Rather madly, I decide to sit up all night and watch the election. I have worked out secretly in my mind that it will be an Obama landslide, and I must see if my psephological chops are still sharp.
Actually, this is mostly sheer wish thinking. And partly predicated on my inability to understand how anyone would vote for a man who once strapped his dog on the roof of his car and drove it to Canada.
I slept badly the night before, and am in the blank exhaustion stage of grief, so at first I do not enjoy it as much as I normally would. I start to get a little testy with Chuck Todd and his implements. Brian Williams cheers me up a bit; there is something about his wry intelligence which makes me feel better about almost everything.
Then, something lovely happens. Obama begins to win. He wins because the Americans, whom doughty Britons occasionally think of as rather antic and flighty where we are prosaic, who do not have our obsession with the Blitz spirit or the insane Dunkirk pride, are queuing round the block. Egregious partisans in some states are performing blatant voter suppression, but the voters will not be suppressed.
All the pundits except for Rachel Maddow have been muttering knowingly about the enthusiasm gap. Obama’s base, apparently, has no taste for the fight any more. The feckless young people will not pitch up; the African Americans are demoralised. It is the tea partiers and small staters and the pro-lifers who have the bit between their teeth. Peggy Noonan even writes a hilariously wrong column about how the President seems joyless, how his campaign is ‘small and sad and lost’.
In the end, the African American voters come out in greater numbers than ever before. Somebody says it is because they are so furious at the attempts to deny them. (Voter suppression gets targeted at non-white neighbourhoods, apparently, although my mind has to stretch and twang to comprehend that someone would do something so wicked.) The Latinos come out, and the Asians. The college-educated women, which is another vital demographic, marches out in droves, dreaming of Nellie Bly and the Pankhursts.
Suddenly, there are pictures of happy, smiling crowds. People are still queuing in some states, even though the result is now certain. Some of them waited for eight hours. I love them. Someone on the BBC jokes: if we had to wait ten minutes to vote, we would turn round and go home and have a nice cup of tea.
My Twitterstream explodes with joy. I send incoherent messages to people I have never met, congratulating them on the sweep of the battleground states. Mitt Romney ran an ugly campaign, and I am really pleased ugliness did not have its day. I imagine Paul Ryan consoling himself with a nice comforting copy of Atlas Shrugged.
At half past four, light-headed with tiredness, I go to bed. I cast a glance at the Pigeon’s bed, beside my desk. In 2008, she and her sister sat up with me all night. I say, out loud, to the empty space: ‘You would have been quite bored’. She liked the racing; not so keen on the politics. No barking and cartoon jumping for Cuyahoga County.
This morning, the air is light and mild, and the sun shines, and I spend two hours with the equines. I work the mare; I have a long conversation with the Horse Talker, which soothes me. I think about the election again; I realise that I am really, really delighted.
The World Traveller comes out and I tell her the result. She had missed the news. She smiles all over her face. ‘Oh,’ she says. ‘I am so glad.’ I too am glad. The very fact that there can be gladness feels like a bit of a sign. It is the first thing I have been properly glad about since Friday. I tried to watch the racing, but even the sight of the imperious Silviniaco Conti putting down his marker for a glittering future could not lift my heavy heart. Now, for the first time, there is a glimmer of lightness.
That’s the thing I have to look out for, the first gleam of light. I find that I have to concentrate very hard on learning loss, all over again. What do I do? Is it chicken soup or small acts of self-kindness or hot baths? Is it writing it down, giving sorrow words so the burdened heart will not break?
It is, I think most of all, looking for the light. I stare, stare, stare until the first watery ray is glimpsed. Then, I know I shall be able to bash on. It’s quite odd that the election of a man in a faraway country should prove to be that first glimmer. But it felt like a triumph of the better angels.
It’s not that everything shall now magically change, and Congress shall do good work, and perfect policies shall fall into place, and everyone shall have jobs. The political situation is much as it was. But there was something profoundly moving about those hopeful queues of voters; I am glad most of all that their stalwart endurance was rewarded.
My friend the Expatriate calls, from Santa Monica. ‘I think that Barack Obama is a proper person,’ she says. ‘I’ve been watching him and his wife, and I think they actually are really good people.’ I think so too. Good people don’t always make perfect politicians, but it is oddly reassuring sometimes to see that virtue is given its due. Obama could have taken his glittering Harvard degree and made millions in the corporate sector. Instead, he went to work with deprived communities on the south side of Chicago. That is a mark of character.
Plus, he is really nice to his dog.
As my sleep-deprived brain grows more whimsical, and I search hopelessly for my final sentence, I think perhaps that is why I am quite so pleased. It was a triumph for the Dog People. It was one for The Pigeon.
The happy herd:
They really were amazingly contented today. They have settled so well, and relaxed into themselves, and that too is a ray of light:
I imagine if the old girl were still here she would be saying – you didn’t really think they would elect a man called Mittens?:
No, no, not they. They remember Seamus the Dog:
The very thought makes me do my Lady Bracknell face:
Forgive me. No sleep really does make for inexcusable whimsy.
The hill, very blue today: