We are the champions, my friends. But just because voters roundly rejected antique social ideas and embraced candidates and laws that would have made the hippies proud, if only the hippie demographic didn't currently consist of old-ish white people who mostly voted for Mitt Romney doesn't mean that we can rest on our laurels. When people experience this kind of post-election elation, there's a long way to come down. Think Kübler-Ross's stages of grief when it's only possible to feel worse, like the day after a wedding when the bride realizes she has to write 500 Thank You notes, or the day new parents take the baby home from the hospital and it shits its pants in the car. So let's go down, Debbies Downer.
After MSNBC called Ohio for the President, I immediately changed the channel to Fox News. I wanted to see their faces get sad. I wanted to feel the schadenfreude course through my body, to bathe in it, like some kind of sad-powered supervillain in a comic book blockbuster. But when I started posting happy/relieved/cocky updates on social media, I got some pushback from people (wounded conservatives) who fingerwagged and accused me of being a "bad winner." Like we'd just played a basketball game and at the end, rather than shaking hands, I ran across the court and forcefully frenched the other team's coach. Others helpfully pointed out that I, personally, didn't win anything! I was celebrating someone else's victory.
But still, I paused, thinking — am I celebrating improperly? Am I being a bad winner? Did I even win?
I was pretty celebratory on Tuesday night, and on into Wednesday morning. I sent one friend the words "ALL I DO IS WIN WIN WIN NO MATTER WHAT" -BARACK OBAMA via text message probably 10 times in a row, because when you're giddy and exhausted, eventually all you can produce is absurdity. I retweeted every conservative hatefollow's most ridiculous election night pain tweet with the added astute commentary "LOLOLOL." I watched dozens of videos of Peggy Noonan self-assuredly saying that Nate Silver's math just won't add up, because of invisible feelings. I read the Politico story about how Mitt Romney's campaign just can't figure out WHAT WENT WRONG (here it is in a nutshell: they forgot that you don't have to be a white male property owner in order to vote).
Of course, I wasn't being a bad winner. And I did win — not to the extent that, say, Tammy Baldwin did, but a victory for the progressive causes and candidates I support is by extension a victory for me. On Tuesday, America decided, among other things, that women are people, and as a woman, I find this encouraging. But self-doubt had already set in, and even though I know that this isn't a Giants game; this is an event that affects real people's lives and the future and The Children and all that, I toned it down. Out of respect for the assholes who think that if I get raped, the government should make sure that I give birth to any ensuing babies, I guess. Call it schadenfreude shame.
When I was a kid, I hated helium balloons. I still kind of hate them — can't stand getting them, can't stand being responsible for them, can't stand watching people carrying them around. Balloons can go horribly, horrible wrong. They can be carried away by the wind and careen upward until they disappear into the atmosphere, and the only thing you can do is watch helplessly. Then, if you do manage to get them to the place you're going, they eventually begin to age and droop, and then you have to throw them away. Helium balloons set you up to fail. They are emotional banana peels.
The way I feel about helium balloons is now how I feel about a government populated by people for whom I have very high hopes. I'm irrationally anxious that something might happen between now and January that interferes with Elizabeth Warren getting to Washington, or that Tulsi Gabbard will miss her flight or that Joe Biden will break his hip. The GOP is Cobra Kai. Someone's going to try to sweep the leg.
And then, within hours, I started giving all of the candidates I so adamantly supported the side-eye. What if Mazi Hirono is a bullshitter? What if newly-elected Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy has a Warren G. Harding-style pleasure house where he and Allen West vanquishing Florida Congressman-elect Patrick Murphy cavort with sex workers illegally trafficked in from Central Asia? Will President Obama actually stand up for equal pay, or was he just saying that to get us to show him our votes? Is Joe Biden going to do diddly squat about trans discrimination, an issue that, while on the campaign trail, he said is the civil rights issue of our time? Will Elizabeth Warren actually take on the banks, or will she just pretend to take on the banks? Will Illinois Congresswoman-elect Cheri Bustos be the same strong, opinionated, girl-power presence she projected on the campaign trail when she's on the floor of the House? Will anyone be the elected official they promised to be?!?!
As my editor Jessica said, "Now we've gotta take the baby home." And the reality of how our newly-elected candidates govern as legislators is likely going to be a disappointment compared to the expectations they spent months building for themselves. Rather than directing all of my political discontent to Mitt Romney, now it's time to look at what the President does critically — and, like most people, I don't agree 100% with him on 100% of issues. Drone strikes? The Bush-era tax cuts? American militarism? That whole Plan B tap dance?
Every politician bullshits; it's a necessary evil in our political system. But voters believed them. Did they bullshit on important stuff? Was I taken for a ride? Am I actually a Republican?*
This January, there will be some incredible additions to Washington and some amazing subtractions. But ultimately, the American people voted to keep the House of Representatives Republican, the Senate Democrat, and the White House Obamafied. Everyone got re-hired. And while the Tea Party appears to be an embarrassing experimental phase in the history of the modern Republican party, like the phase I went through in college where I dyed my very dark brown hair blonde because I thought it would make the boys like me, we're still dealing with the same crop of ex-Congressman lobbyists, wonks, opaque nylons-wearing staffers in head-to-toe Ann Taylor or Brooks Brothers with their shiny hair running around with stacks of binders, the same smug, perpetually wrong yet undaunted Newt Gingriches and Karl Roves. The culture of Washington isn't going to change overnight, and it's not even going to change much over the course of a decade. Those high election night expectations I have are more than likely not going to be met, so maybe it's best if I temper my enthusiasm now.
With the election over, the daily barrage of political "PLEASE GIVE ME MONEY!" emails with subject lines like "Hey, Erin. Can we talk?" has all but ceased entirely. For awhile, the silence was nice, but now I'm starting to miss Tim Kaine sending me 20 things a day. I miss Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and Michelle Obama and Michele Bachmann. I miss Elizabeth Warren's email writer's slightly more genuinely populist sounding writing voice. In the days leading up to the election, I felt like that little girl who was crying because she was sick of "Bronco Bamma and Mitt Rominey." But now that I've been election-jitters sober for about 24 hours, I miss the rush that comes with uncertainty.
Even though the ink has barely dried on the papers certifying the elections of all of the House, a third of the Senate, and the Presidency and some candidates just found out last night that they'd won their respective House races, people are already looking forward to 2016. Buzzfeed's even got a helpful summary of who they think is going to run for President four years from now. Just in case you need a fix again already.
I'd be lying if I said the amazing excitement of a 2-party primary in 2016 didn't wake me up with a jolt last night. Remember 2008, guys? Remember how fun that was?! Imagine 2008, but with people like Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio and Susana Martinez and Elizabeth Warren and Maggie Hassan and Nikki Haley and Martin O'Malley or Cory Booker. Doesn't it make you positively giddy with anticipation?!
Only four more years! I think I'm going to throw up.
*After I typed that — I'm not even kidding — I took a political quiz, which declared me a "civil libertarian." So, phew. Spared my family an awkward Christmas dinner coming out conversation. Mom, I am not a Republican.