We were once so high, not too many weeks ago. The campaign was in full swing, and even the apolitical could surprise us with a titbit here and there about who said what according to whom, how the other party responded, its play in the media, the various levels of spin, effects on polls, campaign funding, crowd numbers at rallies.
We, of course, already knew. We read it, all of it, every column inch and every comment, at the New York Times, Washington Post, LA Times, Huffington, Drudge, Politico.com; you name it, we could cite it.
Day and night we seethed over false campaign ads, wagered bets on states like Florida and North Carolina, analysed the analyses of each candidate's health care policy into the wee hours of the morning and barked orders at the television as Barack Obama calmly proved incapable of being broken down by the demagogue-style of attacks coming from John McCain and his bulldog in lipstick, Sarah Palin.
It was an agonising two years, especially for those who had made up their minds after the first few primaries, but the suffering brought a necessary comfort, an integral balance to the political junkie's masochistic lifestyle.
Despite the media blitz on every quote, quip and gesture, we still felt as though Google News was suffering a shortage of campaign coverage pieces. The craving burned for the latest insider take, the latest endorsement, finance reports, voter registration drives. The resources were vast, but we'd read them all by 9am each morning.
We counted the days like children wait for Christmas, praying - some of us for the first time - to gods we'd only recently discovered from random Internet searches for blogs or personal websites of anything underreported in the mainstream media - we prayed that our fears of voter fraud and ballot tampering would prove to be mere figments of our Bush-Gore-induced paranoia; that the pollsters were being conservative in their lead projections rather than lazily presumptuous; and that our darling would make history as the first black president of the United States without any tide-changing catastrophes emerging late in the game.
Our hearts ached with that empty, my-dog-just-got-hit-by-a-car feeling when we missed the latest update in the Times or electoral map projection on RealClearPolitics.com. And eyes would spasm as we tried maintaining focus on the slew of words filling the response box after reading a scathing forwarded message, always from a blood relative, about Obama's Muslim heritage, his socialist leanings, his birth certificate.
We originally prayed to our newly discovered gods for Election Day to arrive. But then it did, and voting went so smoothly, completely devoid of the controversies for which we had so anxiously prepared. The polls closed, the GOP appeared to have turned off its ballot tampering machine, and the Republican nominee from the great state of "Dustbowl" finally gave us an honest, heartfelt speech: a concession to the victory of our angel, Barack Obama.
We woke up the next day with hoarse voices and a throbbing headache from the 12-hour celebration, a night during which we saw the sun rise with tearful speeches and tributes, thank yous and sharp-tongued farewells; it was November 5, and we survived. But just as we released that pent-up, GOP-fear-induced angst with a long-held sigh of relief, we choked on the next inhalation, shifting focus to the question we apparently failed to see coming, and everyone from here to Morocco seemed to be asking the same question: "What do we do now?"
We make coffee, run out to grab the paper and feverishly turn the pages looking for the latest campaign news. Beyond the expected coverage of the victory, everything we already witnessed on CNN, C-SPAN, ABC and FOX the night before, there is little worth our attention. The headlines read like Armageddon is on the horizon: "What now for GOP?" (LimaOhio.com); "What Now for Joe Lieberman?" (National Ledger); "What now for new voters?" (Medill Reports); "What's next for John McCain?" (Arizona Capitol Times); "What's Next For Sarah Palin?" (WMDT); and the truly desperate, "What now for cable news?" (Modesto Bee).
All of these headlines seem to avoid the real question: "What now for political junkie journalists?"
Three pots of coffee later we're still sitting at the computer, ignoring calls from work and impatiently refreshing the Google news page, every hour on the hour, if not earlier. Still defiant, even after the end, mumbling to ourselves "It's not over," then clicking away in search of some evidence to support our fantasy. We still have the Minnesota senatorial race, and for a while we had Alaska too, but now not even Missouri is too close to call anymore. We're left to latch on to whatever inspiration we can muster, and it comes suddenly and briefly from news that Nebraska gave one historical electoral vote to the Democrat.