During the presidential race of 2004 I worked at Barnes & Noble. I was more politically informed than at any other time in my life. Every day I listened to talk radio on my way to and from work, and read political magazines on my break, and shared impassioned opinions about the issues of the day with my co-workers. In particular I could count on Matt Reber and Casey Giblin to share their thoughts on any new release in the Current Events section. We routinely read and discussed thought-provoking books like Thomas Frank’s What’s the Matter With Kansas?
And I didn’t just read about these things. I was politically active. I was convinced that another four years of George W. Bush as president would be apocalyptically bad for the nation, the world, and the continued existence of the human race. I didn’t love John Kerry, but I didn’t think he was apocalyptically bad, either. I pushed through my instinctive revulsion against talking to people I don’t know and went door to door in our neighborhood, campaigning for Kerry.
On Election Day, November 2nd, it rained all day. Alice, Casey, and I trudged through the rain, lists of names and addresses in hand, ringing doorbells, trying to convince people to go vote. Then we moved to our local polling place, so we could stand the appropriate distance away, in the rain and mud, and hand out fliers.
It was an exhausting day, but were optimistic. The mood at our local polling place seemed encouraging. After the polls closed, we went over to Casey’s house to watch the returns and celebrate the good news. We expected a victory party.
And then the results started coming in. At some point Alice left, and it was just me on the couch, and Casey on the floor, watching state after state go for Bush. We stopped speaking. All we could do was lie there, motionless, watching. Hours passed. Eventually it was over. I think I said good night, and I think Casey said good night in response. But there was nothing else to say.