One Nation, Hungover

Why you should embrace your election hangover.

A hungover woman getting out of bed with a headache.

Photo by Hemera Technologies.

When your alarm goes off, you’re bleary, disoriented. You feel as though something tremendously important has happened, yet everything around you looks exactly the same. What transpired last night? Your brain is overwhelmed equally by fog and a jittery sense of significance. As the pieces start coming back, you experience shreds of the previous night’s nervousness, elation, or dismay—but through a glass, darkly. Shouldn’t the view outside your window look brand new? Shouldn’t the coffee at least be working by now? 

It’s called election hangover, and we feel your pain. Voting yesterday was so empowering. In many—but not all—cases, you got your “I voted” sticker and walked around feeling like part of a beautiful creature named democracy that breathed truth and justice across the land. Maybe later you were elated or depressed, the world coming to an end or gloriously changing. And yet, when all is said, done, counted, and broadcast, the immediate consequences of the election are hard to place. The same parties control the House and Senate. The same embattled guy reports for work today in the Oval Office.

What does election hangover feel like? According to my colleagues, it’s everything from “ringing in my ears from all the horrid music on MSNBC” to “despair in the pit of my stomach, which has handily replaced my appetite.” Sometimes it’s accompanied by a literal hangover, e.g., “from two beers and three cocktails and staying up until 3:30.” More figuratively, it can look like obsessive-compulsively rehashing the minutiae of the returns last night, like a slew of speculation concerning the blood alcohol levels of various newscasters, like a meta-analysis of media analysts who analyze the guy analyzing all our polls. We can’t let it go, even if we want to. Forward? Only if that’s the direction that holds the Advil and the Gatorade.

Unsurprisingly, the hashtag #electionhangover is all over Twitter. “I’m not sure how I feel today,” tweets @RestlessRani. “Is there a poll I can look at? Data? #electionhangover.” And @BCam252 observes symptoms of the ailment in his co-workers: “I aint been to work 30 min and every other white person I see is n a bad mood…#electionhangover.” But mostly, the phrase has become a way of conveying that we are very, very tired. “Cant. Stop. Yawning. #electionhangover.” “Im definitely slumming it today. #electionhangover.” The hashtag has a rueful tone, signaling as it does that our civic duty resulted in the aftereffects of a fun night out without any of the perks.

But take pride in your election hangover! The hungover citizen is engaged and invested. Where’s the shame in getting so intoxicated by the country’s political intrigues that you can’t find your shoes the next morning? I’m embracing my fatigue, my disorientation, my aching, aching head. Could you please turn down the lights?