So we held our breath for twenty-two months, twenty-two months of an election that everyone claimed would bore us witless. The exact opposite turned out to be true: it was riveting.
It was difficult for the candidates who ran for office and for the operatives who masterminded the campaigns and for the journalists who reported on them, but it was also difficult for those of us who simply watched, night after night, clutching our remote controls, surfing the web, staying up till two in the morning manipulating the electoral college scenarios. We were hooked on Hardball and fell in love with Rachel Maddow. On Sundays we TiVo'd the political shows and spent most of the day watching them. Sometimes we even watched Fox -- that's how desperate and crazy we became. We were exhausted and exhilarated and we desperately believed that this was the most important election of all time and we would die of grief if Barack Obama didn't win, and to make sure he did win we held our breath.
We held our breath through the conventional wisdom:
Hillary was a done deal. Barack Obama would have to raise his energy level or else. The country would never elect someone so professorial. The Bradley effect was alive and well. Obama was Michael Dukakis all over again. The Reverend Wright was a catastrophic mistake. Michelle Obama was too angry. There would be an October surprise. Israel would bomb Iran. Osama bin Laden would make a videotape. There would be a dirty bomb in a suitcase. Those women from PUMA might matter. The vice-presidential candidate never makes a difference. Obama should have picked Hillary instead. A pitbull in lipstick. Lipstick on a pig. Obama should never have gone to Berlin. Obama should never have gone on vacation to Hawaii. Twemty-seven per cent of the American people thought he was a Muslim. The Republicans would rig the voting machines in Ohio. Everything depended on Pennsylvania. America would never elect a black president.
By the end of the summer we were drained, we were spent, we were maxed out. Then the economy crashed. At that point it was over, but we didn't know it: we continued to hold our breaths through the debates. But the country had made up its mind and the debates didn't matter at all.
Tonight, at eleven o'clock, the endless election ended. It was divine. It was amazing. It was (depending on what commentator you were watching) either "an" historic event, or "a" historic event. And we can breathe again.