As the tallies of predicted Electoral College votes climbed above 200, the energy at Puck built to a crescendo; the anticipation, anxiety and curiosity that had simmered throughout the evening bubbled to the surface.
It was the moment everyone was waiting for at the Wagner Election Night Live! party with its more than 400 students, faculty and friends — a night that mixed issues and fun and reflected NYU Wagner commmunity’s passion for public policy in all its complexity.
Though it only happens once every four years, the Wagner ENL! party is one of the most anticipated events hosted by the school. In the week leading up to election night, the Wagner Events Team was firing on all cylinders, preparing a kind of celebration of democracy. The night was infused with election-themed activities, libations and décor. Guests were invited to craft patriotic stickers to support their issue or candidate, write a message of encouragement or critique to the election victor, grab a red or blue marker to help fill in an electoral map as each state was called, or to compete for prizes in the Electoral Scavenger Hunt.
With “red state” or “blue state” beverages in hand, attendees mingled with friends and colleagues watching the returns on big screens, each TV tuned to a different network, and listening to the pundits and predictions. In addition to hearing from Wolf Blitzer and David Gregory, Wagner Election Night Live gave participants access to political experts of a different sort; Wagner faculty on hand, including Professors Chan, Prasad, Elbel, Fritzen, Noveck, Gershman. Each led a conversation on the implications of the election for a particular policy or social issue:
• Professor Chan discussed economic policy issues, particularly fact checking some of the economic claims made in campaign advertising.
• Professor Prasad’s social policy discussion imagined what social policy priorities would be paramount in a Romney or an Obama administration, as well as the many social issues up for grabs at the state level that night.
• Professor Fritzen discussed the election from a global perspective, noting how other countries view the U.S. democratic process. Conversation quickly transitioned to the narrow scope of foreign policy in the election debates, and the focus on China as a “common enemy” for both campaigns.
• Professor Elbel discussed the implications for healthcare in the election. Questions around how Romney might change the ACA were a common thread, along with hopes that broader public health efforts will rise to the top of the agenda in the coming term.
As the night continued and food options transitioned from sushi to Hawaiian pizza, the volume of people and noise in the Rudin Family Forum grew. President Obama was the clear favorite in the room, and cheers erupted as each network called a state for the President, an emotional roller coaster evident throughout the night as guests exchanged high fives and frantic glances at the televisions and Twitter to see how the electoral numbers were adding up.
As MSNBC became the first to call the election for President Obama, a cheer rang out, the high fives turned to embraces and all eyes then scanned the remaining networks to see wehther they would join in. The conversation turned from one of “what ifs” to that of “what now;” many guests stayed past midnight, discussing the election contest that was, and what the start of the next four years would look like.
While Election Night Live gave the Wagner community a brief respite after a long presidential campaign and harrowing hurricane, ENL! was first and foremost an expression of what it means to be a part of one of the nation’s top schools of public Ssrvice. As Wagner events administrator Scott Sowell put it the morning after the election, “Last night I was reminded once again what extraordinary people make up the Wagner community. From leading conversations and mixing cocktails to hanging decorations and managing tech, not to mention numerous other tasks, each of you rolled up your sleeves and served however you could.” Now, the Wagner community and the rest of our fellow citizens will wait to see whether our newly elected or re-elected officials will do the same: roll up their sleeves and get to work on issues that really matter.
– by Catherine Dangremond, Angela Dooley, Courtney Jones, Ashley Kolaya, Alex Powell