Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Beautiful (Election) Day

I hardly know what to say right now, and yet, I have so many thoughts running through my mind about the events of the last 48 hours that I don't even know where to start this blog post. So, I think I will just recap what was a rather remarkable day of playing hookey from work and volunteering for Obama on election day.

To quote my nemesis, Sarah Palin, when I got a particular email from the Obama campaign about volunteering on election day in the battleground state of Ohio, I didn't blink. Nor - unlike the sartorially resplendent Governor - did I *wink*.

But damned if it wasn't a long tedious day. I woke up at the unholy hour of 4 a.m., got my stuff together and headed out the door at 5 a.m. to go to a polling location in the Cincinnati suburb of Springdale, OH. It was a little over 30 minutes away, but I had set up an obsticle for myself: because I had inadvertantly left each and every travel coffee mug belonging to my household at the office, I HAD to stop and get coffee. The "droolers" working at McDonalds once again debased the word "fast" in order to serve me what they call "fast food," as well as two large coffees, for breakfast. Election Day, or as it will also be remembered, "the least nutritional day in Hot Rod Lincoln's life, ever," officially began.

Upon pulling into the Springdale polling location, there was a line waiting for the building to open. I am awful at estimating how many people were there, or how long the line was, but if my life depended on making such an estimation, I would say the line was 200-250 feet long, containing maybe 150 people (just to put that in perspective, this was probably 8-9% of the total vote at this location).

Now, Springdale is a pretty integrated area, but the ratio of African-Americans to whites in this line was, no kidding, about 12:1. And walking up on the line, the buzz was palpable. Seeing the faces of so many of these AA's coming out of the voting lines, the smiles on their faces, is something I'll never forget. I obviously cannot imagine what it is to live the black experience in America. I couldn't be more white if I tried. But this was a powerful moment for so many.

A couple of anecdotes:

I helped point a young AA man vote for the first time in his life. Granted, all I did was help him find the right voting precinct, but he had no clue about how to vote, what the hell a precinct was, and so forth. He said as much when telling me he didn't know what to do or where to go because it was his first time voting. He had what I'll call the prototypical "hip hop" look - ballcap, cocked sideways; shirt 4 sizes too large; "shorts" that went down to his ankles, belted not at his waste, but at about his testicles, etc. I have to believe that but for Barack Obama, this guy would have never exercised his right to vote, a right that so many AA's of prior generations fought so hard to secure. I imagine this would make the heroes of the civil rights struggle smile.

Early in the evening, I tried to help a mother and son (both AA) vote, despite a total clustefuck situation due to husband/dad's doing. For some reason (that I still don't understand), all three requested absentee ballots. When they received the absentee ballots, dad inadvertantly filled out his son's ballot, which "complicated" his ability to vote to say the least. While I'd like to say that we got a perfect resolution and the son was able to cast a regular ballot (he couldn't - had to cast a provisional), I was struck by the mom's passion about the franchise. This vote, at this moment, was of the utmost importance to her - probably like no ballot she had ever cast before. As a post-script to that story, I'll predict that the son's absentee ballot will get counted in the end.

While it was a zoo from 6 a.m. until about 8:30 a.m., the rest of the day was pretty calm. In fact 12:00 - 2:30 or so was very quiet. The lack of bustle made the day feel unbearably long.

But finally(!), 7:30 rolled around and the polls closed. The first of four precincts that posted its results showed McCain winning by 43 votes - 334-291. I was stunned. I immediately began to feel that sickening feeling I had in 2004 when Kerry lost - combined with the "here we go again" sensation that amplified the sickness I was feeling. Fortunately the second precinct showed an Obama win, giving Obama a precarious net lead. By the end, the four precincts gave Obama about a 160 vote victory and all was well.

Having been in basically radio blackout all day, I got on the horn with Nani J. Cootsack to find out what was going on nationally. I learned that my beloved, yet stubbornly racist Kentucky, got called for McCain - and fast - but that reliably blue Vermont had been called for Obama. The rest of the map was falling into place as everyone expected. Nani reported that Florida and Indiana were looking surprisingly good for Obama. But of course it was early. Virginia..... eh, not so much.

Virginia, for some reason took on great significance in my mind. If Virginia went sideways, I suspected the Bradley Effect was in fact alive and well. I stopped at a liquor store to get some beer, and got off the phone with Nani. While I was loitering in the beer cooler, Nani called.

"Give me some good news," I answered. Nani delivered. Pennsylvania had been called for Obama, thanks in no small measure to Jackie the Nose's endorsement here on the Triple-T. I exhaled. I bought some Abita beer (brewed in New Orleans - symbolism: obvious), and headed home where I proceeded to absolutely murder about 5 pieces of pizza and several breadsticks. As I consumed my bodyweight in junkfood, I thought to myself, "I'll never let the Republicans take me alive!" Then Ohio was called for Obama, and my eating habits looked a bit excessive in hindsight.

Sadly enough, however, getting up so early, slamming 4 beers and doing my best Chris-Farley-at-the-dinner-table impersonation led me to doze off when the election was called for Obama. I awoke at the end of his speech. Thanks to the miracle of DVR (which has partially eliminated my reliance on Delorean's equipped with flux capacitors), I was able to at least see the speech. While I missed the call of the election, I had been prepared enough to know that Pennsylvania + Ohio = Obama victory. Plus, there is this remarkable invention on the internets called "YouTube."

At the end of it all, it was a remarkable day. I may have more to say at some point, but for right now, I think I can sum it up with this: we took the country back. It's about damn time!

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