This blog post was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Rosalind Campion portrait

Rosalind Campion

Counsellor for Global Issues

Part of UK in USA

9th November 2012 Washington DC, USA

Election Withdrawal Syndrome

For me, election campaigning has been a constant element of life in the US. The entire year I have been lived here has involved the most prolonged, sustained, energetic excitement about choosing a country’s leader that I could have imagined. From the first day we arrived, the question of who was to be the next President of the United States has been on everyone’s lips. We’ve seen our friends giving up weeks of time and lots of money to help their preferred candidate get elected. We saw a friend actually moving to live in Virginia, one of the swing states, so she could vote there. We’ve seen people in tears after Presidential debates. But after $6 billion of spending, months of campaigning, television ads, canvassing, debating, analysis, and anticipation, it all came down to one day. Tuesday 7th November 2012 was of course the day of the US election, a defining moment in America that happens once every four years and has repercussions that reach across America and throughout the rest of the world.

I unexpectedly had to fly to the UK at the weekend to take my mother to hospital. Flying back on election day was surreal: after a year of election news, which had increased to fever pitch over the last couple of weeks, suddenly all electronic devices had to be turned off. I felt rebellious, resentful, almost panicky as I pressed the ‘off’ buttons on Election Day. I was to be disconnected from the constant polling, the pundits reading the runes, the arguments for and against the candidates… I sat there in the imposed silence of the plane and felt the withdrawal symptoms kicking in. As soon as we touched down, of course I raced to my multiple electronic devices for the latest news – and found the world hadn’t changed radically in all those hours I’d been in the air, longing for news. The race was on, and it was far too early to call.

It turns out that US election night is one of these defining moments, the sort about which everyone asks where you were when you heard the result. I dashed from the airport straight to the Embassy (we had opened the Embassy bar to turn our compulsive tracking of election results into a more companionable activity). Someone had created an election quiz. Everyone was tense with excitement. And yet, despite my best efforts, the UK/US time difference caught up with me. I staggered home, exhausted, around eleven, and so it was that after a full year of anticipation, every time I’m asked where I was when I heard the result, I have been obliged to admit I was in bed, comatose with jetlag. I groggily awoke at 3am, and there was the result, waiting decisively on my phone: Obama had won.

And now, after all that time, money, effort, emotion and dedication, the election is over, and the political map hasn’t changed much. The US has the same President. The same majorities in the Senate and House of Representatives. And it’s essentially back to work. For us at the Embassy, along with pretty much everyone working in DC, that means figuring out what it all means for our policy areas. The truth is that we don’t really know yet, but that doesn’t mean we can’t spend hours in speculation and analysis.  And of course it also means a lot of heart-searching for the Republicans about why they lost the Presidential race.  But in the meantime, other stuff has started to creep back into the public domain as people emerge from the election black hole. Yesterday it was disconcerting to turn on the local radio and hear not more election coverage, but an hour-long program on Stalin. Friends who we’d lost to campaigning are inviting us to go hiking. People are sitting in cafes catching up on the latest novels. It’s back to business in Washington today, and it feels surreal.

But I hear my withdrawal symptoms won’t last long. My friends tell me that as soon as we begin to get used to diverse radio shows and news stories, and conversations that don’t feature the word ‘election’, the whole cycle will begin all over again…

About Rosalind Campion

Rosalind Campion was appointed Counsellor for Global Issues at the British Embassy in Washington DC in 2011. Her team works on policy issues including trade, business, energy, the environment, science,…

Rosalind Campion was appointed Counsellor for Global Issues at the British Embassy in Washington DC in 2011. Her team works on policy issues including trade, business, energy, the environment, science, innovation and transport.

Originally a corporate lawyer working in London on intellectual property issues, Roz was most recently with the Ministry of Justice, where she set up and ran the Sentencing Council, the national organisation responsible for ensuring a consistent approach to criminal sentencing by the UK’s judiciary.

She has previous experience working on foreign policy issues, including during her time at the Ministry of Justice, as well as through her work with the UK’s Serious Organised Crime Agency and as a lawyer working on international law cases for a top human rights litigation firm.

During her time in academia, Roz was responsible for the public international law programme at School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London, where she specialised in international trade and environment law.

She lives in Georgetown with her partner, Dr Layla McCay.

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