An Ostrich On Election Day

Eight Things to Distract You During the Midterms


Whether you’re counting every vote or counting the minutes until the campaign ads end, we have you covered. This Election Day, we’ve put together a watching, reading, and listening list of things that will get you in the spirit of the day—or not—without getting bogged down by partisan discord.

The Candidate

Robert Redford conveys an equal mix of charisma and naïveté in the 1972 film The Candidate, about the unlikely rise of a young progressive Democrat challenging an establishment Republican in a California senate race. Few movies offer so compelling a look at backstage politics during a political campaign—not surprising, given that the screenwriter worked for Eugene McCarthy in 1968. The memorable ending is, to say the least, both sobering and distressing. —Sudip Bose

All the Living

When it was first published in summer 2016, J. D. Vance’s best-selling memoir, Hillbilly Elegy, was interpreted not only as a family history about growing up in small-town Ohio but also as a guide to understanding the mindset of Trump supporters in Appalachia. Even though copies of Hillbilly Elegy can still be found prominently displayed at my local bookstore two years after the election, other books by writers from the region deserve a read as well, and what better place to start that C. E. Morgan’s haunting first novel, All the Living?

Like Vance, Morgan grew up in Ohio. Unlike Vance’s memoir, Morgan’s story of Aloma, a young orphaned girl who struggles to find beauty and purpose amid the grueling daily struggle to maintain her tobacco farm, transcends the political moment. It’s not a long book—Morgan wrote it during a two-week vacation from her graduate program at Harvard Divinity School—but her carefully wrought prose deserves to be savored. —Katie Daniels

The Joy of Painting

If, like me, you’re desperate to escape the steady stream of slander, libel, and provocation that has overtaken our politics and to immerse yourself in something completely lacking in controversy, consider entering the kooky, soothing world of the late Bob Ross. The painter’s entire TV oeuvre—more than 400 episodes of The Joy of Painting aired on PBS stations between 1983 and 1994—is now streaming on YouTube. Try it, and you’ll find Ross’s velvety voice, his majestic landscapes, and the occasional squirrel nestled in his pocket (he was nothing if not an animal lover) a safe harbor amid the ever-churning cycle of bad news. —Bruce Falconer

The VVitch

My favorite joke from the 2016 campaign encouraged people to vote for the darkly handsome goat from Robert Eggers’s brilliant film, The VVitch. Well, he’s running again! So get to know your future dark lord of the night and put on this sinister horror flick. It won’t be that much different from what everyone else is watching. —Stephanie Bastek

All the King’s Men

Perhaps the finest distillation of American politics—particularly the virulence of its current form—is Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men. Published in 1946, and subsequently adapted for film in 1949 and again in 2006, the novel follows the rise of fictional Louisiana politician Willie Stark, modeled after real-life Louisiana demagogue Huey Long, whose corruption and thirst for power at any cost are enabled by an electorate taken in by his populist public image. Sound familiar? It’s an old story seemingly on endless repeat. But Warren’s vivid depiction grants us the perspective to understand our current predicament as something not un-American, but sadly, as American as apple pie. —Bruce Falconer


“You’re not going to get a border fence, alright? You’re talking about a 3,000-mile-long fence,” scoffs Dan, an ambitious young Capitol Hill staffer, as he discusses immigration reform with a Republican senator from Arizona. That was in spring 2012, during Veep’s first season, and in the ensuing six years and six seasons, the line between a TV satire about Washington politics and real-life Washington politics has only gotten blurrier.

Veep is about a group of power-hungry (and grossly incompetent) politicos working for Vice President Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus). Parks & Rec may have Leslie Knope, whose unrelenting faith in democracy gives the show’s jokes about local government an optimistic undertone, but there’s no idealist around to redeem Veep. Instead, there’s just an unending barrage of crossed wires, back-stabbing, double-crossing, and scheming—a prospect that might be depressing, now that the show is no longer so far removed from reality … if only you weren’t laughing so hard. —Katie Daniels

The Daily and FiveThirtyEight

No matter who you vote for, the most important thing to do is to make an informed vote. Polls can be difficult to understand, and keeping up with the news cycle is almost impossible these days. These two informative political podcasts can help. The Daily, produced by the New York Times, is not always about politics or voting, but each day it offers background on an important issue. It is probably my favorite podcast in general, but it’s especially informative going into an election.

For the nitty-gritty details of how campaigns are going, you should try the FiveThirtyEight podcast, which analyzes and deciphers polls and the information behind them. Normally, the show is produced twice a week, but in the week leading up to the election, every day brings a new episode. It’s pretty dense at first, but you’ll come away knowing a lot more about what is likely to happen today. —Taylor Curry

Permission required for reprinting, reproducing, or other uses.

Our Editors include Sudip Bose, Bruce Falconer, Stephanie Bastek, Jayne Ross, and Ellie Eberlee.


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