Election Day Emotions: Faith, Duty and Dread

Election DayElection day always comes with a weird mix of emotions for me. It makes it hard to focus on work and the everyday concerns when something so momentous is happening.

And it gets me thinking about elections past …

Shock, Dismay and Sadness

The morning after the presidential election of 1988, I sat, stunned, on a park bench in Washington, DC, utterly shocked at the outcome. I couldn’t believe Dukakis had lost.

An older friend and mentor was also in disbelief. Not at the results, but at my naivete. Apparently a Bush victory was in the cards for weeks, or even months, and I simply refused to believe the inevitable.

Flash forward to election night 1994. This time it was personal. I wasn’t just some kid in DC who followed and talked politics, I was actually IN politics. It was my everyday work, and much of my identity (not to mention my own livelihood) hinged on the outcome.

My boss, the attorney general of Ohio, was swept up in the Republican wave that swamped the country that year.

I shed tears that night, but I wasn’t shocked. People who knew a lot more than I did predicted it was going to be a tough night, and so I was prepared for the worst.

Raised on Politics

Still, politics is personal for me. It always has been. It’s been a part of my life since I was tiny.

I remember begging my Dad on his way out the door to vote for Humphrey instead of Nixon. I think I liked the name — Hubert Horatio Humphrey. But I was also influenced by my mom’s political awakening.

After having four kids, she returned to college in the late ’60s to finish her degree. She majored in political science, so discussions around the house and the many books on the shelves about politics and civil rights must have rubbed off on me.

That and I thought the kids on the University of Texas campus where she went to school were really cool, with their long hair and fringed vests. I wanted to be on their side.

We later moved to the DC area, where everyone thinks they’re in politics, whether they are or not. In the subdivision where we lived, practically every parent worked in government, either military or civilian.

So government wasn’t some abstract or evil thing. It was the place where the adults I grew up with went to work every day. Including my mom, who worked on Capitol Hill and later in the executive branch for 30 years before retiring.

I grew up reading the Washington Post starting at 11 years old and went on to major in political science in college. After college, I worked in the political orbit in DC and went on to Ohio to get real experience in the field.

It’s In My DNA

Election Day
At the 1996 DNC

I haven’t been in government for 20 years, but I continue to be involved. I contribute to campaigns, I vote religiously, and I probably read 20,000 words of political analysis every day.

Politics is part of who I am, and election day is sacred. When I was fresh out of government in 1996 I was appalled when a client scheduled a big employee meeting over election day and the day after. I stole away early to watch the returns with a co-worker.

And I continue to be surprised when people schedule meetings, calls and auditions on this day. For me, this time is mostly blocked out. This afternoon I’ll be following all the speculation and reports from the field. Tonight I’ll be on the couch watching the returns with a half-dozen live blogs going on my computer. And tomorrow morning I’ll be absorbing the analysis and post mortems.

So, yes, politics matters to me. It’s part of my DNA. Various business and social media experts will tell you you should never talk politics, at the risk of offending clients or potential customers. But this is who I am. Asking me to suppress this part of me would be like making me write left-handed.

Why I Vote

It annoys me when people say there’s no difference between the parties or the candidates. Both sides have their problems, but the differences on issues large and small could not be more stark.

So I vote. In every election — “on” year or off. I vote for all the people in this country and around the world who have fought and suffered and died for that right. (And, sadly, for the people now being turned away from the polls.)

I vote out of a sense of duty. Voting is the bare minimum that’s asked of us as citizens.

And I vote out of faith. Faith that one vote can indeed make a difference.

Of course, it’s not blind faith. Faith must be buttressed by reason. So tonight I will face the results clear-eyed and ready for the worst. And tomorrow I’ll pick myself up and start thinking about 2016.

Photo Credit: Vox Efx via Compfight cc