Ask me what the weather was like in Ohio on March 4th and I'll tell you. Go on, ask me! Highs in the 30s, gusty winds off the lake, inch to an inch-and-a-half of snow and sleet. But here's the thing: I wasn't in Ohio on March 4th. I was in California. The weather in California on March 4th? Hell if I know. Because, really, where I was wasn't California, it was Google News. California was just a hyperlink to the electronic text of my election-obsessed reality.
Not now. Now I actually wait for the morning paper to read the news again. Now I actually talk about other things first and get around to the election after the weather's been covered—the weather here and now, not the forecasts for April 22nd in Pittsburgh and Erie. I'm actually getting some work done on my book again. It's not just me, either. People I was trading emails with twice a day before Ohio-Texas have faded away over the past week, back to...I don't know...work or kids or whatever their lives were about before Obama.
From what I'm hearing from contacts on the campaign trail, it's even true in Pennsylvania. Even in the one state where anyone's campaigning, voters are burning out and wishing it would just be over. Once we thought Pennsylvania would be The Decider: six weeks of relentless campaigning building to a frenzy never before witnessed in American politics! Then both campaigns started lowballing expectations. Unless Obama pulls off an upset or Clinton's predictable win is huge beyond all projections, April 22nd's results will change nothing. And the polls show what the whole race has shown since Super Tuesday: Clinton and Obama's supporters seem intractable. There are Clinton people and Obama people and if "undecideds" actually exist there aren't many of them. Jeremiah Wright didn't change anything, Bosnia didn't change anything. Through six weeks of campaigning the whispered undercurrent by all sides is, "Clinton'll win by 10%, okay swell, when's Indiana again?"
We've entered the horse latitudes of the election, where the limits of our resources come clear and we have to jettison what we can no longer sustain. Time to heave my great time-wasters and energy-burners—the poll fixation and the delegate counting and the spin-in-place emails—over the rails. Unfortunately, it's easier to get rid of the horses that actually require work: phone calling, canvassing, fund raising, getting out the vote. And if we fall down on those, that's when the election dynamic starts to change, when Clinton's wins get big enough to matter, when the independents' disgruntled support for McCain starts to solidify.
I think sustaining the energy is going to be harder for Obama people than Clinton people. The Obama campaign has been based on zeal, fire, and the rising tide. Even those of us who felt tired and jaded before he won us over have picked up the exuberance of his 20-something core. The Clinton campaign is based on stubborness and cynicism. Jadedness seems to be almost a prerequisite for supporting her. It's a more reliable mentality in the doldrums.
The only way I know to keep going is the same way I run long distance or keep writing through the seemingly endless middle of a book: Remind myself that there won't be any thrills for a while, like there are at starts and finishes. There won't be any turning points, any electrifying news, any relief from numbing irresolution, not for a while. I'll have long stretches of wondering why the hell I ever took this on and whether the end can possibly justify the slog. But I know there's no reward in stopping, and I know there's a big triumphant ending out there somewhere, so I just keep putting one foot, one word, one frigging phone call after another.