NEAL CONAN, host:
Gloating, tears, screams. Tonight, we're likely to see all that and more as we elect the 44th president of the United States. The long campaign pitted mothers against daughters, neighbor against neighbor, husbands against wives, friends versus friends. And tonight, a lot of those people may be in the same room together, glaring at each other over plastic cups of chardonnay - awkward. So, how do you make nice with the elephant or donkey in the room? What are your plans to celebrate the passion, but avoid provocation? And we will split the phone lines for the rest of this hour to make sure that we can have equal representation on both sides.
So McCain supporters, give us a call, 800-344-3893. Again, McCain supporters, 800-344-3893. Obama backers, 800-344-3864. Again, 800-344-3864 for Obama backers. The email address is the same for everybody. That's email@example.com. We're going to hear from a couple of media titans. We begin with Peter Sagal, who joins us from the NPR bureau in Chicago. He, of course, is the host of NPR's "Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me." Peter, nice to talk with you again.
PETER SAGAL: You, too, Neal.
CONAN: And what are you planning to do this evening?
SAGAL: Well, I mean, obviously, not only am I member of what Howard Kurtz called today the liberal entertainment establishment, which I find amusing. Most people don't know this, but I'm actually a member of the famed infamous trilateral commission. So I'm going to be attending the annual or quadrennial meeting in our bunker, which is beneath the great swamp in Central New Jersey.
CONAN: And carving up spheres of influence around the world.
SAGAL: Exactly. We're actually going to be deciding the election there. We'll try to make it as dramatic and realistic-sounding for the rest of you as we can. But you know, obviously, I have more important things to do than to celebrate.
CONAN: And Dr. Goldfinger is going to be arriving.
SAGAL: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. We all, it's wonderful, Neal. We all have pneumatic chairs. You know, we just sort of sit and spin around, and we're all lit from below so as to look sinister. It's really a wonderful evening. Plus we have canapés.
CONAN: Well, for those of us who aren't going to be actually deciding the fate of the world, what might we do to distract each other at parties tonight as we're glancing nervously at the screen and seeing people touch the magic map?
SAGAL: Well, we should probably cut to the chase immediately and of course, my first suggestion is of course, the classic election turns drinking game. I consulted with an expert on this topic, Adam Felber, my colleague in "Wait, Wait... Don't Tell Me" and proprietor of the Fanatical Apathy blog, who creates some of the best drinking games. He has come up with a couple of good ideas. For example, the first time anybody on the television says the word mandate, everybody says, oooh, and drinks.
CONAN: And has to take a drink.
CONAN: Would take a drink. Is this a sip or is this bottoms up?
SAGAL: It really depends, I think it depends on how your candidate is doing at that moment. And every time after somebody says, mandate, that's the - everybody has to yell mandate, and all the men in the room must hold hands shyly.
(Soundbite of laughter)
CONAN: That's another idea. We're going to actually bring in another of our media titans now for advice on what to do in the awkward situation of an election eve party where everybody in the room may not be deliriously happy at the exact same moment. Amy Dickinson, who, of course, writes the "Ask Amy" column for the Chicago Tribune and many other newspapers around the country, joins us now from the studios at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. Amy, also delighted to have you on the program today.
Ms. AMY DICKINSON (Columnist, "Ask Amy," Chicago Tribune): Hi, Neal. I was just looking for a media titan. I don't see one.
(Soundbite of laughter)
SAGAL: Hey, wait a minute, Amy.
Ms. DICKINSON: Oh, it's you.
SAGAL: Amy, I happen to be here. I am bestriding Talk of the Nation like a colossus today. Did you notice?
Ms. DICKINSON: Yeah. Get off my turf, man.
(Soundbite of laughter)
SAGAL: Actually, while we're here, can I discuss my personal problems with Amy?
Ms. DICKINSON: Yeah, really.
SAGAL: Because I've been trying to get in touch with her.
CONAN: This is for election special, late night for you.
Ms. DICKINSON: Right.
CONAN: So Amy, what do you do in those situations where you have a party full of people who rabidly support one side or the other and you know, one half of the room is going to be crying and the other half of the room is going to be throwing their hats in the air?
Ms. DICKINSON: Well, use of the word rabid and party in the same sentence, not so much. You know, that's not really good. But I actually think that, first of all, I'd like to say that this is serious. Like this is - how you behave when you win is incredibly important. It's important to your relationships. Obviously, how you behave while you're fighting, while you're combating is also important. But I'll tell you. I am married to someone who, I turned to him this morning and said, you know, I've never known you when these two guys weren't running for president. What will we fight about later?
And he just - well, we'll think of something. And I was talking to my daughter, who cast her very first vote today. I'm really, really proud of all these young people who are going out and voting. But I asked her now, if your guy wins, how are you going to act? And she said, mom, well, I think it's really important to be respectful and like gracious and - you know, this is like an important aspect of our democracy and this is a lesson that we - like, here's how we do it differently from some countries. It's like we don't riot, we don't fight, we don't - although, if you're at a party, you could always take it outside, you know. But we - I think it's - yeah.
CONAN: I'm sure Peter is going to explain at some point this evening that he's going outside to smoke a non-cigarette and then gloat, gloat, gloat.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Ms. DICKINSON: Right.
SAGAL: No, no, no, no, no.
Ms. DICKINSON: I think that, you know, you could always go to your car and like 'haaah!' gloat.
SAGAL: I am in Chicago, so I think what we do when we - instead of not rioting, we'll have a patriotic riot and only overturn foreign cars.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Ms. DICKINSON: Exactly. Exactly. But you know, it is - I live in a small town where we're all too close to one another, so you have to be very, very careful.
CONAN: We're going to continue this conversation with our media titans, no matter what they want to say about each other. Amy Dickinson, who writes the syndicated column "Ask Amy" for the Chicago Tribune, and Peter Sagal, the host of NPR's "Wait, Wait… Don't Tell Me." If you'd like to get in on the conversation, give us a call. McCain supporters, 800-344-3893. Obama backers, 800-344-3864. I'm Neal Conan. Stay with us. This is an Election Day special from NPR News.
(Soundbite of music)
CONAN: This is an Election Day news special from NPR News. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. Here are the headlines in some of the stories we're following here today at NPR News. John McCain began the day by voting in Phoenix, Arizona, then headed to Nevada and Colorado for a pair of last-minute campaign stops. Barack Obama voted in his Chicago neighborhood, then traveled to Indiana for one final campaign stop. And the United States Supreme Court heard a case today about the use of profanity on broadcast television at issue in the case of the FCC versus Fox TV as whether the government can ban what are called fleeting expletives in broadcast. Details on those stories and of course, much more later today on All Things Considered from NPR News.
Tomorrow in another election special, Ken Rudin, our political editor, will join us to wrap today's election about who won where, and we'll talk with Pew pollster Andy Kohut about why who won where. Join us for a post-election special tomorrow at this hour. Tonight, both of the major party candidates plan big events. Nearly a million people could come out in Chicago's Grant Park, where Democrat Barack Obama plans to hold his election night party. Republican John McCain is expected in Phoenix for a rally. He's booked the Arizona Biltmore Resort and Spa for his event. For the rest of us, it's our friends or our neighbor's living room or an election party at the corner bar. Either way, what advice do you have for breaking the tension for tonight's partygoers?
McCain supporters, 800-344-3893, 800-344-3893. Obama backers, 800-344-3864. That's 800-344-3864. And the email address for everybody is firstname.lastname@example.org. Peter Sagal is with us from Chicago. He's the host of NPR's "Wait, Wait… Don't Tell Me." And Amy Dickinson with us from Ithaca, New York. She writes the syndicated column, "Ask Amy," for the Chicago Tribune. And let's see if we can get a caller on the line. Let's go to Rita. Rita is with us from Flint, Michigan, on the Democratic line.
RITA (Caller): Hello.
CONAN: Hi, Rita. Go ahead, please.
RITA: Well, a few weeks ago, I was told by one of - I have a group of friends. There's four couples, and we do a lot of things together, travel together. But I was asked not to contact any of them until after the election was over because we are backing Obama and they are not. Well, I think I know how to handle talking to them after the election is over, if Obama losses. But how would I talk to them after the election is over, if Obama wins?
CONAN: Amy Dickinson, any advice?
Ms. DICKINSON: Well, this is a great topic because I think we all learned when we were playing sports in high school, your behavior in victory is actually much more important than your behavior in defeat. And it's vital to be - it's more important to be a good sport when you win. And I'd say I think it's a little bit strange that these people would ask you not to contact them. I mean, what's up with that? I don't know. But...
RITA: Yeah, you and me both.
Ms. DICKINSON: Yeah. But if you do want to be friends with these people, you can say - you know, let a few days pass and then say, well the election's over. I'm contacting you. Let's get together. I mean, you could totally sidestep it.
SAGAL: My advice, of course, would be to call them up and reassure them and say that it is true that the Obama administration will seize all their property and wealth, but they will only use it for good things like subsidizing wedding cakes for gay married couples. Good stuff.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Ms. DICKINSON: That brings something.
SAGAL: I never had the opportunity to win anything in high school, so I never learned any of that.
RITA: I never win any of the elections. I always vote for the loser. I hope I haven't, you know, condemned my candidates again this year. But just in case I win - I actually pick a winner, I don't know how to handle it.
Ms. DICKINSON: Right. Well, I want to bring up one thing that I've noticed that's really saddened me, actually, a little bit is that of my friends on the right and the left, it's those on the left who have behaved, I think, most poorly, actually, during the election because they've said things like this. If McCain wins, I'm moving to Canada. I had a friend say, if McCain wins, I'm leaving planet Earth. And I know that's - I don't think that that's something that you should just throw about lightly. I think that that is sort of incendiary, honestly.
RITA: You know, when I...
Ms. DICKINSON: Because what you're saying is, I can't live - this Democracy cannot, you know, survive a Republican administration. And I disagree.
RITA: I agree with you. But you know, I think that people are saying that no matter which. This race seems to be a little bit more personal than others, and it seems to me that it's happening on both sides. You know, that's why I think I was - we don't even - I tried not to even talk about the election because I knew it was a problem. But there was was no event. I was just told, let's just not talk until after it's over.
Ms. DICKINSON: Wow!
CONAN: Holly in Charlottesville, Virginia, seems to have a similar problem. She emailed to say, I am sticking with my Dem friends tonight. I am planning on not talking to my beloved Republican parents until at least Thursday.
Ms. DICKINSON: Yeah. I actually think that's a great idea. And then, you know, as I said to my husband, well, someday soon, we'll be able to just argue about national affairs and it won't be so political. Like that's the ideal. Then we're sort of on the same side in terms of, you know, not having to sort of worry about the elephant in the room or the donkey, as it were.
SAGAL: Let me ask Amy a question. You mentioned, and I know this for a fact, that you and your husband have only known each other during the course of this election. How early in your whirlwind courtship did this political difference come up?
Ms. DICKINSON: It came up immediately, Peter, thank you, and I married him anyway. So just goes to show you, you know?
SAGAL: Well, he is good-looking.
Ms. DICKINSON: But actually, he's awesome but I have to say, we're an example of a couple who, you know, we've sort of had to work out what we feel comfortable talking about and what we feel like we should stay from. And we have, I think, done a really good job of sort of acknowledging one another's point of view and moving on.
CONAN: Peter, on the other hand, is programming "We Are The Champions" as his ringtone.
(Soundbite of laughing)
SAGAL: So you think, so you think.
CONAN: Rita, thanks very much for the phone call. We appreciate it.
RITA: Thank you.
CONAN: Here's an email from Marv in South Elgin, Illinois: There is only one way to handle bipartisan election parties. You should set up an aisle down the middle of the room. Then when one candidate wins, everybody could be ready to reach across the party aisle. That could make for some tense moments having the recounts, you know, in Ohio, however.
SAGAL: I actually wonder how many parties they're going to be tonight around this nation of ours in which they're - people who are holding them expect there to be an even nearly equal number of supporters of each candidate. Because as people have already said, we become pretty tribal. And people seem to be hanging out only with other people who agree with them, which I think is actually one of our problems, but it also seems to be true.
CONAN: Yeah. Bill Bishop writes about this in "The Big Sort." We've had him on the program a couple of times.
Ms. DICKINSON: Peter, I completely agree, and I've actually had as hard a time talking with sort of my like-minded friends as I have with people who I don't agree with because I feel that it's almost like the emotions are running a little too high. And I agree. I don't know many mixed parties that are going to happen tonight.
SAGAL: You know, I remember on our show, Amy, we had a guest - "Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me" - we had a guest who I won't name right now, but she...
CONAN: Nice plug, Peter.
SAGAL: Well, thank you. It's called "Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me." It's a news quiz and well, I am a media titan, I get to do that.
CONAN: Of course you do.
SAGAL: And we had a guest who was known. in addition for her other activities. for her political activism and her strong liberal persuasion, and she writes and talks about it a great deal. And we were talking about that and what she believed and then I asked her, I said, well, you know, you write such things about Republicans and conservatives; have you ever actually talked to one? Have you ever like said, hey, you know, let me discuss ideas with you, maybe there is actually something we can agree upon. And she actually said to me, I may be remembering this unfairly, but I think she actually said to me, why in the world would I do that?
Ms. DICKINSON: Exactly.
SAGAL: And it struck me at the time because, I mean, it may be fun to hurl invective left and right. It is fun but...
CONAN: It's a living for some people.
SAGAL: It's yes, some of us do well of it by insulting others. I'd like to think of myself as I'm an omni-directional, invective-thrower media titan but such as it is, but I do think it is a little odd that, you know, there's that famous line from Pauline Kael from - I think it was 1972. Pauline Kael, the late film critic from the New Yorker. She says, I don't understand how Nixon could have won; nobody I know voted for him.
Ms. DICKINSON: Exactly.
CONAN: Let's see if we can get Amy on the line. Another Amy, this one is calling from Ithaca, New York. Excuse me, this is Rebecca calling from Ithica,New York.
REBECCA (Caller): Hi.
CONAN: Go ahead, please.
REBECCA: I was - I guess I have an etiquette question. I was in the line to vote this morning and had an Obama sticker on the front and back of my coat and the woman behind be ripped off my sticker and told me I was breaking the law.
CONAN: I think there are...
Ms. DICKINSON: Actually, that's not an etiquette question. That is actually a legal question because there are - would you call them laws? I mean, there are certainly statutes and there are - you really cannot advertise your candidate inside a polling station.
SAGAL: But - that is true, but there is the etiquette question of what you do when you see somebody breaking the law. She, of course, violated etiquette by ripping it off. The polite thing to do would have been to set it on fire.
(Soundbite of laughing)
REBECCA: What a minute.
Ms. DICKINSON: I mean, were you aware of that?
REBECCA: I had no idea that that was the law, and the way she did was really kind of rude. So I stuck it back on and said I'd take my chances.
CONAN: And this is your one phone call from prison, then.
REBECCA: That's exactly. Thank you for taking it.
Ms. DICKINSON: Rebecca, I'm around the corner. I'll come bail you out but, you know.
REBECCA: Thank you, thank you, Amy.
Ms. DICKINSON: Usually poll watchers will, you know, sort of watch out for that and police that, so to speak, and ask people to remove T-shirts, bumper stickers, stickers, anything like that. There's a reason for that.
Ms. DICKINSON: Yeah.
REBECCA: Yeah. Well, I did not know but thank you.
CONAN: Rebecca, thanks very much for the call.
REBECCA: OK, bye-bye.
CONAN: And 10 to 20 will pass like a snap. Let's see if we can get David on the line. And David is calling us from San Antonio in Texas.
DAVID (Caller): Howdy, how are you all doing?
CONAN: Very well, thank you.
DAVID: I had an idea if Obama wins, I am going to head down to the local bar and put my bill on somebody else's tab.
SAGAL: There you go. There you go.
CONAN: Spread the wealth. Redistribute the wealth, I think, is the slogan. David, what are you planning to do this evening? Go down to the bar and apparently and put his tab on (unintelligible).
Ms. DICKINSON: (unintelligible)
SAGAL: I just want to say, I don't think that was David's real voice. I am just going to vote my own skepticism on this. I think he was being a little character for us. I think that was very entertaining of him.
CONAN: Here's an email from Jessica in North Carolina: Being a proud Obama supporter, my friends and I are hosting a dinner party tonight to celebrate his hopeful win. We are preparing Obama-themed food - Obama rings, onion rings, campaign trail mix, Barackarolli, etc, as well, blue-collar gin and tonics. We are fortunate enough to have a large network of friends, all in support of Obama, so there will either be exclamations of joy or many tears. We desperately want to see North Carolina go blue. And Amy, I guess, that raises the question of what happens when your political celebration turns in to a wake?
Ms. DICKINSON: Well, I've been there. I lived in Washington for many, many years and I remember the first Clinton election.
Ms. DICKINSON: It was 92, very sort of - I mean, that first inauguration, it was just so mellow and joyful. And I think that was the first night that he sold the Lincoln bedroom to the highest donor so, you know, the mellow vibe didn't last that long. But, you know, it's the way it is. You really see it in Washington when literally, for-sale signs will go up next week. I mean, there is a such a switch-over. You know, Neal.
CONAN: Yeah. It's also that Washington is the kind of town where people will put on their bumper stickers tomorrow, either Obama-Biden or McCain-Palin.
SAGAL: Latecomers, is that what you are saying?
CONAN: Just be sure they are on the winning side.
Ms. DICKINSON: Right, exactly.
CONAN: Here's an update - email, rather, from Susan in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Thank you so much for the update on the Rabbit Hash mayoral election. Seriously, I was wondering if Travis was doing well, woot woot for Travis, woot woot for cats. Cats for mayor all over probably would make better decision than ours now. And we'll be hearing from the mayor of Tulsa shortly. Aubrey in Milwaukee emails: My husband and I will be busy playing the online game "World of Warcraft" with our guild mates tonight. We have members in our guild from a numbers of states and political backgrounds, and everyone has been very enthusiastic about the election and getting out to vote.
Thankfully, we've also been very civil. We will be following the election coverage over the Internet while playing, and I predict lots of good-natured teasing and much gracious camaraderie no matter what the election outcome is - and hey, if things get ugly, our characters can always challenge one another to a duel. And that's - Peter, what better way to take out your aggressions than clubbing somebody virtually?
SAGAL: I was just going to say it is true that Obama is polling extremely well, above 70 percent, among Orcs because he favors trans species - yes, Amy.
Ms. DICKINSON: Well, I am impressed. We hear that most, I mean, my understanding is that many people who play "World of Warcraft" don't actually get out much at all, not to mention to vote. So I am delighted and impressed, This is great.
CONAN: They probably only vote in second life.
Ms. DICKINSON: There are avatar votes for someone else's avatar.
CONAN: Exactly, Cathleen is on the line with us, calling from Grand Junction in Colorado.
CATHLEEN (Caller): Hello.
CONAN: Hi, there.
CATHLEEN: Hi, there. Well, I am a caterer, and I am hired tonight to do a Barack Obama, John McCain catering outcome tonight with hors d' oeuvres.
SAGAL: Now, wait a minute. I mean, so you're going to supposed to change the menu depending on who wins?
CATHLEEN: No, no, the clientele that hired me. His first question was when he asked me on the telephone, who do you support? Barack Obama or John McCain. I said, well, I don't really want my business to get involved. And he goes, do you want the job or not? I said, well, yes, Barack Obama, and he is great. You got the job.
SAGAL: Whoa. There you go, a harbinger of the nightmare to come if Obama wins. We'll have loyalty tests for catering jobs.
Ms. DICKINSON: That's really kind of terrible.
SAGAL: Not hors d' oeuvres for you, if you're not, you know, a comrade. I'm telling you.
CONAN: And do you have then, you know, all of the canapés stacked up on the left side of the tray?
CATHLEEN: Well, (laughing) I was just instructed, bring the hors d' oeuvres.
SAGAL: All right. Bring some crow (ph) because if Obama loses, they will need to be dining on that.
CONAN: In large portions.
CATHLEEN: Well I said yesterday if he loses, you can have food fight.
(Soundbite of laughing)
Ms. DICKINSON: Great.
CONAN: Good idea.
SAGAL: If he loses, please remove any of the sharp knives from your set-ups.
CATHLEEN: Oh come on. We're western Corado; I've got to have my fun somehow.
SAGAL: That's true.
CONAN: Cathleen, have a great party and a prosperous one.
CATHLEEN: Thank you.
CONAN: Good night. Here's an email from Dawn: Please remind Peter that as a Cub fan, he may need to learn how to celebrate.
SAGAL: I am not a Cub fan; that's why I am so cheerful. No, I'm not, actuall., I am a Red Sox fan, born and bred and thus.
Ms. DICKINSON: That's why he knows how to turn over cars.
CONAN: The skill he has only mastered in the last couple of years.
SAGAL: No, I work in public radio so of course, I only turn over hybrids.
CONAN: Here's an email from Carol in Nevada, California: Tonight my book club is meeting at my house. We've been meeting on the first Tuesday of every month from many years. Though it is on Election Day every once in a while, we don't discuss politics too much. I imagine we have conservatives among us. We definitely have some liberals, including myself. My plan is that we will be polite, as we always are. P.S.: Wait, Wait is my favorite NPR show besides Talk of the Nation, of course. And she calls herself polite here.
SAGAL: Well, that was very polite. One has to agree but she obviously was sucking up to the media titan in the room.
CONAN: Let's talk with Eric. Eric with us from Nashville in Tennessee.
ERIC (Caller): Hey, great. I just wanted to let you know what we're having for dessert this evening.
CONAN: And what's that?
ERIC: Baked Alaska.
CONAN: Ah, I see. And can it see the Russian Tea Room?
ERIC: Well, you know, we might be able to arrange that.
SAGAL: Place it so we can see a (unintelligible). That would be metaphorical.
CONAN: Thanks very much for the call, Eric, have a great time.
ERIC: Thank you.
SAGAL: Speaking of metaphors. Are you aware that tonight, if I am not mistaken, the first presidential campaign in many years that Dan Rather will not be anchoring.
CONAN: I think he is anchoring, but he is anchoring for HDNet.
SAGAL: Oh, no. Well, I think the rest of us are just going to have to make up our own Ratherisms.
CONAN: That's, you know, you jumped on that like a chicken on a june bug.
SAGAL: Exactly. Oh, it's going to be tighter than a rattlesnake trying to crawl through an abandoned syringe.
CONAN: Here's an email from...
SAGAL: That's' a party game for you.
CONAN: That's a party game for you and speaking of party games, Rachel offers this email: Listening to election coverage thus far has inspired me to create a new drinking game. Every time we hear the words historic election, bottoms up. This will replace the old drinking game called maverick, but some people have a headache. We all have cots and couches available. I am sure there will be no driving after this evening's coverage but I am sure that our guest will - our titans will emerge from this evening sober and elucidated and ready to tell us all of their wisdom that they have gained from listening this evening. Ask Amy of course, writes the Ask - Amy Dickinson writes the "Ask Amy" column for the Chicago Tribune with us today from Cornell University in Ithica, New York. Amy, always good to talk with you.
Ms. DICKINSON: Thank you, Neal.
CONAN: And Peter Sagal, the host of NPR's "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" joined us from NPR's bureau in Chicago. Peter, a delight to have you with us.
SAGAL: As always, Neal, thank you so much.
CONAN: I am Neal Conan. You're listening to an Election Day news special from NPR News.
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