News & Politics

Crowded DC Bars and Watch Parties on Election Night Aren’t Really a Thing This Year. Sad!

"It kind of sucks. I'm a massive extrovert."

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Todd Sadowski is the rare breed of human that thrives on Election Night—an extrovert and political wonk. The 38-year-old consultant typically loves being out and about on the first Tuesday in November, sitting in a crowded bar and watching the talking heads, listening to the groans and cheers as the numbers roll in.

Not this year, though. In a town like DC, where Election Night is something like the Super Bowl and Game of Thrones series finale combined, bars and homes are usually packed with people gathering to drink and hold their breath. But with Covid, Sadowski and many others are rethinking their plans, opting for small, outdoor gatherings in backyards or beer gardens or just forgoing socializing altogether.

In 2016, Sadowski spent Election Night at the Kramers bar, where he stayed until one o’clock in the morning—before the world crumbled for much of liberal-leaning DC. “Probably 98 percent of the folks we got together [there] were Hillary supporters,” he says. “So the mood of the evening turned dour quite quickly.”

This year, he’ll gather at a friend’s Navy Yard terrace with three or four other people. The friend has an outdoor TV—it’s where they watch the Patriots games on Sundays—and they’ll order Andy’s Pizza, stretch out six-feet apart, and watch the fate of America unfold.

Unlike years past, Sadowski will probably call it an early night. “There’s no real reason for me to be out [late],” he says of the more intimate gathering. He’s already mourning the electricity of a typical DC viewing party, the fun of hearing people at a bar react as their home states are called. “It kind of sucks,” he says. “I’m a massive extrovert, so I miss being around a bunch of people and talking and arguing.” (He credits the latter to his Boston roots.)

Claudia Pors would be one of those folks out and about on November 3 if it weren’t for Covid. But instead, the 30-year-old Arlington resident will probably finish her shift as a poll worker and then barricade herself indoors. “Any other year, I would definitely be meeting up with people,” she says, “but so far, the signs say take it easy.”

Instead of elbowing someone for a beer as CNN blares in the background, she’ll likely do some yoga or watch an old TV show to distract herself before going to bed. If things really get wild, she says she may jump on a quick virtual happy hour.

It’s not her ideal way to spend such a seminal evening: “This is something I care about,” she says of politics and getting others to vote. “So to not be able to fully appreciate and fully celebrate, just to fully engage, is kind of a bummer.”

That said, she’ll try to imbue the evening with a sense of optimism, no matter the outcome. “I would like to end the evening on some kind or proactive note, either, We’ll keep going to make the best of the next four years, or, Yay, we made it this far, but we have to keep going.”

Richard Huffman will also be spending the evening at his home, in Alexandria. If it weren’t for the pandemic, the 53-year-old systems administrator likely would have attended a watch party hosted by a group like Drinking Liberally or DC for Democracy. Instead, he’ll be celebrating solo at his command center, which consists of three monitors: One for election night chatting with friends via Discord, one for scrolling Twitter, and one for streaming C-SPAN.

“We will be following election returns and some of the punditry and maybe making disparaging remarks depending on how bad things are,” says Huffman, who says he’s been known to live-tweet Trump’s debates or speeches after having a drink. (The Biden voter calls them “word salad.”) 

Even though he’ll be very online throughout the evening, Huffman will still miss the IRL camaraderie. One of his favorite Election Night memories is gathering with a crowd to sing the lyrics to Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye when Bob Casey, Jr.  beat out Rick Santorum in the 2006 Pennsylvania senate race. But he says the energy of this year is palpable, even though we may be apart. “It really does feel a lot like 2008 as far as the intensity,” he says. “The overwhelming feeling is one of, We’ve got to get this guy out of here.”

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Mimi Montgomery Washingtonian
Associate Editor

Mimi Montgomery joined Washingtonian in 2018. Her work has appeared in Outside Magazine, Washington City Paper, DCist, and PoPVille. Originally from North Carolina, she now lives in Petworth.