Here on the north side of Chicago, we’ve been living in kind of a bubble this election season. No one has bothered to phone us, pamphlet us, persuade us one way or another. We’ve been considered a slam dunk for Obama since probably May or June. On top of that, our incumbent senator, US reps and state reps are all expected to cruise to easy victory. It gives me a skewed vision of what is going on in the rest of the country. People in other reliably crimson or indigo districts probably feel the same neglect, with a mixture of relief and longing.
I’ve spent most of the morning reading reports of huge lines for voting in other parts of the country. Here, I went to the VFW Post on Western Avenue at 10, was checked in and given a ballot right away, met about four neighbors, and was out of there in 10 minutes. The hardest part about the experience was the dank smell of spilled Budweiser, old cigars and Sansabelt slacks that every VFW Post probably has. (For some reason I always feel obliged to vote at that station. Maybe because it’s the only time I’ll ever go into such a place, and it may be an endangered species around here. A slice of life that I can’t participate in.) I’m still not used to the humongous paper ballot we’re given in Cook County. It’s literally 18 inches by 30 inches, with a privacy envelope that’s even bigger. It reminds me of a large prop a magician might use for a card trick. Holding it makes me feel foolish, a little clowny. After completing arrows next to names with a marker, the voter feeds it into a big optical reader and the ballot lands in a sealed cardboard crate. For all I can tell, there might be a couple midgets in the box reading my ballot and phoning the results downtown. There’s room enough for them.
In this country business is so consolidated that consumers can choose between two brands of razor, three brands of potato chips, maybe four types of gas station. Why then do we seem to have umpteen different ways to vote–between punch cards, scanners, touchscreens, paper ballots, and all the rest? This is the ONLY area of modern life where I’d prefer to see some standardization.
Anyway, it’s a beautiful Indian Summer morning here, with red and yellow leaves still hanging on the trees and tinting the sunlight. It’s a marvelous day to be making some history. My prediction is that Obama will win decisively (don’t know about a landslide, but that would be marvelous to see). The real entertainment this evening will be watching how it happened. Does Obama take Virginia? North Carolina? Georgia? (Some people are predicting that last one, but that seems like a longshot. Still, wouldn’t I love to be proved wrong.) As someone else has recommended, I might watch the results on Fox News, just to watch whether commentators can exist on TV running on nothing but fumes of bile. It will also be fun to watch the acceptance speech being delivered right here in the Windy City. I’m not going to bother heading downtown. Crowds bug me lately, but it will be terrific fun to watch them go bananas.
I can’t say much more about this election and its place in history. Too many billions of words have been typed already. I will say this: Regardless of the candidate’s race, I never thought I’d see Democrats run such a disciplined, organized, thoughtful national campaign AND come out on top. I give immense amounts of credit to Howard Dean and his 50-State Initiative, for showing people that there were liberals worth courting deep in the heart of “red” areas, and conservatives who would listen to new ideas if given a chance. Thankfully Obama raised enough money to be able to campaign in places a Democrat wouldn’t have bothered visiting in years past, and was so thoughtful, stirring and all-in-all TOGETHER out on the campaign trail. It will be good to see the adults back in charge in Washington.
I’ve tried to stay rational about this election, maybe even skeptical, hiding my hopes and concerns behind a big mask of snark. But it’s hard to keep that mask up after reading the accounts of people spending hours in line to vote, of black people (stories about 90 year old grannies just kill me) voting for president with tears in their eyes, of record turnout everywhere. I’m happiest to be able to kick out the Republican scumsuckers who’ve wrecked this country, its Constitution, economy, security and hopes for the future during the past eight years. Tack onto that the fact that we’re about to elect an African-American to the highest office, and it blows my little mind. I don’t subscribe to the doctrine of American exceptionalism, but this can be one exceptionally surprising country. I love it.