Obama.”
“Thank you, Mr. Bitch. We’re very glad to have your support.”
8:00 pm on Election Day:
First, we take a shot for the Constitution. Before the tequila, I can recite the whole Preamble to the tune of that Schoolhouse Rock song. Then, we take a shot to each swing state that gets called.
“We need to do Pensylvania!”
“We did Pennsylvania!”
“Nooo, we did New Mexico, Wisconsin, Columbus —”
“You mean Ohio.”
11:30 pm on Election Day:
Obama says onscreen, “That American creed: Yes we can.”
Someone chuckles, “It’s Mexican.”
“Sí se puede. It’s from Cesar Chavez.”
“Well, he’s American.”
12:30 am after Election Day:
I stay up late arguing about whether Obama has any substance. Are Hope and Change real or just perception? Does it matter? Isn’t what politicians are and what they do not substance but perception? Policies may be good or bad in the end, but we judge politicians on how well they move and organize people. I take off on a tangent about how institutions like Yale have become diverse meritocracies, and just look at how everything else has too. But wait, don’t we care about Obama’s new, Hopeful, Changing policies? Won’t we be the ones cleaning up after his mistakes?
I fall asleep to the sound of a girl in the middle of Lynwood Street screaming, “Only Republican losers don’t take off their shirts for Barack! Take off your shirt for Barack!”