The night before this column comes out, I will be hanging out at the Owyhee Plaza Hotel, probably until late, surrounded by Democrats. Some of them will be personal friends, some will be casual acquaintances I see only once every two years, and many will be strangers, folks who have either recently moved to Idaho or who have recently moved to political involvement. For the latter, we must thank George Bush. If nothing else, that boy can sure get people involved in politics, can't he?
There will be teevee newspeople there, too--about half of all the newspeople in the Treasure Valley. The other half will be over at the Doubletree, surrounded by Republicans. Like panhandlers, they'll be trying to snag passing candidates all night long: "Mister Brady (or Mister Otter), the polls closed 8 minutes ago. Are you encouraged (discouraged) by the trend shown in the two precincts that have been counted? To what do you attribute your success (failure)?" And while they're trying to sound so professional and look so composed, wild people will be sauntering through the background, flashing victory signs and holding bumper stickers over their heads.
I always feel mildly sorry for them, the newspeople. They have to be there, while the rest of us go ... if not exactly for the fun of it ... then because we don't want to be alone when we hear the results. Besides, we can drink and they can't. Gad, I'm glad I'm not a newsperson.
I've been going to these post-election shindigs for at least 20 years. What I like to do is find a relatively quiet corner with a teevee on. The teevee part is easy. It's like being in a football bar on a Sunday afternoon. There's a tube every way you turn. The quiet corners come harder. I like listening to the newscasters--old Wolf Blitzer and Chris Matthews and the rest--and that's not easy when 500 or 600 people are milling about, trying not to slop their $5 beers on Dee Sarton's power suit while tripping over the cable to Scott Logan's klieg lights.
Pretty exciting stuff, but noisy. And I will definitely want to keep abreast of what is happening in Virginia and Pennsylvania, Missouri and Ohio. I don't want to simply watch the graphics and try to guess what's happening. I want to hear Wolf (Chris) say it: "We here at CNN (MSNBC) have declared suchandsuch the winner in the state of suchandsuch for the office of suchandsuch." For the better part of a year now, I've been watching these races build up to a full boil, and the night before this column comes out will be the payoff. The culmination. The punch line. The orgasm. Who wants an orgasm on "mute?"
I could wait until the next morning (today) and read all about it over a cup of coffee in the stillness of my home. But that's not the same. After having invested myself in the 2006 election cycle like a Bronco nut invests himself in a season ticket, I want to be there. I want to whoop and holler. I want to do a jig in the end zone. I want to slap high-fives and growl "Hoo-ah!" and hoist a tankard to happy-days-are-here-again.
Then again, I can't deny there's a possibility the evening will end with me crying in my beer. Hopes dashed. The best laid plans gone to hell. My tail between my legs. "There's always next year." It's so true. The worst could happen, and who would realize that better than an Idaho Democrat?
But I mustn't speculate one way or the other, because I just don't know. You know. You can't possibly be reading this until the day after I spend the night down at the Owyhee watching teevee, so you know how it turned out, whether Democrats regained control of the House, the Senate, both or neither.
But me? I'm still waiting. Biding my time. Twiddling my thumbs. Counting down the days. Watching the clock. Tick. Tock. For me, it's too late to write another word about who ought (or ought not) to win, yet it's too early to celebrate (mourn) the outcome. I'm coming to you on a weeklong writer's delay, and there's nothing I can do about it. What could conceivably be my happiest column (or my saddest) in six years will have to be put off until next week (two weeks, in my time frame), and in the meantime, whatever I write must drift in the purgatory of being neither here nor there. (Oh, how I envy you, you seven-day-outers. How comforting it must be to know you won't be seeing another Bill Sali ad.)
Still, disconnected from your present as I am, something must be on this page come November 8, and it's my duty to provide it. I originally started a column on how, definitely and without delay, Democrats should begin the process to punish Bush, to confirm that justice is still an American virtue. Obviously, it rises from the assumption that Democrats now control (will control) the House. I got it about two-thirds done, that column, but I chickened out. It was just too iffy.
I considered doing a piece on an entirely neutral subject, something that in no way reflects on the reality of today--which, as I write, is exactly five days from now. My daughter, for instance. She's always been a fairly dependable neutral subject. Trouble is, I have no idea what she's been up to lately. My attentions have been elsewhere.
Then I toyed, briefly, with the notion of doing a critique on an Albert Camus essay I've just re-read. It's called "The Myth of Sisyphus" and it's about the absurdity of existence (I think) and how heroic yet utterly human it is to plug on in spite of there being no point. To row against the tide with no hope of ever reaching the promised shore. To slog away, even though there is no light at the end of the tunnel. I strongly recommend it to every Idaho Democrat, but I'd rather not do that critique right now. Not while I'm still counting down the days. Frankly, I wish I hadn't re-read it, not just now. If I were to do a critique of anything right now, I'd prefer it be The Little Engine That Could, but unfortunately, I haven't re-read that recently.
So, bottom line, I'm still looking for a way to fill this page, yet not commit myself. To perform my duty while assuming nothing. To get my column done, but not say anything. Know what I mean? To count no chickens before they hatch.
The worst part of this is, when I finally can celebrate (bemoan) my joy (sorrow) in print, I will be a seven days behind the rest of you. I can hear it now ...
"Can you believe it? Cope's all ecstatic (dejected) over the election results. He is so last week."