I can’t wait till all the shouting stops

We’re finally here: tomorrow is Election Day. You could cut the tension with a knife. Many of my friends have been stumping in swing states for Obama over the weekend, terrified that at the last moment a “Bradley effect” could rob him of the victory the polls predict. I don’t think this will happen. H L Mencken had a point when he wrote that no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public – but he hadn’t met Sarah Palin. When Obama is declared victor, I hope, it will be a glorious coda to the Bush years.

More than any other election race – and this is my third here – these past few months have felt like a surreal, utterly draining dream. You can’t turn on the TV without watching people shout hysterically at each other. The premise of on-air debates on cable television which is that they should be run like football games, with fast one-liners kicked back and forth between the participants with zero room for nuance has never been followed so vigorously. All we hear is angry noise; nowhere do you hear calm, reflective thought. You can’t go out without people discussing feverishly whether the Democrats will somehow fail at the last moment. We are sated with jokes about Sarah Palin as “Caribou Barbie”.

Meanwhile, the coverage of the volatile markets is sensational, vulture-like: “Who will fall next?”, “Who are the villains?”. Such headlines cannot but make you fearful. Many sentences start, “Well, after the election…” especially from employers, who have warned they will need to make cuts or change direction but are holding off until tomorrow.

But will the promise of a President who actually has the support of his people spur optimism? People are already blogging about “post-election blues”. “The thing that happens after an election is nothing,” one wise friend told me. He has a point. There will at least be a vacuum until the inauguration in January.

And yet I wonder. I’m ready to believe that when it’s over and I assume Obama wins that we can speak again, rather than shout. Why? Because Obama is no shouter. He is a calm listener. For me, Wednesday morning will mark the time for us all to grow up. V

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