Frank Robins is a stalwart kind of fellow; funny, smart; very passionate about what he believes, but not the kind of guy who typically wears his heart on his sleeve. Until this election. “I’ve been a wreck!” he told me. “I can’t sleep, I can’t turn off the TV. I swear, I think I’ll have a nervous breakdown if Obama doesn’t pull it out! This has been the most emotional election ever!”
And he’s not alone in thinking that. In the weeks and months leading up to this vote, friends, colleagues, family members, even people on the street, have expressed just how emotional they’ve felt during this very long and often arduous process. It seems this particular election has struck a nerve that goes deep and has engendered a myriad of often extreme emotions – weeping, anger, despair, panic, hope, anxiety – that are being felt more viscerally than is typical for even us very emotional Americans. Why?
I wrote a piece earlier today that speaks to the racial components of this election, The ‘White’ To Vote – It Comes Right Back To Race, but perhaps the part of that piece that resonates with this emotional roller coaster many are feeling is the analysis of how our two political parties have evolved and what they represent in terms of what each side believes America is…and how that belief informs the core issues they feel most passionate about.
The GOP (grand old party has never seemed a more appropriate label) is positioned as the “old guard,” the party that fiercely upholds “classic American ideals” while embracing an increasingly outdated paradigm: predominately White, Christian majority, socially conservative, tapped into middle class privilege and opportunity, focused on building wealth that’s disproportionately available and often unfairly protected, flanked on the lower economic end by those bound to the party by shared fundamentalist religious dogma (…and, perhaps, racial animus).
Then there’s the Democrats: trending younger, certainly more diverse, with an emerging majority of mixed religions and ethnicities; focused on “big tent” (aka, progressive) policies and platforms unencumbered by the limitations of any one religion’s dogma. Their mission statement includes building wealth through small business and wise investing, but also looks to create safety nets to help pull up the lesser privileged, protect the needy, and promote the civil equality of all. While both parties are staunch protectors of the union though a strong military, Democrats are more likely to consider removing bloat from military budgets to put towards domestics needs.
If you accept any part of that description, it follows, then, that the core issues – from marriage equality to healthcare reform, immigration policy to how we deal with poverty; the survival of entitlements, the handling of our vets, the stabilizing of our economy and the way we conduct ourselves globally – are felt in the same extremes as any element of our party differences. And everyone, from wealthy CEOs to young people getting through college, are invested on how those issues will be represented by the man they vote for today.
The Detroit News posted a story today about an elderly voter who had just completed his ballot when he suddenly seemed to slip away; the attending nurse confirmed his lack of pulse: “He was dead…he had no heartbeat and he wasn’t breathing.” But within minutes of getting CPR, the man miraculously revived. Nurse, Ty Houston, was stunned:
“The first question he asked was, ‘Did I vote?’” Dumbfounded, the man’s wife told him that whether he voted was the least of their concerns. She told him “‘Your life is my concern,’” Houston said.
According to Houston, the man — who had a tracheotomy in his throat — gulped down a few more breaths and then told her “there are only two things that are important to me: That I love you and that I finished what I came here to do … vote.”
Which he had done.
That’s dogged determination! You could call that story, “Dying to vote,” or, maybe better, “Election inspires resurrection.”
In another case of “voter passion,” Yahoo group, “Women Who Shine,” posted a story today aptly titled, In Labor, Pregnant Woman Stops to Vote Before Giving Birth. It seems, despite her progressing labor and the rapidly approaching arrival of her baby, Chicago’s Galicia Malone was compelled to complete her ballot before making her way to the hospital.
“I never voted before so this made a major difference in my life,” she told WBBM Newsradio. “And I wanted this to be a stepping-stone for my daughter.” She went into labor around 3 a.m., she said, but refused to go to the hospital until after the polls opened. As she left her polling place, she was holding her lower back and smiling widely. She drove herself to South Suburban Hospital.
That’s a little girl, now, with a very good “birth story”!
With perhaps less drama but as much emotion, friends have reported anxiety attacks, fiercer than normal family squabbles over politics, and bouts of atypical indigestion. A relative reported the ratcheting up of headaches in the waning weeks of the campaign, which she attributes directly to her panic about Obama winning. A conservative acquaintance has taken to hiding from Facebook, so “afraid” of expressing her views and getting browbeaten by liberal “friends” that she’s shut herself off from all online chatter. One male friend said he planned to move to Denmark if Obama didn’t win (echoing similar threats from Liberals “exiling to Canada” during the Bush years!). Countless people, online and off, have expressed suffering through extreme emotional swings as the narrative has been buffeted one way or the other during the campaign. Even Robin Gibbs, Obama’s former press secretary, confesses that his emotional state at this concluding point of the campaign leaves him as vulnerable to “weeping” as anyone else.
In Robert Gibbs Plans a Good Cry in today’s Daily Beast, the usually affable political vet talked to writer Lloyd Grove about his emotional state of being:
“I haven’t cried yet. I will assure you that at some point in the next 12 to 15 hours, that will happen,” Gibbs told me at Chicago’s McCormick Place, the site, depending on the results, of either the Obama campaign’s victory celebration or pity party. “In 2008 it happened watching him come out and speak to a crowd as the president-elect. And it would be a pretty good time to do it all over again.” […]
Like the other Obama surrogates hitting the airwaves today, Gibbs was doing his best to conceal nervousness and exude confidence.
It seems clear the emotional journey of this unique and historical election has touched everyone from those most intimately involved to those who have watched, listened, read, and, now, voted, in their desire to be an active part of the conversation and participate in the ultimate conclusion. And when the election was called for Obama before it was even 8:30 on the west coast (putting aside Romney’s unseemly refusal to accept that “call” until later), there was a explosion of excitement that was as loud as any I’ve heard. There was dancing in the street (literally!) and a sense of exhilaration amongst Obama supporters that was as passionate and profound as all the other emotions felt along the way. “The most emotion election ever.”
There will be more celebrating tonight and in the coming days and weeks…there will also be confusion, re-imagining and reinvention, and certainly there will be weeping. But tonight, not for Robert Gibbs. He gets to dance along with the rest of us.