Nov. 8, 2000
Tired, exhausted, baffled, befuddled. I’ve just been tossed off a news network merry-go-round that started off fast, sped to light speed, reversed its direction and tossed me off dizzy and confused. What the heck just happened?
I faintly recall sitting in my Munson Hall room at about 7:30 p.m. (or was it? Who knows, I’m tired) and confident Al Gore was sweeping America. Pennsylvania was locked in, and so was Michigan. Next up was Florida. Get that one in the bag and America is in for four year’s worth of exaggerations and proclamations that Al Gore, and only Al Gore, invented rubber cement, lavender and the Spanish language. The unbiased journalist I am, these are the things that contributed to rooting for our veep; and I surely didn’t want four years of mispronounced words and goofy facial expressions coming from George W. Bush.
I recall watching CNN when that glorious announcement was made: Gore has taken Florida. Adios election, we got ourselves a president. We all knew who was getting California and all those big square states just don’t matter in America’s version of democracy. Or did they? That trusty CNN map slowly became more red as Bush’s dominance in spread like a cancer. South Carolina, Arkansas, West Virginia, Kansas. Did these states even get to vote? They all blinked red, and Bush’s lead grew large enough to force me to call some Bush supporters to take back some of the comments I made earlier.
A little after 10 p.m., the networks were taking back comments of their own. Oops, guess Gore didn’t quite have Florida after all. Goodbye 25 electoral votes for Gore, hello commanding lead for Bush. The next hour dragged on like eternity as the menacing CNN map bled more and more red. At these times, a man wants to be around a bunch of yelling idiots to cheer him up. I knew of only one place to go: the Hippodrome.
I ventured over to the Hippodrome to catch a glimpse of all the flaming liberals on campus getting wild. When Florida was given back to Gore as it rightly belonged – I thought – he’d have the presidency locked in and all the College Democrats on campus would get crazy. Maybe they’d get creative and uproot Trachtenberg’s hippo or attempt to hoist their valiant leader Anjan Choudhury on their shoulders and charge the streets.
The scene at the Hippodrome was as expected – the place was jammed with Democrats a little overly stimulated by anything network announcers had to say. Maine goes to Gore – the crowd screams like GW tuition dropped to $10,000. Some TV dude scribbles jibberish on a map of Florida and says he has no idea what he’s talking about – the crowd yelps in glee, then collectively scratches its head confused. The College Republicans weren’t afraid to show their support for Bush, but heated cheering match easily won by the CDs.
Hords of freshman sat on the floor like groundlings at a Shakespeare play, gazing back and forth from commentary on the four big screens to commentary from Anjan and CR leader Bill Eldridge. Anjan was speaking for the people that night, providing insight about all aspects of the election, taking jabs at Eldridge and assuring the masses that the presidency would be in good hands. For the most part, Elderidge paced back and forth between cell phone calls to announce the Republicans were on a roll and not stopping any time soon. But it was early yet – merely 1:30 a.m. – and the true fireworks were yet to come.
At about 2 a.m., all scenarios had been thrown out, all speculation worthless – it all came down to Florida. The crowd sat impatiently wondering if Florida would ever be called. Students who had endured hours of ups and downs from the night’s poll announcements decided they just couldn’t take enough and left. Left! At the break of the most important announcement in four years, they left. Surely Anjan and Elderidge would disapprove, right? Maybe not.
Hippodrome staff members whined to each other about the late-night clean-up that would follow and looked to Anjan and Elderidge with begging eyes to end their misery. Like so many politicians in the world, they too folded and decided to close up shop if the election wasn’t announced by 2:30 a.m. Apparently the making of American history has a time limit, and 2:30 a.m. was it. Minutes later, Mike Gargano radioed in to straighten the ordeal out: the Hippodrome would stay open until the end, he said. Forget Mark Lund, the true people’s champion had spoken. Winners – students. Losers – whiney Hippo workers and so-called hard-core politicos.
As if Anjan had himself called Florida to get this election wrapped up, Fox News made an announcement at 2:17 a.m. President George W. Bush they called him, and the other networks followed in beautiful unison, not to be outdone by the highly reputable Fox News. The tears began rolling off faces of the few CDs remaining. The CRs took a group photo and Elderidge went back on his cell phone – the Republicans were back.
Then the 4 a.m. announcement came: oops, jumped the gun again, sorry. So our president was taken away from us and network announcers as tired as I am now actually attempted to stay awake and on air to explain the debacle. As I sit with a delirious voice playing in the background, I wonder how many GW students are sleeping right now with no clue that America has no president. At least they got off the merry-go-round in time to get some sleep.