I started thinking about today’s column on Sunday. Namely, that I wouldn’t write it until Wednesday. Sure, I was hungover, but I wasn’t really avoiding it out of a particular laziness or incapacity to get it done earlier. I knew that if I waited, mine could be The Aggie’s first column with the privileged information of the 2010 midterm election’s results.
“This is an opportunity,” I thought to myself. “You have a responsibility to provide your readers with a unique perspective on the election that, upon closing this paper, they’ll be glad they had considered, even if some disagree.”
I figured I’d be writing you these words from my backyard in Danville, relaxing in a hammock with my three dogs after a campaign season that seemed to go on into fucking eternity. I figured I’d legally spark up a joint after closing the New York Times and Politico webpages I’d been continually refreshing the night before and I figured I’d do what I do every morning after an election; contemplate how little my vote actually meant in my district and ask myself, again, why I even bother.
Tuesday night I had actually changed my Facebook status to “Josh Rottman now lives in a red district, and yet relief washes over him like ‘the GOP wave crashing on the Dems,'” suggesting that, among other things, Politico fire the guy who writes their metaphors.
I went to bed perfectly content with the understanding I’d be introducing myself to my new Republican Representative, Steve Harmer, and I’d have to do so without being high. I have little problem with that. Congressman Jerry McNerney had a good, albeit short, run in CA-11, and I was glad I’d established a rapport with his office. Which is why yesterday morning’s news changed my perspective on the column I had figured I’d be writing to you.
I woke up to a comment on my status from my close friend and knowledgeable Republican (all virulent Democrats should have at least one) that suggested I may have “spoke too soon. CA Secretary of State is reporting McNerney up by 121 votes.” The race ended Wednesday morning 82,124 to 82,003, which is likely the closest Congressional race in which I will ever get to cast my vote.
Out of 172,936 votes, only 121 votes separated a moderate Democrat and a “Tea Party” Republican in California. That is a margin of seven hundredths of a percentage point. Next to nothing. Numerically, my family alone was over 3 percent of the decision to keep Jerry in office.
This makes my Congressional vote more than 266 times more influential than a Democrat voting next door in CA-10, where I took a quarter off to work this campaign season.
Over the last five months, I have worked exhaustive hours with volunteers from across CA-10, organizing phone banks and precinct walks, reaching out to voters at fairs and parades and doling out the Democratic slate card to turn out the Democrats of CA-10. The irony of this morning is that I may have done more to get a Democrat elected at home simply by voting than I did in 5 months on the campaign trail in the district next door. I would have had to turn out at least 267 Dems in CA-10 definitively to make my 5 months of hard work mathematically more valuable than the ten minutes it took me to fill out my absentee ballot.
I am admittedly a bit of a cynic. I’ve been conditioned, like many young patriots today, to think that while voting is my civic duty, a staple of democracy, and therefore an essential practice, my one vote is unlikely to change the outcome of any single election (and no Kevin Costner movie could have convinced me otherwise).
However, this morning’s news from CA-11 was a humbling reminder of the importance of my vote, and transitively of yours. Pollsters be damned, when all the cards are laid out, there is no telling when your vote will mean the difference between your representative fighting for the policies you believe in or their ideological counterparts.
So for those of you who voted in the hopes of buying both cigarettes and cigaweed in one stop, don’t be discouraged. For those of you who voted for Nancy Pelosi in CA-8 who crushed her opponent by a 5-1 margin (making my vote almost 750 times more valuable than yours), don’t be discouraged. Until yesterday morning, I was you (I was not a witch); I’ve never felt like my vote mattered much. But, yesterday was my morning after, and your morning after may be right around the bend.
JOSH ROTTMAN’s mom wrote his title this week. He hopes he provided you readers with a unique perspective on the election that, upon closing this paper, you’ll be glad you had considered, even if you disagree. If not, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His mom can too.