Monday, October 27, 2008

Election Etiquette 101

The day after Jimmy Carter won the 1976 presidential election, our neighbor walked over and leaned into an open window in our den and sang an out-of-tune and full-length rendition of "Happy Days Are Here Again." She was wearing a white styrofoam top hat with an American flag sticker on its brim. I was only in elementary school, but I knew enough to believe her conduct was in poor taste.

This is the electoral map of the 1976 presidential election, when Jimmy Carter won 55.2 percent of the electoral vote, leaving Gerald R. Ford with 44.6 percent. Looks like somebody took a pair of scissors and cut our country almost down the middle, doesn't it? Note of interest: It wasn't until 2000 that televised coverage of the presidential election turned Republican states red and Democratic states blue. So when you see a window sticker with a blue dot in a red square, for example, a Democrat is driving that car. To complicate matters, "Time magazine had favored Democratic red and Republican white in the 1976 election between Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford, then reversed those colors for Reagan and Carter in 1980. By 1988, the magazine was using Republican blue and Democratic red, and it stayed with that motif even through the 2000 election, which has colorized the nation's political language in precisely the opposite way," according to Google Answers. So don't critcize my map above. In 1976, this was the way it was -- blue for Republicans, red for Democrats. This is not my fault.

This event took place in the Great State of Georgia, which, according to the map above, was about as RED (Democratic) as it could be. So you can understand that this neighbor made a fair assumption that she was singing to a household of Democrats. But how could she be sure?

This brings us to today's discussion of Election Etiquette: Everybody Be Nice.

Blue dots, red dots ... who CARES? Let's celebrate The Process, I suggested to the dinner table. It's not like we would be awaiting any great SURPRISE as the votes are tallied. It wouldn't be an in-your-face victory for anybody.

They all laughed at me.

"OK, fine then. Let's just invite the teenagers' friends. They'll be more fun than a bunch of adults anyway."

"On a SCHOOL NIGHT? But we'll have homework and bedtime and ..."

"Oh my goodness, you poor structured little soldiers living in your boxes! What are you going to remember 20 years from now? Nov. 4, 2008, studying for a history test and going to bed at 9 p.m., OR Nov. 4, 2008, watching history unfold on TV and staying up late with your friends? We could watch a few SNL Weekend Update clips, eat hot dogs, hamburgers and apple pie, play GAMES..."

I think I lost them at "games."

I had been thinking of inventing Presidential Firsts, Chuck Todd State Scramble, Name That First Lady, and White House ABCs. And then I said, "OK, I'll come up with something. What matters is that we host this thing with a sense of community ... and diplomacy. We'll cross all party lines."

And that's where I lost them for good.

So, maybe we won't be hosting an Election Night Gala. That's a shame because it would have been great fun, and I would have been very nice about it. And I would have totally smoked them at Chuck Todd State Scramble.