election anxiety countdown


There is no such thing as not voting: you either vote by voting, or you vote by staying home and tacitly doubling the value of some diehard’s vote.

-David Foster Wallace (via Anu Garg in this morning’s A.Word.A.Day)

11 AM: Election Day

We have arrived. Today is Election Day. The sun is out. My phone is buzzing with anxious well wishes from near and far, as well as messages about protests that I hope will become celebratory dance parties. I live on D.C.’s U Street now, and — as I mentioned several times in this series — the scene of U Street’s reaction to Barack Obama’s win in 2008 will forever stick with me. I am anxious to see the street happy again tonight. But everyone is cautioning that a call tonight is unlikely. It may be a late night, drifting off to inconclusive results, like the cold night in 2000 when I left NPR on in my Minneapolis bedroom at low volume until I passed out. I haven’t decided yet if I’ll stay in or wander the city between home and the outdoor gathering a mile or so away at Black Lives Matter Plaza.

Noon: World Leader Pretend

Among the raft of emails in my inbox offering hope, solidarity, urgency on this Election Day is one from R.E.M. featuring a link to this 1989 live version of World Leader Pretend.

The title conjures images of Trump, but the lyrics are an indictment of problems of the singer-narrator’s own making, perhaps from isolation and depression:

It’s amazing what devices you can sympathize (Empathize)
This is my mistake, let me make it good
I raised the wall and I will be the one to knock it down

You fill in the mortar, you fill in the harmony
You fill in the mortar, I raised the wall
And I’m the only one, I will be the one to knock it down


Hard to imagine Trump having such introspection about his failings (or his wall). Annotations at Genius suggest Michael Stipe and co. were inspired by Leonard Cohen’s similarly self-critical Field Commander Cohen:

6 PM: The Whole World is Watching

I made an afternoon trip to Black Lives Matter Plaza with a friend who had supplies to donate to activists gathering there. It was relatively quiet. Media correspondents from all over the globe were set up with lights and microphones and satellite trucks. Police presence was very high. A few people waving flags added some visual energy.

It is getting dark now and the crowd will grow as people leave work, as people close their work-from-home zoom meetings. There won’t be much to see, but I understand how important it is to be present and shout down any anti-democratic announcements from Trump. The White House is still visible from Black Lives Matter Plaza despite the militarized perimeter wall that has Trump has built around the compound.

I’m watching and writing from home now. Making dinner is next (I’m going back to the homemade pizza I was trying early in the pandemic). After that, I bought buttermilk for this election cake recipe. That should be a good outlet for a couple of hours of election anxiety. It will be a late night. I can bike back to the plaza in ten minutes if the news warrants.

10 PM: A Long Way to Go

The pizza was good. The cake is in the oven and smells good. The results in Florida and Georgia are not so good. The easy and clear landslide scenario for Biden is out. It is likely to be undecided long into tomorrow.

On Twitter, the crowd is growing at Black Lives Matter Plaza and nearby McPherson Square. There are scattered reports of confrontations with police.

Outside on U Street, the sidewalks are empty. None of the bars that had watch parties in past years are open.

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