I'm probably not the biggest country music fan in the world. Frankly, I'm not even in the running. But if there is one thing about the genre I appreciate, it's the lyrics.
Country music lyricists may not always have been able to define or recognize angst and irony, but they can definitely employ it. Take, for instance, the refrain from a hit by Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks: "How can I miss you if you won't go away?"
I thought about that song on Election Night. And the Day After Election Night and all the days of what has become Election Week, turning into Election Month and potentially Election Season.
Like the rest of 2020, how can I miss it if it won't go away?
It just won't end. Any of it. Just. Won't. End.
Yes, I know. Experientially we're in somewhat uncharted waters, pandemic-wise. I mean, we're not really sure how plagues end, except, I guess, we get a Renaissance? Which is potentially great news for artists and Italy.
But we're used to having our very unruly, untidy elections wrapped up in nice, tidy bows by, oh, dawn's early light the Wednesday after the first Tuesday in November. Sometimes earlier if Walter Mondale is involved. This time, as either a reflection or symbol of covid-19, the process of picking someone to lead the country for the next four years seemed to last five.
I mean, I love a good campaign as much as the next guy, but how can I start obsessing over 2022 if 2020 won't just wrap it up? Starting about 6 p.m. Tuesday and up until, oh, now, I feel like I'm sitting in a car in the driveway, trying to keep three children from going nuts while another one is in the house trying to find a shoe. How do you lose just one shoe? And can't count all the votes in Nevada?
And yes, I remember the interminable amount of time it took to settle the 2000 Bush-Gore election. But, that was different. For one thing, it was Florida. And Florida is, well, Florida. There's just not a whole lot you could dream of happening that isn't someone in Florida's reality. I mean, no one makes "Pennsylvania Man" or "Nebraska Man" jokes. Just saying.
If someone were to say vote counting got delayed because space aliens landed and unleashed a herd of paper-eating alligators on polling places in Miami-Dade, the best you'd get from most of us would be a shrug.
This time around, Florida was done and dusted relatively early, which allowed us to concentrate on other Election 2020 Crazy Zones. Which is to say, most of the rest of the country. Arizona and Nevada decided to have a slow-counting contest, Pennsylvania decided to have ballots from Pittsburgh and Philadelphia pop out of the cake at the very last minute and Michigan picked a fine time to have arguments over personal space.
Which is to say all, every bit of it, was exactly unlike anything we've ever done before and exactly what you'd expect this year, a year in which nothing, nothing ever really ends. Being at home instead of the office never ends. Not being able to see family and friends in person never ends. The virus, the rising case counts, the near-constant sense of barely contained panic never really ends.
If none of those will ever end, why should the latest version of the "Most Consequential Election of our Lifetime" ever end?
Except, it will. By this time next week chances are very good either all the votes will have be counted and recounted to everyone's satisfaction (or folks will have run out of legitimate reasons to be unsatisfied and will have to just grumble in the corner for a couple of years) and everyone, including the actual candidates, can just get on with it and the rest of their lives.
Maybe we can take valuable lessons away from all of this. Like trust everyone and every Big Magic Board, but cut the cards and count the votes. Or maybe that as a result of all the voting that's been going on for a month because of the pandemic, there are lots of votes to count, and just like the need to start your term paper earlier than the night before it's due, maybe you need to start counting those votes earlier than the day of.
And we can miss the 2020 election because it finally went away.
Gary Smith is a recovering journalist living in Rogers.