When I started interning in Washington D.C., I began looking forward to the election. My internship is very hands-on, and I’d been given chances to cover everything from press conferences to rallies. So, in a year where the Senate might flip, I was excited to be in our nation’s capitol.
When I was told that I was being sent to North Carolina, I got even more excited. Every single headline I’d read during the election season talked about the state like it was a battle of epic proportions. Newspapers and newscasts proclaimed it the most expensive Senate battle in history, the one that might determine which party controlled the Senate.
As I stepped off the train at Raleigh, I expected to see signs and billboards, newspapers filled with articles, and people passionate about whatever candidate they were voting for.
I didn’t see any signs, but as I walked around with my supervisor, I figured that they were just further in the city. And then we started talking to voters, and we encountered something that I hadn’t expected: apathy.
Everywhere we turned there were people who told us they were sick of the thousands of negative ads, sick of the political partisanship and that they weren’t voting. We ran into some people who couldn’t name the candidates, people who seemed surprised there was an election that Tuesday.
I learned a lot in that trip, and began wondering if everywhere in North Carolina was like Raleigh. It couldn’t be, not when there were reports coming in of record numbers of early voters, or the occasional passionate voter we came across.
However, wherever those passionate people were, they weren’t there that weekend. It just seemed like the state’s capitol had judged the candidates, read the headlines, seen the ads and come out suitably unimpressed.
It wasn’t what I had imagined at all, and I left feeling disappointed in American voters. But then we got back to D.C. I was at a dinner event and, after a speech, I saw a fellow intern run up to his friend and exclaim that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had been reelected.
On my way to my internship site I saw a large crowd gathered at the pub across the street, everyone chatting. They weren’t watching sports though: CNN was on.
As the night ticked away and I jostled with other members of the media at an event, the excitement was palpable. It was like a coat you could just wear against the chilly D.C. air.
I spent the night monitoring news feeds sites, trying to soak everything in and writing articles. When the news came in that the Senate was in Republican hands, from the window I heard a faint cheer from the pub.
The next day it was acceptance speech after acceptance speech and a flurry of political analyses. McConnell proudly predicted that he would be the next majority leader, and only time will tell what will happen when January rolls around and the new senators pour in.
I can’t help but compare these two capitols: one filled with apathy and the other enthusiasm. When we look past all of the headlines and really look at the American electorate, it can often be confusing to think it’s the same country, looking at the same event.
Different opinions are what made America what it is today, even with all of the partisanship that we read about in the news. [pullquote]But opinions only count when you voice them[/pullquote], whether that’s through your own candidacy or dropping a ballot in a box.
For the next election, and the next and every one after that, there’s only one question: do you want to be like Raleigh, or D.C.?
Having experienced both, I vote for D.C.