Bush won the 2004 presidential election, and I've always felt partly responsible.
At the time, I was a precious few months -- weeks, really -- from my 18th birthday. Like Cinderella barred from the ball, I watched longingly as millions of my fellow citizens ("More like fellow IDIOTS," I raged inwardly, cursing the injustice of the situation) skipped merrily to the polls on November 2nd, 2004. They flaunted their sacred privilege in my face-a privilege denied to me because I had, chronologically, been cut in line. When Bush won, I lamented to the heavens. If only I'd been old enough to vote! Maybe I could have turned the tide! I imagined all of America gazing down at me reproachfully -- "Why didn't you vote, Frankie? Why couldn't you have turned 18 sooner?" -- and I never quite got over the guilt.
The 2006 midterm elections would mark my official loss of voter virginity, and I was determined not to blow it.
First, I agonized over where to register. Should I register in New York, my home state? Or should I register in California, where I'm living now? One state raised me for the first 18 years of my life; the other is the state of my adulthood. They're both overwhelmingly blue states, so the decision was ultimately pretty arbitrary. I finally decided to register in California, because I'm passionate about the environment, and -- I speak from personal experience -- there's tons more environment in California than in New York.
As I registered, I found myself hesitating over my political party. (Parties always make me feel awkward.) I saw the word "Democrat" and instantly thought of weak white men in suits, breaking all their promises. Should I register as Independent? I wouldn't care to be comrades with Ross Perot and Joe Lieberman. I seriously considered registering as Green, then realized that would implicate me in Al Gore's loss of the 2000 election-and everything that's happened since. Guiltily, I registered as a Democrat.
Then I decided to be a responsible citizen and research my senatorial candidates. Surely, I thought, this would reveal who truly deserved to win. An hour later, I gave up in disgust: my Democratic candidate was making money off the Iraq war, my Independent candidate was rabidly opposed to gay marriage, and my Republican candidate was, well, a Republican. As I researched everyone else on the ballot, my heart sank. Why, it was as though all politicians were alike!
Determined to put my vote to good use, I turned my attentions to the California propositions. My spirits lifted: here, finally, was room for idealism! For the next few weeks, I read up on Propositions 1A through 90 like I was cramming for an exam. (As a result of this, I flunked several actual exams. My country came first!) I took careful notes and made sure I understood all the details, and the feeling was a real rush. Proposition 1A sounded good at first, until I realized it was a secret conspiracy to screw over California taxpayers and pollute the air. The Sex Offender Act tried to act convincing, but I could tell it was all just a bunch of scare tactics. I congratulated myself for perceiving all this. I was SO smart.
Above all, I knew I was going to vote yes on Proposition 87. Not only was 87 the year I was born -- it was the Clean Air Act, the law that would end pollution and eliminate oil dependence and change life as we know it. Like Captain Planet, my vote was going to save the freakin' world. The power was mine!
I could barely stand still with excitement as I filled out the ballot on Election Day. The little machine was so nifty, so efficient: I felt like such a grown-up as I proudly marked NO for 1A, NO for the Sex Offender Act, and YES for the Clean Air Act. I strode out of the polling place, feeling like I'd finally atoned for my neglect of the 2004 election. It was 99 degrees outside, but I didn't mind. I knew that thanks to my brilliant voting, global warming would soon be a thing of the past.
At first, it all felt like a wonderful dream. The Democrats were winning the House! The Democrats were winning the Senate! Nancy Pelosi would be Speaker of the House! Donald Rumsfeld was resigning! It was like a snow day, or Free Ice Cream Cone Day at Ben & Jerry's. What a glorious way to lose my election virginity!
...And then the local results came in, and I saw that Proposition 1A and the Sex Offender Act had passed with overwhelming support, while the Clean Air Act had failed.
Instantly my rose-colored glasses shattered, and I saw the election process for what it was: a cruel, cynical farce. My vote hadn't helped California at all! Nobody had done the research! Why were people allowed to vote? People were stupid! People were too lazy and selfish to understand what was good for them, and now the whole world was going to pay for their stupidity by drowning in ice-cap soup.
I had romanticized my loss of voter virginity, and now the democratic system had betrayed me. Like most girls in this sort of situation, I was bitter. Contrary to what everyone said, the 2006 midterm election wasn't about issues or ethics. It wasn't about Iraq, or women's rights, or centrism over conservatism. It wasn't about anything real at all. No: it was about Mark Foley jerking off into his BlackBerry, and Ted Haggard getting sodomized by a hooker while snorting meth, and bodacious Playboy bunnies winking at Harold Ford, and Lynne Cheney's story of "Eve and Eve, loving one another as they would not be able to once they ate of the fruit and knew themselves as they truly were." If this election could be summed up in one word, that word (and you have to scream it at the top of your lungs) would be "MACACA!"
And then I realized: who am I to complain about the sex, drugs, and humiliation? The American democratic process is better than TV. This was a true American election, crude and nasty and blunt, with nothing on its id-dominated mind but getting laid and getting high and getting to the good old American finish line. I wouldn't have had it any other way. Let's laugh all the way to the greenhouse apocalypse! Who cares? We won!
And because I actually voted in this one, I'll be glad to take the credit. So to those of you who are as pleased as I am with the results of the election, let me just say: You're welcome, America. You're welcome.