Six Elections (or I Was a Thirteen-Year-Old Republican)

Election results by county. Bill Clinton Georg...

Election results by county. 1992

Well, the election is really over now. I thought I would be relieved and relaxed but I’m still pretty fired up because, uh, everyone’s still talking about it. (In case you’re wondering what happened on Tuesday, Ta-Nahesi Coates laid it out pretty nicely on The Atlantic yesterday.) Of course, I’ve been reading a lot of stuff around the internet since Tuesday, including my Facebook feed, which has been equal parts inspiring, infuriating and annoying. Inspiring because some people were able to very eloquently write about their opinions and what this election meant to them. Infuriating because some people posted ignorant, bigoted, hurtful things seemingly without care or thought. Annoying because OMG the self-righteousness of people on Election Day! Gah! It is outrageously overwhelming and the worst.

Yesterday morning, I saw that my youngest brother – who is thirteen – has been posting and commenting about the election and its results. I’ve read through a few of the debates he’s been involved in with schoolmates and they’re…interesting, to say the least. (Eighth graders arguing over the difference between “socialism” and “communism” in the context of our American democratic election process, anyone?) Anyway, it reminded me that there was an election when I was thirteen. And that there were also elections when I was other ages. So here are some things I remember about those elections:

1992:I was 5, in kindergarten. My school had a fake election. We got to use a real polling booth with a curtain. Our teacher’s assistant came in with each of us and put  s on a chair so we could see how it worked. She helped me pull the lever to cast my vote. I voted for Bill Clinton because I knew my dad liked him.

1996: My school had another fake election. Same school. Again, I voted for Bill Clinton. I do remember who won the school election this time: Bob Dole. (Remember Bob Dole? He’s still alive!) Most of my friends voted for Bob Dole.

2000: Oh man, this was a big one for me. Though at thirteen I wasn’t old enough to have an official party affiliation, I was – for this one year – a Republican. It’s not like I loved George W. Bush or hated Al Gore. I was just really into being a part of the party of privilege, which seems very right to me now as I had never earned a cent in my life up to that point. I also was in my last year of Catholic school and we read a pro-life magazine in religion class each month so maybe that had something to do with it?

Whatever, I should stop self-analyzing and just admit that I was into being a Republican because I wanted to be Ainsley Hayes, the quirky blond Republican Associate White House Counsel who first appeared in Season 2 of The West Wing. I remember feeling so nervous for all of election night, watching the returns with my dad in our den. I’m not sure how much I cared about the actual outcome that night. I think I was just excited I stayed up until 1, when we realized that nothing was going to be sorted that night.

2004: Well, I have almost no recollection of Election Day 2004. I know that I was disappointed that John Kerry didn’t win. And that at 17, I wasn’t able to vote. And that my parents wouldn’t let me put a Kerry/Edwards bumper sticker on our car. (I settled for a button pinned to sun visor on the driver’s side.)

2008: Another big one, for reasons that should be obvious to anyone who lived through it. It was my senior year in college. I felt similarly to the way I did earlier this week, like we had been talking about this election for my whole life. Also, even though I could vote this time around, I felt left out again because, in college, there is always someone who knows more about politics/is more engaged in politics/is one of those people who drives to faraway states to knock on doors for Obama. I was more into watching MSNBC while I babysat or ate late night onion pizza from Papa John’s and leaving it to that. I guess that makes sense as generally, I’m more of an observer than a doer.

On Election Day, I decided that I would forgo all of the big parties people — if they weren’t at Grant Park — were having in order to study for a German test. (Lame, since I was taking German I.) After about 30 minutes of studying vocabulary with the news on in the background, I started to fear that I was missing out on something and I ran over to my friend Jen’s house, where there was a big ol’ election party going on. I’m glad I did that because that party was one of the most joyful experiences I’ve ever had. (Helped that I consumed large numbers of Jell-O shots and spent much of the night “shotgunning beers for Obama”.) I took my German test the next day and it went fine. Actually, I got a 100.

2012: This year, I wasn’t nervous. I knew Obama was going to win. (Thanks, Nate Silver.) I had to go to my parents’ house to vote because I never changed my registration, so I spent election night there. Twelve years later, I found myself watching the results with my dad in our den. (A different den in a different house, but whatever.) We were also joined by my brother Aidan, the thirteen year-old I was talking about before. He was really excited to be watching the election results, probably for the first time ever. And I was happy to talk to him and answer all of his questions — especially because I got to Tweet his observations with the hashtag #aidanforprez.

When most of the networks, including Fox News, called the election for Obama around 11:15, I was happy…but had nowhere close to the same feelings as I did in 2008. Maybe because there were no Jell-O shots. (I was an adult and had red wine instead.) I won’t bother ineloquently describing my state of mind post-election because I think that Rachel Maddow has very nicely summed up the sentiments of many Americans this week:

So, here’s to moving onward and upward and forward – and hopefully not backward – to 2016.

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5 thoughts on “Six Elections (or I Was a Thirteen-Year-Old Republican)

  1. Haley loved reading about your election memories. Election Day was always memorable in our house growing up because my Dad was always running for office and our house was Democratic headquarters for our town. Election fever is genetic. Thanks for

  2. Haley, thanks for sharing this, as I really enjoyed reading it. I agree Rachel Maddow summed it up nicely and it is now time to find the middle ground from which the majority can move forward.

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