How to Throw a Completely Last-Minute Election Night Party

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Does this sound at all like you, or someone you know (asking for a friend)?: You woke up this morning and you realized, Oh crap, it's Election Day. You've been so busy, with work and the storm and personal things, it's not your fault, not at all. We don't blame you. As you scramble to find your polling place (and are relieved to find that, in New York, you can vote wherever you want, thanks to Sandy), a vision of that fateful night in long-ago 2008 comes to mind. You were seated among like-minded individuals, stylish and youthful, energetic, passionate about the future of America. You were wearing—what in heaven's name were you wearing? Oh, never mind. It was heartening, in any case, to know that such brilliant and intriguing people surrounded you in a large 2-bedroom apartment in Williamsburg at this particular moment in the nation's history. You felt like somebody. Somebody who maybe even had a job. (Did you, in fact, have a job? Never mind.)

Through the duration of the party—it was a party, after all, not just a viewing excursion in another nabe—you ate good cheese and crackers, and dipped an occasional tortilla chip in a bit of guacamole, or maybe some salsa. You sipped, and sometimes slugged, white wine. You were thirsty! You nibbled on a carrot stick, pairing it with hummus, and the conversations ebbed and flowed but were always entertaining, with snark flowing as free as the wine. Your companions were, after all, magazine writers and editors, mostly—the print kind! With Twitter a relative unknown way back in the old days, people talked to one another, sometimes even looking at each other's faces, in between looking at the television screen and reaching for the pretzels. There was a television. There were jokes made, so many jokes; there were laughs; and at the end of the night when the new president was declared, the joy overflowed the room and you were all carried outside on its waves. There was screaming (the happy kind) and cheering and frolicking in the streets, and maybe someone you knew threw up, or maybe they didn't. The next day you woke up, hungover but happy, happier still for a moment that you didn't have anywhere to be at 8 a.m., having, yes, lost your job weeks before. So the next four years of your life began. A lot has happened since, but we won't go into all that.

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Tonight another four-year period begins anew. While you wait and wait and wait, to vote, and then for the results, you can at least hope to reclaim some of that near-forgotten pleasure of an election night party. It's not too late! This is a rare opportunity combining both political wonkery and practical drunkery; do you really want to miss this? Via the New York Post, we are reminded: "'No matter what your political affiliation is, it’s always fun to eat, drink and converse with your friends and neighbors,' says Heather Dunsmoor of the Raging Election party at the Bell House." Listen to her words, they are truth. And, in fact, such soirees are better thrown together at the last minute anyway, for a real sense of pizazz and fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants fun (we're just saying that to make you feel better, but so what?). Here's what you need to be festively commiserating with your chosen politerati by, say, 7 p.m. tonight. Or whenever you're ready.

Location. The main key here is twofold. You must have space for your invited guests, and you must have some form of watching the results come in. Let's call it a bar with a TV, or an apartment with a TV, or someplace with room where you have a solid Internet connection and don't mind people crowding around your computer. We suggest a bar or home with TV, with a computer as an accessory, not the main event, but in this digital age, people may feel differently. Go with your gut, but decide now, while there's still time.

Food. The fact is, you will need food. It may be a long night. May we suggest carbs? Finger foods are also good, and often happen to be carbs, too. You could order pizza. Pizza is delicious. There's no time to special order cupcakes with Paul Ryan's face on them or handfrosted Obama and Romney cookies, so, you know, K.I.S.S.—that's what they say, right? There is time to make lemonade if you happen to have lemons, and while that's not exactly a food but more of a drink, it can still be quite refreshing and is good for the prevention of scurvy. Carrot sticks and perhaps chopped-up cucumbers or celery sticks are good for a little veg, but crackers, cheese, chips and dip, and if you're going to get fancy, some delivered buffalo wings or a cheese and a pepperoni pie are really what America wants to eat on election night. Then again, eat what you want. You're in charge here.

Drink. Yes, you should have these too. Estimate one bottle of wine per guest, more if your guests are prone to anxiety, or you're inviting us. There are all kinds of special drinks you can make, if you have nothing better to do—something with a bit of grenadine for the red, or perhaps blue curaçao (or blue raspberry Slurpee mix) for the blue—but we'll leave that to the Martha Stewart types among us and simply suggest that you have beer, wine, and water, and maybe something with caffeine if you're planning to live blog or whatever. 

Companion Selection. It is tempting in these moments to try to throw together a group of friends who may have differing viewpoints, you know, in favor of intellectual discourse and witty repartee and stimulating conflict. We'd advise against it, because the one thing that could ruin your party tonight, aside from having your favored candidates lose, is for one of your guests to be standing or sitting in your house or favorite bar yukking it up and drinking your booze and eating your food while rubbing it in with far too much enjoyment that they won—and by "they," we mean the party of their pleasure, and your grave displeasure. But who are we kidding, does anyone actually have a successful bipartisan friendship nowadays? Cast your net wide in terms of who you invite, because chances are most of them have plans already.

Activities. This is a last-minute gathering. Your activities are watching the TV, looking at the computer and maybe Twitter, if it's not too rude, and chatting amongst yourself. Save the color-by-results state maps and presidential trivia games for people who've been planning their election-night parties since before you were born. If you must, institute a drinking game for the words malarkey, binders of ___, horses and bayonets, and "Who wants to order Chinese?"

Ice Breakers. Pass out a roll of toilet paper and ask everyone to take as many squares as they feel like it, and then go around the room and require everyone to tell you one election night story per square, or, alternatively, to go to the bodega across the street and buy you a new pack of toilet paper for each square. There's a presidential-style lesson somewhere in that, but let them learn it for themselves.

Getting People to Leave. Run out of booze, food, toilet paper, conversation. Unplug your cable. Fall asleep. Ask your guests nicely to go home, it's 3 a..m. already, and you have to work the next day even if they're a bunch of professional loafers bent on eating the very last crumbs in your now-devastated pantry. It wasn't your house anyway, so there's no need to make anyone do anything. Cry. In a wave of joy upon finding that your candidate is the winner, rush everyone out of the house and into the streets in an impromptu dance party that will be televised across the globe as a demonstration of America's staunch patriotism and eclectic physical stylings. While this is happening, sneak back into your house, lock the door, turn out the lights, and go to sleep. The election is over, and tomorrow is another day, come what may.

Images via Flickr/Brian MooreFlickr/John W. Schulze; Flickr/sushiesque; Flickr/Sarah Cady.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.