The Worst Election Ever

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I’ve dealt with a lot of bad stuff the past decade or so, the kind of things you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy, and I’d gotten to the point where I believed – foolishly, it turned out – that nothing would ever hurt like that again. Boy, was I wrong for tempting the fates like that.

I’ve been around elections since I was 9, and led a futile fight against the lying, scheming sixth grade bastards supporting Richard Nixon in our elementary school election. I’ve suffered through 1980, and 1988, and 1994, and 2000, and 2004, and being a candidate in 2014, and now this. It’s so awful, so painful, so destructive of so much and so many that I care about so passionately, that my brain simply can’t process what we’ve just experienced.

There’s much to discuss and analyze and figure out in the weeks and months ahead. For today, I hurt, not just from the bourbon and the beer, but from real, deep psychic pain, of the type I thought I was done with. The road ahead is bleak and forbidding, and I don’t know how to begin navigating it.

Eventually I will begin, but not today. Today is for pain and despair and misery and sorrow. For this country, for this world, for so much that I believe in, for the people who will suffer and yes, who will die over the next four, long years. I’ve joked about leaving in the event this was the result, but that was never real, just a jest to ward off what we all thought would never happen. Well, here we are.

In the end, however, I know myself. I will face this terrible and unreal world in which we’ve landed the same way I faced my own personal hell over the past decade. I will fight. I will endure. I will never, ever give up. I don’t know how to do that, anyway, and this would be a terrible time to start learning. I simply will not abandon what Rebecca Lord and I spent a quarter century believing in and fighting for. Not now, not ever. I will follow the road I’m on wherever it leads for as long as I am able.

Charlie Pierce, as usual, has some words that I need to borrow. Our particular experiences may differ but the feelings are similar.

Let me take this opportunity to tell you about the three worst election nights of my life.

1) 2000 Presidential Election: This needs no explanation. The only good thing was Dan Rather’s string of increasingly baroque metaphors.

2) 1976 Wisconsin Democratic Primary Election: I was a field organizer for the Mo Udall campaign. The weekend before the primary, Mo’s brother, Stew, refused to authorize a mailing for the western part of the state, saying, according to witnesses, “You will not fasten upon my family the chains of bankruptcy!”

I went to bed at 3 a.m. with everyone having called the state in our favor. I woke up at about nine the next morning with Los Alamos of hangovers to discover that Jimmy Carter had beaten us by an eyelash, mostly because he carried the late-reporting counties in the western part of the state. Almost 25 years later, I went to a wedding and rode a bus with one of the strategists who sat in on that meeting. “Chains of bankruptcy,” I said to him. “Shut up,” he said to me. “You guys really should get over it,” said my wife.

3) Midterm Elections, 1994: The Gingrich Revolution happens and, the very next day, I had to fly to Mississippi for a story. The local Republicans had their victory luncheon in my hotel. I took an aspirin and went to bed.

4) 1980 Presidential Election: I went to a party at a friend’s house at which the host had laid in a couple of tons of lamejuns. We weren’t an hour into the returns when a friend came upstairs with a half-drunk bottle of Jack Daniels, that he had bought at a liquor store a half-a-block away. As Ronald Reagan ran away with it, the Senate dominoes dropped one by one—Frank Church, Gaylord Nelson, Gaylord Nelson—mostly to non-entities. We all hung on to see whether Congressman John Brademas was re-elected. He was, but we were all pathetic.

Yeah, this is worse than all of them. Combined.

This is not going to be easy. The future looks grim. But know this: we may be down, but we are not out. Not now, not ever.

2 thoughts on “The Worst Election Ever

  1. Harvey Hudson

    I hate to nitpick at a time like this, but Brademas did lose in 1980; he was named president of New York University shortly after.

    Also, there is a famous story about Mo Udall in the 1976 Wisconsin primary. He liked to tell voters how well he knew the state’s two senators, one balding and one with a hair transplant: “I knew them when Gaylord Nelson had hair and Bill Proxmire didn’t!”


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