Today is Election Day and I’m realizing that this is the first time I’m going to be in a relatively calm environment for a presidential election since 2000. Yet I can’t shake the feeling of being nervous like I always am.
If you’ve noticed my blog posts, tweets, Facebook posts or anything in the past year, you know who I’m voting for tomorrow. I should be fairly confident that things work in his favor tomorrow but despite my warnings on avoiding all distractions, I can’t shake a feeling that not everybody is that intelligent to parse through the crap to make a smart vote on their conscious. But Election Day nerves aren't new to me
1992: 8 years old. My school had a mock vote for President George Bush, Bill Clinton and Ross Perot after each grade had to “support” a candidate in a presentation at school (I remember my 3rd grade class had to support Perot). After we took the vote, Bill Clinton won by an overwhelming margin and we all cheered throughout the school. I remember coming home to see Clinton won and feeling pretty happy.
1996: 12 years old, I remember Clinton vs. Dole well. I felt Dole was an old man who seemed out of touch and was fairly confident Clinton would win. The irony is that year, we were in San Diego (a Republican city) for Mom’s job and listened to the Democratic National Convention on radio. But again, that was a fairly benign year as Clinton won much to my approval.
2000: Here’s where things get crazy for 16-year-old me. I was nervous that whole night and I couldn’t sleep even though the election was too close to call. I had two dreams of what possibly could’ve happened. Both involved me grabbing the newspaper. The first dream was Al Gore winning. The second was George W. Bush winning. I woke up wondering which dream came true.
Never in my wildest dreams did I expect a 3rd option. Nobody won. Nobody would win for a whole month until the Supreme Court took the ball and won in a 9-0 landslide on behalf of Bush. I had to get used to terms like hanging chad, know folks like Jeb Bush/Katherine Harris and was worried every day something bad would happen.
I was taking US History that year so I had a firsthand seat to discussions in class about the process and what we could learn from it. Only later did I learn in depth about how screwed up the Florida recount was and how Congress failed Floridians by not challenging the recount.
2004: Junior in college. My sister’s a freshman at Howard in the belly of the D.C. beast. It seemed like everybody was gearing up to get Bush out of office cause the fever was that intense. Even on campus, there was passionate energy on both sides but I felt that most folks were siding with Kerry. My sister and I both exchanged words about how scared we were that night because anything could happen.
I watched CNN and all the cable shows thinking this was going to change. And then we found out that night it was still somewhat close to call. Instead of Florida, it was Ohio. Edwards said they’d contend til the end and I went to bed unsure of what to expect that day.
Needless to say, in my English class that morning, we left early to hear John Kerry’s concession speech. Deflated barely describes the mood I had on campus.
2008: Now I’m working at the LA Sentinel. The newspaper was a polling place buzzing with activity. All that season, I was in the forefront of L.A.’s urban community being inspired behind Barack Obama’s candidacy.
I was more anxious that night because I knew what was going to happen. I didn’t know exactly how it would play out but as I wrote soon after that day, it was a moment I won’t forget. For once, I wasn’t worried about the outcome.
Now I’m not sure what to think. I fully think Obama should win handily but I have a sick fear that Romney could win and there be some controversy. Nothing is impossible. After watching “American Blackout” and “Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story,” there is no low that folks will go to ensure victory.
Atwater’s story is fascinating as he’s the modern father of mudslinging and distracting folks to vote based on emotion instead of facts. It’s strategy that dominating the political sphere and since Obama has gotten elected, it’s grown heavier and sinister. It’s why I don’t go into tomorrow with blind eyes because I’ve seen shadiness to validate my fears.
So tomorrow, I’ll be casting my ballot after doing my homework. I’ll be listening to Malcolm X’s “Ballot or the Bullet” for inspiration. I’ll be sitting at my youth group while the votes are being counted around the country and in our fellowship hall. And I’ll be nervous. But I’m also excited because every two and four years, we wrap up this dance and watch to see which way our country is headed.