Thursday, November 6, 2008


As Sean Quinn over at FiveThirtyEight acknowledges, we're all tired. While he and his photographer drove all over the country making electoral reports, all we did was knock on a few doors and stand like a statue at a polling place. But it's not the physical nature of the election that has us all tuckered out, though I am suffering from a decided lack of sleep.

It's the end of a long election season, and an end that was dramatic in its results and symbolism but almost completely without drama in its progression during the evening, especially after the first few battlegrounds were called for Obama. Last night as I was scanning election results on my office computer and checking out the campus broadcast of CNN, I was struck by how little happened after Pennsylvania and Ohio were called. So little in fact, that I actually got some work done while waiting. At ten, I looked more closely at the Florida and Virginia numbers and realized that with urban areas in Virginia reporting a little more slowly than rural areas and Obama building a larger lead in Florida, that the networks seemed to be deliberately slow feeding us results.

I called Miles in Virginia and suggested as much, and that a call of the election would happen at 11. It did.

Those I talked to today were unanimous in their recognition of the evening as historic and the quality of both McCain's concession and Obama's acceptance. But they were also surprised how quickly and easily the election seemed to go during the night itself.

We had rewritten our expectations of what elections were supposed to be--we saw them as inherent lingering dramas, a contention boosted by the length of our this campaign but especially our experiences in 2000 and 2004.  In other words, we made the signified of the election signifier as a stable instability instead of its more likely interpretation of unpredictable. Or in English, we thought the drama of election night would match the drama of the last year. It didn't.


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