Thoughts on the Election
In my young adulthood, I was a consummate politics junkie. Voting was one of the high spots of the year. Federal, state, local, didn’t matter. I pored over the League of Women Voter’s guide and conducted my own research on issues and candidates. That enthusiasm turned to cynicism as election cycles came and went. The more I learned, the more disillusioned I became. I developed a hard belief in how things should be, and that was a stark contrast to how things actually were. I still voted and I still took the responsibility of voting seriously. But it was less of an exciting event and more of a unpleasant task, knowing I was seldom voting for the winning candidates.
During the primary season, that cynicism hardened into bitterness. I questioned the value of voting and wondered if it was worth my or anyone else’s time. Voting wasn’t working. What would? Riots? Protests? Petitions? The promise of the republic unfulfilled in my heart, I searched for what would. While I did that, the nation turned to November 3. Registration drives. Public Service Announcements. Facebook posts. While I was drifting away from the democratic process, millions were flocking to it.
Were they naïve, or had I lost touch? Or perhaps voting was the refuge for many because it’s the only action people thought could work. Perhaps people were willing to try anything to get the current president out of office. Maybe it’s as simple as carrying out what’s seen as a civic duty. I’d love to see a poll of confidence in our democratic process.
It’s now Thursday and we’re still waiting for a definitive winner. We haven’t had a wait like this since 2000; there are people who voted this week who weren’t born yet the last time we didn’t have a winner figured out relatively quickly. I’m a glutton for punishment, so I have kept election news on since Tuesday. What struck me wasn’t the trickle of vote totals or the increasing desperation of the current president. What struck me was the interviews with poll workers, ballot counters, election officials.
Some of them have been working around the clock. Most of them aren’t paid. But the dedication, care, and seriousness of them is evident. They want to do this right and get it right. I didn’t expect any inspiration to come from this election, but I do find myself somewhat rejuvenated watching these people in county election offices doing everything they can to deliver results to an anxious nation. It’s easy to forget the people on the ground doing the footwork. They are the best part of the process, and I want to see that spotlighted more.
When I dreamed of being a journalist, I saw myself working for a prominent newspaper. I never entertained the idea of doing TV journalism. Somewhat smugly, I thought it to be beneath print reporting. But if you go to Ohio University with aims of going into journalism, you’re going to meet people training for a TV career. I had several friends who worked at the local station. In addition to talking shop, I was in the studio a couple times just to observe. It gave me a small grasp of live broadcasting.
I’m reminded of that this week watching the various stations cover the election as it slowed to a crawl. They can’t leave the beat and go back to normal programming; they’d lose almost all their viewers. But at the same time, how many times can you say you’re waiting for an update from Arizona and you expect new totals soon? They’re stuck in a doldrums of having nothing to report and not being able to change the subject.
Think for a moment how hard that is for producers. They have to keep everything going and direct the anchors and reporters on the fly. You see those in studio awkwardly trying to talk to someone on site. It’s pure reaction in real time and it can’t get monotonous. That has to be incredibly difficult. If you’re running a live blog, you can (and probably have) announce a break. TV stations? Don’t really have that luxury.