Truth: when Lana asked me to write this article, my first thought was, but I don’t even care about politics.
My second: then I should write about that.
So here I am, writing about the general state of apathy I have felt for the past year and a half over the presidential election. It starts like this: there are about 20 primary candidates in the beginning, and it felt a bit pointless to do any research on them when within a few weeks half the pool would likely have dropped out of the race. But there were still so many to choose from, for so many months. And by the time the race finally narrowed, I- along with, I imagine, much of the world- was in disbelief that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were our options. Any hint of excitement I felt disappeared.
I wasn’t always like this. When I was eight, my school took us to Democracy Plaza, a pop-up exhibition in Rockefeller Center for children explaining the workings of our government and electoral systems, and I found it fascinating, enough that I went back with my family one weekend. My father loves politics, and I spent quite a bit of time curled up in a chair next to him, watching the news and absorbing the numbers (my forte, even then) that seemed to be the driving forces of who would represent the American people.
Election nights had a tangible tension and anticipation to them, as my sister and I sat on the wooden floor in front of the television with red and blue crayons and colored in electoral maps, tallying up votes in the margins and bringing the pages to school the following day. In eighth grade, I was one of the student ambassadors at my elementary school’s election night, helping the younger children discover the magic that was democracy.
I was helpful. I was passionate. I was alive.
This is the first presidential election where I am old enough to vote, and I don’t feel a thing. Normally, there’s such a thrill in doing something for the first time. I know I felt excited to vote for my first time two years ago, during a congressional election. This year, the only reason I am voting is because if my grandfather were still here, he would have never let me pass up the opportunity to vote.
He was 88 years old in 2008, the last presidential election year he was alive, recovering from pneumonia and recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, but he still called my mother on Election Day and said he was going to vote.
So my housekeeper took him to vote.
This gradual shift in my mindset was mostly unnoticed until I sat down to write this article. Because the only thing I care about is the fact that I really don’t care. And that terrifies me, because in a couple weeks, I turn 21. I’m a junior in college. I’m hardly old; for heaven’s sake, I’m a student! I am young, and idealistic, and I want to change the world. And I know that many of my contemporaries feel the same way. We want to rally, we want to protest. We want to feel we make a difference.
America’s bipartisan system is a funny one. Look at Bush vs. Gore in 2000, where the candidate who received more votes did not win the presidency. But the beauty of a bipartisan system is that it really does feel like your vote makes a difference. When there are so few choices, one vote can put one candidate over another.
This year, the race is as close as ever. I’m writing this article on Monday afternoon, and given that I’m sadly not a prophet, I have no idea what will be 48 hours from now. Even my beloved statistics have let me down; there is really no way to analyze the numbers accurately. But there’s a sense of apathy afoot, because tomorrow doesn’t look any brighter. We know that Trump is racist and sexist and homophobic, not to mention unqualified. We know that Hillary is a liar and could very well be indicted. And no matter who wins the election, that consciousness is still a part of our mental fabric. Our voices demanding someone better weren’t heard. This election is one of reaction, instead of action. And that will always hurt.
What to do on Election Day is clear- you go vote. There’s a secret ballot, so nobody will be out to get you. You can watch the election coverage, or not. That’s up to you.
But I honestly don’t know what comes afterwards, and it frightens me terribly. I want a way to recapture the fire I felt as a kid, marveling over government, my place in democracy, visiting Congress and the White House in Washington, DC with reverence. With awe.
I just don’t know how.
Caroline lives in New York and is a junior in college. She enjoys, among other pursuits, (American) football, music, and learning new things. You can find her on tumblr at thinking-pretendingtoread, where you can talk to her about such things as space, singing in the shower, and everyone’s favorite dead fictional characters.