On November 2, at 7:30 am, local time, a black Chevrolet pulled up outside a polling location in the Texas town of Crawford. The backseat door opened, and a hand protruded, already waving. A smiling face followed, as the body of George W. Bush hung out the side of his vehicle, saluting the unseen crowd for several seconds before finally hitting ground. A few minutes later the president held a post-voting speech to reporters before leaving for Ohio, which was projected as one of the key swing states.
“It’s a great feeling to vote,” he said. “It’s in the hands of the American people now.”[diddy]
Those hands filled out ballots for a whole day, and would’ve produced a clear-cut winner if it weren’t for a few hundred thousand in the aforementioned Midwestern state and its provisional ballot rules. Even closer than expected, the election outlasted conclusion that day, and the following night.
The morning after included things usually associated with alcohol-induced hangovers: headaches, sleepiness, and a full dose of confusion about where we were and what is about to happen. A few things were certain: the Republicans will control the House of Representatives and the Senate in the following years; the marriage-defining Proposal Two was widely supported; Michigan voted for Sen. John Kerry, but Bush still led both the popular and electoral race as a few states remained unaccounted for. Beyond that? Who knows (we’ll know very soon).
8:00 am. Nov 2, 2004
Election day starts out as any other, my hand reaching first for the alarm clock and then the TV remote. But as the tube snaps on I sit up, eagerly readying myself for a long day of well planned rhetoric and sharp political analyses. I initially get P. Diddy’s.
Falling asleep to MTV’s reality show Battle Of The Sexes the night before, I’d already had a taste of the cruel fate awaiting abrasive leaders judged by their electorate. The channel, showing a rerun of Monday’s Total Request Live, is still on the dial, greeting me with the sound of teenagers screeching as the pop rap mogul formerly known as Puff Daddy runs out, pumping his fist to the “Vote or Die” t-shirt on his chest, shouting:
”Do you all understand what’s about to happen? You will elect the president of the United States of America! LET’S GET CRAZY UP IN THIS MOTHERFUCKER!”
It’s truly inspiring, even though my mother always told me to never trust a man who wears sunglasses indoors, but after being harassed for two months by people running around with registration forms (“Are you registered to vote? Are you registered to vote? Are you…”) I’m almost immune to even this installment in the larger effort to entice “The Youth Vote.” What’s the point of voting if you despise both main candidates equally?
This early in the morning, news coverage is extremely boring. CNN reports from an empty stage in Boston from which Kerry hopes to hold his victory speech; Fox discusses what the issues will be, as if we don’t know by now; both networks discuss a problem with some voting machines in Pennsylvania (“Will the state be this year’s Florida?”). “Fox and Friends” provide their usual newsworthy commentary and witty banter. The morning’s center segment’s an interview with Laura Bush, who has to smile stiffly at this funny story from the weekend’s trick or treating adventures:
”Two men had dressed up as politicians, one of them as your husband. My son said: ’Hey, you’re the president,’ and he said: ’That’s right, here’s some more candy….’”
Ha. Ha.
I turn off the TV and leave for my morning class, tiny raindrops hitting my head in a steady unpleasant stream. The weather’s projected to be bad the whole day from the Mexican gulf, over the Bible Belt, up to the Midwest. It’s speculated that this might deter some from standing in line outside their polling places. Will “The Youth Vote” conquer the rain and make it’s presence felt?
1:00 pm, Nov 2, 2004
Joseph’s already waiting to give me a ride to Detroit. As we hit the road he turns on the radio. What could be more soothing in the barren monotony of the Michigan freeway than the sound of Rush Limbaugh’s sweet voice? I only half-listen as I study the billboards, cornfields, and occasional political propaganda framing I-96. Random sentences break through the automotive noises:
“There IS no Kerry appeal… That’s quite a statement for a socialist type European guy to make… It’s not HARD to vote… There are a lot of nitwits around us… I’m not saying Americans are stupid… And these leftist Stalinists at Rock The Vote….”
”I love that guy,” Joseph laughs.
We have time to discuss several issues before reaching the Metro area, when we make our personal projections. When I walk toward the elementary school polling for my district, Joseph’s voice echoes in my head.
“If Bush takes Florida, it’s over.”
Two camps of men carrying flyers in their hands huddle on opposite sides of the school driveway. They wear raincoats and caps with the American flag. I pass right between them, staring forward, hoping they won’t approach me. I only look back when I reach the door carrying a sign saying “No campaigning allowed within 100 ft of entrance.” I’m in the clear.
Inside, signs pointing to the voting room alternate with drawings of smiling Jack-o-lanterns. Expecting a huge line, I walk into an empty room but for a series of blue voting booths, a counting machine, and a rectangular table with five clerks. Voting Clerk One gives me a sheet to sign with my name and address; Voting Clerk Two checks that I’m on the list; Voting Clerk Three gives me the ballot: large, ungainly and enclosed in a beige folder; Voting Clerk Four tells me how to fill it out:
“You can vote a straight partisan ticket: then you only fill this section out. You can vote a split ticket, then don’t forget to check the back; do not fill them both out! You can vote independently, then don’t forget to check the back; do not fill them both out!”
Here I am, the youth voice, ready to throw my vote away. Gripping a worn down pencil I begin connecting arrows to names of people I’ve never heard of before. Presidential candidate? Check. Congressional representative? Check. Proposal One and Two? Check. District Court judge? Hmmm. Local School Board representative? Uhhhh….
One possible strategy’s to vote for women and foreign sounding names, but that seems a little too frivolous. I approach Voting Clerk Five with several unchecked items tucked in my folder. We put it into the machine together. It grabs hold of my ballot, sucking it out of the folder, out of my grasp. It doesn’t give off a sound, but in my mind I hear a toilet flushing.
“Man, you’re good!,” Voting Clerk Five tells me, handing me a sticker with an American flag and the proud words “I voted.”
An hour later, my phone rings.
“Hi, Andreas?” an uncertain voice asks, mispronouncing my name badly. “This is the Michigan Republicans calling to remind you that George Bush has provided steady leadership for the past four years in the war against terrorism; he’ll work for a strong, stable economy; and you should keep that in mind as you vote today. This message has been paid for by the Republican Party of Michigan. You have a nice day.”
Click.
9:00 pm, Nov 2, 2004
Accompanied by a serenade of screams from the Pistons’ season opener against Houston, the presidential campaign rolls on, but it’s lost its flare. It’s too early in the evening to project results, and too late to discuss new issues. Fox News Anchor Brit Hume does his best impression of a movie trailer announcer, but can’t breathe life into stale interviews and clichéd angles.
One report counts the celebrity support for each side. Supposedly, Britney Spears supports Bush. This brings back memories from Destiny’s Child’s performance at Bush’s inauguration in 2001 and Beyonce’s rationale behind promoting Republican politics:
“Oh, I don’t know much about politics (I don’t know much about anything). But we’re all Americans (Buy our record!), and I think it’s important that we all unite behind the president, whether he’s a democrat or a republican (I’m rich, bitch!).”
Past midnight, most spectators have left the election for the more pleasant environment of their beds. There’s still no winner, and the jokes are set aside for mechanical and statistical coverage:
“Arizona will go to the president with its electoral votes… Florida will go to the president with its 27 electoral votes.”
What about Ohio?
“Colorado, and its nine electoral votes, will go to the president… Montana, and its three electoral votes, will go to the president… New Hampshire goes to Kerry… Oregon and seven electoral votes go to Kerry.”
What about Ohio?
As the polls draw to a close, Fox News counts 269 electoral votes for Bush, CNN only 249. Both have Kerry at 242. First to 270 wins. Looks like a close one, it might all come down to one swing state.
What about Ohio?
3:00 am, Nov 3, 2004
Reports say that voters between ages 18 and 24 didn’t have a larger impact than in earlier elections. What a surprise.
5:40 am, Nov 3, 2004
It’s clear that the race will elude conclusion when Bush sends his chief of staff, Andrew Card, to speak to the eroding crowd at the Reagan Center. Fox News’ anchors have talked for hours like it’s a done deal. At this time, no one knows that the president won’t call a victory until he receives a concession call from Kerry at 11 a.m., but Card essentially guarantees the presidential race a win for the Republicans.
“President Bush has won the state of Ohio!” says Card, further implying that Bush refrains from ending it all out of respect for Kerry and his right to reflect on events before ceding the election.
In Boston, John Edwards long ago addressed the pro-Kerry crowd, shoving thumbs high into the air.
“We have waited four years for this,” he said, “we can wait one more night.”
Like four years ago, one side is sure of its victory, while the other hangs on to a sliver of hope, refusing defeat. Reports of malfunctioning polling during the day were sporadic, and nothing indicates a lengthy debacle like Florida’s in 2000.
The Afternoon of Nov. 3
Some of us were stupid enough to stay up all night waiting for answers, as the entire election slowly narrowed down to one state. But now it’s done, we can finally exhale, and some of us can get some sleep. Bush supporters across the nation can relax, while Kerry fans reluctantly release their tight grip on that tiny slice of hope that John Edwards still grasped at 2:30 this morning.
Here we go again. Let’s get crazy up in this motherfucker.

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