February 6th, 2008
11:15 AM ET
14 years ago

Across America with Bob Greene: 'That November Feeling'

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.l.cnn.net/cnn/2008/images/02/06/art.bobgreene.cnn.jpg caption=" Wolf Blitzer goes over the Super Tuesday results. "]ABOARD THE CNN ELECTION EXPRESS IN FULLERTON, California - What does the morning after feel like?

In this case, it feels like November.

After all the debates, all the acrimony, all the travel and all the fatigue, the so-called Super Tuesday is at last history - and now it is setting in that, as we all should have known all along, the finish line was a mirage.

Out in the western part of Utah, where the highway feels as lonely as a half-remembered Gene Pitney heartbreak ballad, there is a place where you can stand on the surface of the salt flats late at night and, if the moon is right, you can almost swear that there is a large white wall looming about two hundred yards away.

There is no wall. It’s an illusion. Because the salt flats stretch to just about forever, and because the human eye does not readily take in the concept of forever, the wall that isn’t there rises to give the false yet comforting impression that, somewhere where you can touch it, there is an end point. But if you walk toward the wall, by the time you approach it you find that it is gone.

So it is with Tuesday’s primary elections. Even if the results had been starkly definitive - even if there had been only one candidate per party left standing as the sun came up Wednesday - the wall, the elusive end point, would have packed up before dawn and moved a little farther down the line.

In the election nights of your childhood, when you would watch the early results with your parents and then go to bed for the evening, the next morning would arrive and there would be a sensation in the air that previously had been unknown to you: a curious amalgam of exhaustion and residual nervousness and the melancholy sense that something important had ended. The peculiar thing about the sensation was that you knew it had nothing directly to do with anyone or anything inside your own house. Yet, because election nights are the threads that run through every American house, whether they’re invited in or not, that wrung-out and confusing morning-after fog lingered for the rest of the day, and into the remainder of that November week.

But it is not November now - it’s still early February. Because, for the first time, so many primaries were held on a single day, and because the interest in, and news coverage of, the primary campaigns has been so intense, it does, for a moment, feel that Thanksgiving is just a few weeks away, with Christmas within view. The classic day-after-Election-Day sensation: part spent excitement, part amorphous emptiness, mostly the concession that something that had been with you for a very long time was suddenly past tense.

There’s a hint of that feeling in the air today - but of course it’s like the towering white wall on the salt flats, the wall that moves away just as you think you are about to reach it. Nine months lie ahead before the real November arrives - nine months until the wall becomes literal. The end suddenly feels like a beginning.

Bob Greene is an award-winning journalist and best-selling author.

Filed under: Bob Greene
soundoff (33 Responses)
  1. John

    Thank you for explaining what a mirage is. This WHOLE time I though it was a casino in Vegas. This VALUBLE piece of information will be utilized though out the campaign, my life, and the lives of my children.

    February 6, 2008 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  2. therealist

    Why don't we just acknowledge the 500 lb gorilla in the room, people? Obama is getting the black and male voters while Hillary is getting the women and older voters.
    i. e. Race and gender are just as divisive in the dem party as anywhere else..

    February 6, 2008 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  3. dr fitts

    This is a fun article...one with whimsy, one with feeling "of change in the air..."

    I have a request-will someone please ask Hillery, since she refuses (perhaps, as she should) to apologize for her vote for war in Iraq, is she "proud" of her vote for that war? It felt so calculating, politically, that she voted for it...she needs to be asked that question and she needs to answer, directly, if she is proud- because,she deflects and refuses to answer the other question. She wants the power without being held accountable for the cost of her integrity. "Hillary, are you proud of your vote?"

    And, Bill, I/we loved you for your 8 years of your presidency. We suffered with you through your lack of disipline and supported you through "that awful time" of impeachment. Can we trust you to not follow your selfish, undisplined, entitled self? Can we? I think not. Hillery and you have the marriage that you both have every right to have-but, I do not want it imposed on us this time around. Enough already.

    I am for Senator "Hope"...

    February 6, 2008 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  4. Glenn Doty, Columbia, SC

    But this is bigger than November.

    Every election there is a primary, and there is a chance that one of the parties could nominate a person who will change the direction – and appeal – of the party.

    The republicans – predictably – rejected Paul, who is their potential change agent.

    The Democrats still have a shot at electing Obama.

    If the dems choose Hillary than November will be a side-note. Two insiders will battle it out in a viscous negative campaign and one of them will win and move on to 4 years of endless partisan fighting and stalling... or, the democrats could change and be a different party that moves forward for a time before getting bogged down again.

    If it's just a question of old Washington crones and their respective cronies than November would really mean next to nothing... but if we choose a new direction...
    This could be a turning point in American history.

    The primary is a MUCH bigger deal than November.

    February 6, 2008 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  5. DD

    I am a latina and will be proud to vote for Obama when my state has it's primary. I believe in what he says and in his positive attitude. If Hillary were to get the nomination I would vote for McCain, a difficult decision because I have been a life long Democrat . I cannot in good concious vote for someone who will say whatever it takes to get elected. I have watched the Clintons turn on their friends and supporters if it will further their careers.

    February 6, 2008 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  6. Wallace, Sacramento, CA

    Quotation from Rick - "You said eventually elect someone.
    You signed as an educated Ombama supporter. So does that make you an exception as to what most Obama supporters are??"
    No Rick, not at all. I emphasized 'educated' because it's important for ALL of us to look at the issues and educate ourselves and stop listening to sound bites. When I hear comments like "Obama lacks substance" and "Hillary will rid Washington of the lobbyists", or my favorite "New Guard vs. Old Guard", it frightens me. I see comments on this board which sound like they came out of the mouth of a Fox News analyst. Just spinning all over the place. Just call it like it is.

    1. Obama doesn't accept money from lobbyists, PACs, and special interest groups, while much of Hillary's campaign is funded by these organizations.

    This is a FACT, but Hillary supporters don't want to believe it so they block it out. Just do your research, be civil and call it like it is. If you still like her, great, but why lie to yourself about the facts?

    2. Hillary is a "uniter". Really?.

    Guys, Hillary is a brilliant woman who continues to impress me with her intellect. However, you can't discount the fact that her unfavorable rating is 47%, while Obama's is hovering around 24%. As brilliant as she is, the Republican base can't stand this woman. It is what it is. Now, how do WE counter? That is the question we have to ask, instead of trying to "convince and spin" ourselves into believing the contrary.

    Frankly, they BOTH have weaknesses. If you don't believe that, you're kidding yourself! And they are fabulous candidates, BOTH of them - who need each other. Yep, I said it. They need each other.

    I just hope they BOTH keep their promises when one gets into the White House.

    February 6, 2008 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  7. Curt

    Bob you are my favorite writer. Thanks for the wonderful perspective. Go Hillary!

    February 6, 2008 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |


    February 6, 2008 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
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