For me, this time is marked by several alarming symptoms : a rapid increase in heart rate, a subtle sickness in the stomach, sudden bursts of anxiety. No doctor can help me. There is no pill I can take.
These symptoms first appear about mid-April, when the country starts talking seriously about who the next president will be. Super Tuesday has come and gone, as well as most of the other major primaries. Each party has pretty much picked its candidate. The conventions are only a formality.
I'm afraid the symptoms will torment me until about 10 pm on November 7, when I hear the words "The next president of the United States, Al Gore," just as I heard for Jimmy Carter and twice President Clinton.
Because once every four years, I face the possibility that I might be forced to endure another Republican presidency, and the very thought makes me sick.
I am a child of the 80s. I remember Watergate, to be sure ( though I am aware that this is unusual among people of my age group ), and I, like most people, welcomed Nixon's resignation. I became acutely aware of politics in the mid-70s, and really goddamned angry about it in the 80s.
This was a time when children growing up in America - and I speak from experience here - weren't "troubled" by American-Russo relations; weren't "concerned" that there might be a nuclear war.
We were sure of it. To us, it was a foregone conclusion. We were so sure, in fact, that we became Generation X. They wrote articles about us - said we didn't care about our future, had no goals. Well, if that is to any degree true, it is because we believed we had no future. Convinced that it was only a matter of time before Brezhnev dropped "the big one," we figured, "Why bother making something of ourselves? We're all going to die anyway."
I spent a lot of time lying awake at night, fighting the panic rising in my throat, thinking about the massive explosion I was sure I was going to die in any day.
My only source of hope had come from Jimmy Carter. He was doomed to fail in the minds of the people because of the problems he inherited. And yet, he gave us peace between Israel and Egypt, tried to bring us cleaner, safer sources of energy, and gave everything he had to free our hostages. It hurt him so much, I could see his heart breaking, and that made me love him all the more.
I learned a lot from Jimmy Carter. I learned that it was safe to hope, noble to dream, and courageous to reach out our hands in friendship to our adversaries.
I learned that your word means something. He said he would not negotiate with terrorists, and no matter how much it hurt him politically, he never did. He never sold arms to the Iranians, so he never had to lie about it later.
Then came Ronald Reagan.
All my new-found hope came crashing down on my head, and I found myself plunged into Ronald Reagan's world: a world of greed, racism, xenophobia and blindness to the pain of those around him. When told by his aides that the gap between the rich and poor was widening, Reagan said, "Oh, I don't believe that." Was he that stupid? Or did he just not care? Either way, this was discouraging.
It turned into a 12-year nightmare. I found myself ashamed to be American.
When American-Soviet relations warmed and the Berlin Wall fell, I began to breathe a little easier, but still I added "liar" to the list of epithets following Ronald Reagan's name, because he and George H. W. Bush laid claim to these things as their success. But I knew they were lying, because the architect of perestroika and glastnost was Mikhail Gorbachev, and Reagan was stealing his thunder, and I hated them for it.
I've gotten comfortable under Clinton.
Did I say comfortable? Happy! Proud to be an American, something I was afraid I would never feel again, and I can't bear the thought of going back.
I was in my early twenties the last time I had to live with a Republican in the White House. Still a kid, pretty much. They say that things always seem bigger and scarier when you're a kid, and when you look at the same thing as an adult, it never seems quite so bad.
Funny, not this time.
For the next six months, I will have to endure the constant din of Republican rhetoric : "It's time to put an end to the politics of?blah blah blah."
End? End to what? An end to peace and prosperity? An end to the assurance that I can trust my president to do the right thing with my money and our troops? That he cares about people, even if they don't have money to contribute to his campaign? That he wants to give kids an education, make sure everybody has a good job, and health insurance, and maybe a chance to own a home?
"Americans long to go back to the days when?blah blah blah."
Go back? Go back to what? Back to lying and corruption? Back to the days when political chits meant more than American lives? Back to secret break-ins, and auctioning our leaders off to the highest bidder? Back to the days when big tobacco and the NRA and the Christian Coalition ran the White House?
Reading back what I've written so far, I thought 'Perhaps I'm being unfair.'
My grandmother always told me that to be fair about an issue, you should dispassionately list the pros and cons, then look at the lists and make your decision based on the facts.
So I tried it. I made a list of things I've learned from Democrats and a list of things I've learned from Republicans.  Here goes :
FDR : Be strong and have courage.
Jimmy Carter : Keep your promises.
all the Kennedys (except Michael) : Even if you're rich, you should still care about poor people.
JFK : Dream.
Bobby : "Make gentle the life of this good world."
Teddy : Learn from your mistakes. And don't drink and go to meetings.
Harry Truman : Tell it like it is. And always wash your own underwear.
Edwin Edwards : Okay, yeah -- if you do the crime, you have to do the time. ( I had to give them that one, though I still don't see how kickbacks on casino licenses gets you 200 hundred years in prison, while selling arms to terrorists and lying to Congress and the country about it gets you nothing! )
Al Gore : Sometimes changing your mind is the brave thing to do.
Bill Clinton (how do I pick one thing?) :
1) With hard work, you can do anything.
2) Take the high road.
3) No matter how much they insult you, just keep smilin' -- it drives 'em crazy.
4) Know what you're willing to compromise on to make progress, and do it; know what you won't compromise on and fight for it 'till you drop.
5) Stand up to bullies.
6) Nice guys don't always finish last.
Richard Nixon : Just because somebody's in charge doesn't mean he deserves the job.
Henry Hyde : Infidelity is perfectly moral in the first person, such as "my infidelity." It is only in the third person, such as "his infidelity," that it is immoral.
the United States Supreme Court (admittedly not all Republican appointees) : Even really smart people can do really, really stupid things.
the House Managers of the Impeachment : Even if somebody says they're going to be fair and unbiased, they probably won't.
Trent Lott : It's okay to have your picture taken with members of the KKK, as long as you say you didn't know they were in the KKK.
Newt Gingrich : It's okay to divorce your wife if she's in the hospital suffering from cancer.
George Herbert Walker Bush : No new taxes means new taxes.
George W. Bush : Murder isn't a crime if it's the state that's committing it.
Ronald Reagan : It's not lying if you say you can't recall.
And that's just off the top of my head.
So now let's see, from the Democrats' list, we have hope, honesty, honor, courage and compassion.
From the Republicans, we have lying, bigotry, burglary, hate, treason and murder.
You know, my grandmother was right. When you put it down on paper like this, it's much more fair.
And as I look back on this list of things I've learned from them, I wonder how Republicans could possibly still expect me to vote for them?
One last thing : I make no apologies for my extreme point of view. Why should I?
No Republican has ever apologized to me.