The XX Factor

Would You Want This To Be Your First Vote?

I voted first thing this morning. It wasn’t fun. Went to the dentist afterward, and it was oddly similar. This fascinating personal litany is intended as a contrast to the last election, when Obama-fever swept our little New Hampshire town, and even independents like me were excited by all the hope and change and what-not. After casting my 2008 vote, I hit my favorite coffee shop, where the two guys behind the counter were rabid Obama boosters and had covered themselves and the cash register with Obama paraphernalia. Everything was festive. Even the McCain supporters seemed both energized and resigned, and the party, in general, went well into the night and onward.

I went for coffee after my vote today, too. The boys of Obama are long gone; along with their political partisanship they had a tendency to price the coffee according to their affection for particular customers and their political views, which wasn’t popular with management. The man in line in front of me encouraged the girls at the counter to vote; one promised she would, the other looked at the ground. After he left, she whispered, “I’m just not sure I want this to be my first vote.” The savvier older girl laughed. “My first vote was for Kerry,” she said, “so you know your vote counts and all that! Yeah, make a difference!”

Is it just midterm malaise? There are important, close Senate and House races here. Newcomer Kelly Ayotte, a woman who accepted Sarah Palin’s “mama grizzly” label but laid it down with admirable grace in a state where Palin isn’t popular, is running for Senate against Paul Hodes, who bears incumbent baggage with no incumbent benefit-he’s currently in the House. In the local House race, Republican Charlie Bass gets an incumbent bonus without said incumbent baggage: he sat in the House of Representatives for 12 years before being defeated by Hodes in 2006. Bass is running against Ann McLane Custer, who gets to say things like “Charlie Bass has been around for so long my mother ran against him.”

None of the four offers a particularly inspiring promise of change, or much of anything except not being the other guy. It’s not surprising they haven’t galvanized an 18-year-old barista. I voted, yes, but they didn’t really excite me, either. I find myself a little envious of the Tea Partiers, who at least get to imagine they’re out for hope and change. In an election season where the presumed future speaker of the House sees defeating the president as the most important item on the governmental agenda, and the president has referred to the Republicans as the enemy, I’ve given up on both. I’m having a little trouble believing that anyone I voted for really represents anything except more of the same.

Photograph of woman casting her vote at a polling station in Maryland by Getty Images.