The November 2008 Presidential election would be the third for me. Seeing yesterday’s resounding speech by Obama and talking to a friend of mine about the ongoing political games in the country made me think about my perception of these elections. As far as I can remember, I have never been overtly interested in politics and elections. In my teenage days I was quite callous to politics even though all the adult members in my joint family were quite opinionated politically and had different beliefs and loyalties to different political parties. I turned a deaf ear and a blind eye to all the discussions and debates around me. I wouldn’t say that over the years since then interest has increased, however I can now say that I understand (if only at a high level) the political leanings (left vs. right), the election process and the political machinery to a certain extent.
Year 2000: Bush Vs Gore
I was about 8 months old in the country and did not really care about anything other than slowly absorbing the new world around me. The entire primary season, the campaign leading up to the now infamous election results went by completely un-noticed. Only on the day that people started talking about the big Miami-Dade fiasco that I tuned my television from Seinfeld to CNN. I did not understand what the fuss was all about, but just by the looks of it, I liked Al Gore and wanted him to come out victorious. Anyway, we all know what happened and then I got to witness the Gore concession speech. Just because I was living in the Washington DC metro area, I and a couple of friends attended the inauguration of Dubya on a cold January afternoon. The only image that stayed with me from that day is a homeless man holding a huge banner on the National Mall which said “Grand Theft Election”. That was 8 years ago.
Year 2004: Bush Vs Kerry
This time around, I knew how the system worked – the primaries, the caucuses, the debates, the nominations, the conventions and all the other shenanigans. I was living in Harrisburg, PA that year which happened to be the capital of a swing state and hence was under the spotlight in the campaign. My parents were visiting during the primary season and I explained the process to my father. He was quite impressed by the debates, the process and the transparency of the whole thing. He got to see Kerry speak on the steps of the Pennsylvania Capitol when Kerry visited the burg. I was also intrigued by the process and was actually looking forward to the election results in November 2008. We all know what happened thereafter. That was 4 years ago.
Year 2008: McCain Vs Obama
I am back in Washington DC this year and I must say I have come a full circle. I have been chatting a lot with a friend about the elections and the candidates etc. Over these conversations I realized that I am back to being that teenager again. I have become apathetic and aloof to this election. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not because I am not entitled to vote, or it’s not my country. I am still contemplating on what is it that changed? I have simply stopped caring. No candidate or no speech (no matter how rousing or earnest and honest it is) seems to stir me. The outcome of the elections does not matter, how we get to the outcome does not matter and what happens after that does not matter. I am trying to tell myself that it should matter and that all this is not a farce, but every time I try to reason with myself, all I hear is – “What’s the point? What a waste of time!”. I only feel a tremendous hollowness in everything the candidates preach. The ads on TV make me cringe, the slogans and the promises bring an involuntary cynical expression on my face and my hands immediately reach out to the remote to search for any channel that plays “Seinfeld”.