Doug Cohen: The five stages of election-watching

Media Credit: Hatchet File Photo
Doug Cohen

The year-and-a-half-long presidential campaign finally came to an end Tuesday.

Watching the election was unlike any other night, as each hour brought a different set of emotions and feelings. Let’s call them the five stages of presidential election watching.

The first stage is excited nervousness. Although the polls in the first swing states didn’t close until 7 p.m., I was glued to the TV at about 5:30 p.m. I hadn’t felt this nervous since last year’s Super Bowl, when I watched in agony as the Patriots lost. Much like that game, I was too nervous to take a nap beforehand.

The excited apprehension continued into the early hours of the election. Refreshing the New York Times homepage to see the county-by-county results of swing states was excruciating, but CNN kept things entertaining with its interactive TV screens. I’m pretty sure they at least tried to hologram Ronald Reagan into the studio at one point.

The next stage was boredom. That part started at around 8:30 p.m. I began to forget that this election actually mattered, and really just wanted Brian Williams, Rachel Maddow, Wolf Blitzer and Brett Baier to stop talking. I think everyone would be happy if Bill Clinton just told us a story while we were waiting for the results – a PG-rated story, of course.

Around 9:45 p.m., things entered the “this gets real” stage. A couple of big Senate races were called, and my Facebook news feed was filled with statuses that said “ELIZABETH WARREN!!!!!!!” Democrats on Facebook were beginning to exude some serious confidence. I began to break into a cold sweat again, but I couldn’t even imagine how Chris Matthews was feeling. I called my grandparents to see how their old Jewish friends voted in Florida. Hopefully, they all remembered it’s 2012 – not 1972.

At 10:30 p.m., vote totals started to climb very high in Virginia and Florida, and all of the major swing states began to tally votes. I still wouldn’t have minded Bill Clinton telling me a story at that point.

And then, around 11:15 p.m., the networks began to call Ohio for Obama. Some girls started screaming outside, and I heard faint groans from the 100 Republicans on campus, which were quickly drowned out by everyone else.

For Obama supporters, this stage was euphoria. I walked quickly to the White House, where there was screaming, tree-climbing, cigar-smoking and beer drinking.

Admittedly, I was pretty excited for those moments at the White House, because it was an opportunity to totally forget politics. I have been cynical about this campaign and how it offered no reprieve from all the bickering, yelling and screaming. And I’m unsure how the country will fare in the next four years and beyond.

But what I personally needed was a time to step away from the pundits and negativity. It was a relief to enter that stage of reflection, when I think both sides of the aisle could appreciate a president who made history just four years ago, and will have the ability to continue to carve out his path.

That stage of reflection was an extremely liberating feeling, and I think it is one that the entire country could use.

Doug Cohen, a senior majoring in political science, is a Hatchet senior columnist.

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