election anxiety countdown

Plus Two

10 AM: Escape From Election Central

Is the CNN election room a real place? It has the cold feel of an artificial environment, a Star Trek holodeck. The room is gleaming white with red and blue accents. It offers no glimpse of the outside world except for an occasional video backdrop of the White House or Capitol behind one of the anchors. There is no bustling newsroom of reporters and technicians visible through glass, as on other networks. All the surfaces seem to be fluid video walls or back-lit glass (plastic?) panels; the polished floors reflect the video walls like a still lake reflects the sunset. Watching it out of the corner of my eye these past three days, usually with the volume turned off, I’ve started to imagine being trapped in this place. In the dream, John King and Wolf Blitzer are not in the room. I’m there alone. Robotic camera rigs pan in and out while the video screens change from map to map. I move quickly to stay out of the shot and off national TV. The two men are visible in monitors off camera, CGI ghosts added to this scene by an unseen control room, or an AI. I struggle to find an exit from this place. When I do, it leads to a long corridor patrolled by cleaning robots that take no notice of me. A staircase leads up and up. I push the bar on double doors at the top and exit onto a driveway in the mountains. The facility looks like a bland utility shack with a gray office trailer parked next to it. It is cold on the mountain and I have no food.

On Saturday, the month of cable TV that I paid for at the beginning of baseball’s postseason ends. Best to let that subscription lapse.

2 PM: Scenes From Election Night

While I was home managing my anxiety by baking a cake on election night, Timothy Denevi — whose book on Hunter S. Thompson I read at the start of this countdown — was doing his best to find the pulse of D.C. in true Thompson style. His walk through downtown culminated in a run-in with proud boys (the white supremacist “stand back and stand by” kind, not the new definition proud boys) at Harry’s Bar. Harry’s is one of the last true dives in downtown D.C.. A tourist bar I once sought out for post-movie discussions after exiting the flickering underground rooms of the nearby E Street Cinema, lately Harry’s has been making headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Meanwhile, the crowd idling near the White House had little to do as it became increasingly apparent there would be no decisive win that night. Black Lives Matter activists — who have been protesting almost nightly since the May murders of Brianna Taylor and George Floyd — harnessed the idle energy of the crowd to boost the local movement. A group marched from the White House to the Metropolitan Police Department’s fourth precinct building on Georgia Avenue, which has been a focal point for the community’s response to the recent death of Karon Hylton in a collision during a police pursuit.

5 PM: Counting

The numbers are coming in for Biden. It appears to be just a matter of waiting for Pennsylvania to finish counting. Reports suggest enough of that count will come in tonight that networks might call the state and the Presidential race before we all go to bed. Georgia, Arizona and Nevada offer another route for Biden if for some reason the numbers coming in change dramatically. Biden gave another brief, reassuring speech late this afternoon, beginning with a nod to transition by talking about the state of the pandemic. Trump is expected to speak from the White House at 6:30. He continues to gin up his supporters, many of whom are showing up armed to shout outside municipal buildings where votes are being counted.

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