blogenlust
10.25.2004

Pre-Election Anxiety Disorder


Is this you?
Americans are in the grip of a monster case of Pre-Election Anxiety Disorder. No one is talking about voter apathy anymore, because the opposite is more likely the case. People care too much. They're losing sleep. They're having bad dreams about unfavorable tracking polls. PEAD worsens as Election Day approaches and it's a 50-50 country and there's a war going on and people are dying and the talking heads are howling and the polls come firing at your head like fastballs. It's too close to call, too close, too close, we know the whole thing could pivot with the slightest breeze, that nothing is too trivial now, that even the slightest verbal gaffe by a candidate or his wife or one of the daughters could have a butterfly effect on world history. Lawsuits are flying as we speak, and the election may come down to a single precinct in Winter Haven or Deland or Immokalee, followed by the soon-to-be-traditional Recount, the dueling press conferences, James A. Baker flying to Tallahassee, and a final and definitive verdict by Nino Scalia. Laura Auerbach, a Democrat and the director of a Washington research foundation, finds herself struggling with her emotions as E-Day gets closer. She hates the president. He's a "horrible" man, she says. She sent an e-mail to a friend: "I never feel like such a bad person as I do when I'm talking about Bush. He is so hateful he makes me hate." The worst part is that her 2-year-old, Ben, is picking up on her rage, and she feels as though she's a bad role model. She and her husband routinely fume about George W. Bush, and the little boy sometimes asks why they're upset. "I'll explain to him, 'Ben, there are people out there who don't always make what Mommy thinks are the right choices.' " Parents making speeches to toddlers: A classic sign of pre-election stress. [...] Michael Gillenwater, who works for a nonprofit environmental organization, had a bad dream recently in which people were deciding not to vote for Kerry because of his reference in the third debate to Dick Cheney's lesbian daughter. Gillenwater woke up at 3:30 a.m. and couldn't get back to sleep for two hours. "I totally have pre-election anxiety," he says. Anecdotally you hear about close friendships being ripped apart by differing political allegiances. Forget the old wedge issues, like abortion, affirmative action, taxes: The election itself is a wedge issue. If you're not feeling wedged you're not paying attention. Pre-Election Anxiety Disorder is often driven by serious and rational fears, with global events so alarming. Technology ensures that we are stalked by data, that we're always hearing about who's up, who's down, what's the latest controversy, the latest menace to peace and sanity and good health. We get all twisted up by the spin cycle.
I admit, a few times a week I get a little too anxious. Although, I'm quietly confident, it is still tough to stay optimistic on days like today, when Zogby comes out with less than great numbers for Kerry. I guess I picked a bad week to stop sniffing glue.