I need to tell you something.
That whole George W. Bush thing?
It's kind of my fault.
Well, it’s not ALL my fault, but still. It kind of is. At least it feels that way.
You see, that fateful summer of 2000 I was so busy preparing for graduate school that I forgot to vote. No, really - I had to find an apartment and a roommate, but mostly I had to wrap my mind around the fact that I was leaving everything and everyone I knew behind to move to Virginia. You’d think I was moving to another planet. But that’s the reason that that year’s election simply wasn’t a priority. I didn’t even realize that I had forgotten to apply for an absentee ballot until I was immersed in my new life and it was too late.
To be honest, I didn’t think it was that big a deal. I’d voted for Clinton in 1996 - so what? Tons of people did. What difference was my one little vote going to make?
As much as I disliked George W. Bush, I wasn’t worried that he would win. I was pretty sure people wouldn’t vote him into office. Surely people would vote for the qualified candidate and not for the one they’d like to share a beer with?
I was so naive.
I’ll admit that I was a little surprised when I left the election night party and things weren’t settled yet. But I had an 8:00 AM class and needed to go to bed. I remember being more worried about the financial model I’d been working on all day than about the election itself.
When my radio alarm went off at 7:00 AM a voice informed that we still didn’t have a president - the election was too close to call, and the difference was 183 votes (at the time). In FLORIDA.
Did I mention that I had forgotten to apply for an absentee ballot in Miami?
(I felt very, very bad.)
Like the rest of the country, I became obsessed with the election. But unlike the rest of you, who eventually found the whole “hanging chad” issue ridiculously hilarious - it hit me to my core.
I felt so very stupid every time I saw a picture like this:
You might remember those pictures. They were everywhere.
I felt stupid a lot.
I felt sick to my stomach whenever people would discuss the Florida votes. Whether they said that it came down to 1,000 or just 40 votes in a county it was clear that every vote was precious - so precious that it was counted and recounted endlessly. But I was an experienced Florida voter and I never left any hanging chads - I knew that if only I had voted, Gore would have had one more vote that counted.
So whenever Leno or Letterman made fun of Florida voters they twisted that knife I’d stuck in my gut by choosing not to vote that year. Because those weary poll workers? Weren’t counting and recounting my vote. And it was all my fault.
People talk about Catholic guilt, but it’s nothing compared to the guilt I felt that November.
I wouldn't want you to feel like this. Don't be stupid - go out and vote.