Sadomasochistic ways to watch midterm election returns
Feel a terrifying loss of control in real time!
The Capitol Dome is seen amid ripples in the reflecting pool, in Washington, Monday, Nov. 7, 2022, one day before Election Day.
The Capitol Dome is seen amid ripples in the reflecting pool, in Washington, Monday, Nov. 7, 2022, one day before Election Day. [ J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE | AP ]
Published Nov. 7, 2022|Updated Nov. 7, 2022

The following first appeared in Stephinitely, a weekly newsletter from columnist Stephanie Hayes featuring a bonus column and behind-the-scenes chatter. To get it in your inbox every Monday, subscribe here.

Every two years following a presidential election, the non-reigning party rages into the high school dance wielding crowbars like it’s the finale of “Footloose” (a surprisingly violent film). The ‘80s bullies are certain of victory. They perch atop classic cars, shotgunning Coors and flashing jazz hands. This mayhem that unfolds neatly as a fitted sheet is called the “midterm curse.”

FiveThirtyEight has studied the phenomenon. The main idea is fewer voters turn out for midterms. Previous losers are more likely to cast a ballot, pressing the pen really hard into the Scantron. In other words: “Hatred is a powerful motivator in politics, and accordingly, those who oppose the incumbent party tend to be more motivated to show up and register their frustration with the status quo.”

Mmm, hatred! Delicious hatred!

Speaking of FiveThirtyEight, polls and predictions are about as reliable as me actually getting my side of chips and salsa when I order a burrito bowl on UberEats. But we do have a rough roadmap of how things will go. This year, Politico predicts the House will tilt Republican while the Senate remains a toss-up (though that may be an overly optimistic view for Democrats). If you are directly ignoring the advice of your therapist and/or fitness watch to put the phone down and step outside, read the whole thing.

No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, I think sensible, non-conspiratorial people can agree that modern politics is a bubbling, toxic cesspool slowly giving millions of Americans anxiety disorders. Tuesday night represents this vat of comic book acid. As voting closes, the returns provide an acute loss of control in real time, our fragile national Lego tower piercing the soles of our feet. Tuesday is about watching the villagers from “Beauty and the Beast” take to the streets just as everyone inside the castle was beginning to feel emotionally seen.

Related: Tampa Bay Times 2022 General Election Voter Guide: Local candidates on the issues

But as the chaotic prophet Nietzsche once said, “Out of chaos comes a dancing star.” That dancing star is you! On the couch! Watching cable news (or, of course,! The only answer is to call the bluff of chaos and lean into the disarray, to watch the American Repo Man Experiment while having the least pleasant night of your life.

Here are some sadomasochistic ways to watch the midterms:

Pick your soundtrack. No, it can’t be relaxing. I’m going to suggest German heavy metal such as Rammstein, Helloween or Grave Digger. Oh, but keep the TV volume up. Also, make sure your partner is scrolling sorority outfits of the day on TikTok with the audio on. The general atmosphere should be “caught in the bathroom line at a deli inside the New York subway.”

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Clothes are equally important. Now, we all know there are two kinds of jeans. There are Sitting Down Jeans, probably a size or two too big, comfy, cute, sporty. And there are Standing Up Jeans, pants that look real sexy, sleek and smooth, but instantly betray the abdominal truth the moment tush touches chair. On this, the most cynical night all year, you know the jeans to pick.

On top, do not wear red or blue, the color of your party. Choose colors of chaos, of revolt, of societal collapse. Choose puce. Choose arsenic. Choose smaragdine. Choose bastard amber. These are all real colors! Look them up while Steve Kornacki is pointing at charts and sweating like Cathy. Ack!

Related: Questions missing from the DeSantis-Crist debate

Call that relative you’ve been putting off. She’s left four voicemails, and you keep saying you’re just soooo busy, but Tuesday is the night to make good. Pick up your phone and put that great aunt, the one who keeps sending links from Essential Oil COVID Cures Dot Net, on speaker. Do not turn down the German metal, the TikTok, or the election returns. Ask her if she has ever heard of the color bastard amber.

Pizza is a traditional election night meal, especially in newsrooms. Real suffering hinges on the toppings. Here’s the score: No cheese. Extra sauce. Raw onions. Pineapple. Dry chicken. Everything bagel seasoning. Drizzle of maple syrup. Wait, does this sound good? What is “good”? Pair it with the 4-month-old cooking wine in the back of the fridge.

Now, maybe this is all too much. Maybe you need to actually listen to your therapist. This is understandable. Step outside. Great. No, keep going. You’ve hit a tree. Climb the tree. Mmhm, head right up. Now, jump from the tree to the roof of your domicile. Listen for the Rammstein in the distance, and 30 seconds of a TikTok dance stuck on repeat because your partner has fallen asleep from expired Marsala. Look down upon the earth. Watch it burn.

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