Jamie Cornerstone knows how it feels to lose.
“We were just so sure,” Cornerstone recounts with solemn eyes, standing outside of her local polling site. This confidence is exactly what held her back from casting her vote in one of the most pivotal races in national history.
The spring of 2006 was marked with tumult, from rising death tolls in Iraq to low-rise jeans plaguing the red carpet. But for Americans who didn’t have cable, Wednesday nights offered solace.
“American Idol was the highlight of my week,” says Cornerstone about her fourteen year-old self, who had neither Disney Channel nor friends. “From the very start, you could tell Katharine was going to win. In her audition, Randy Jackson said she had the best voice he’d heard so far this auditioning season. She had to win.”
But in an unfathomable turn-of-events that baffled younger generations and pleased Republicans, underdog and underwhelmer Taylor Hicks nabbed the reigning title.
“The whole school bus felt heavy the next morning. Everything we had hoped for, worked for--it was gone.” Cornerstone says. “ I remember wondering, how does this rapidly aging white man represent me, or how I see the future of the music industry?”
But Cornerstone’s pain was nothing compared to the guilt of not voting.
“My older sister was on the phone talking to her dumb boyfriend Jason,” she recalls. “Anyways, Katharine was a shoe-in, and all my friends said they would be calling.”
When we caught up with these alleged school friends, however many offered similar excuses: “My mom was calling my Grandma to remind her to take her medicine,”one said.
“I was heating up Totino’s pizza rolls,” another remembered.
“I actually voted for Taylor,” a third revealed. “My brother said voting for Katharine would make me gay.”
Now, Cornerstone understands the gravity of her mistakes. “Voting is the most important thing you can do as an American,” she says, pitching a tent outside her local polling site so she can be first in line tomorrow morning.
Despite the regret that follows her everyday, she finds hope when she considers Katharine's remarkable journey.
“Just look at her now! She’s, like, the most successful, competent candidate--I mean, contestant--we’ve ever seen!”
McPhee has gone on to release records on the Billboard charts, star on Broadway and the West End, and land mega roles onscreen as Marilyn Monroe and the pregnant girl in that movie about the Playboy bunny who calls eyes the nipples of the face. As for Hicks?
“He sang, like, one song in Grease. Please.”
After fourteen years of shame, Cornerstone wants to ensure that history will not repeat itself.
“It’s not enough to trust predictions. It’s not enough to rely on instincts. It’s not enough to make excuses,” she says, now sliding into the sleeping bag inside her fully pitched tent outside her local polling site.
“Make a plan. Make your voice heard. And make history.” ●