Big Day, 2008

People are standing in line to vote in Los Angeles.

Earth

Here in the most nonchalant of states, there is a sense of history in the air, and the coolest kids in school are doing their dorky civic duty. Never mind that California is the bluest of the blue states, the House of Blues, and the presidential outcome here is foregone. People want to be counted.

The place where I work is a polling place, and I have seen three presidential elections here, not counting this one, and numerous state, local and congressionals, and I have never seen crowds like this. When I arrived today there was a line out the door and across the parking lot. One of the poll workers told me that there was already a line when they arrived to set up for the 8:00 AM opening. The polling area remains busy still, in midafternoon.

I’ve received calls from friends around town, reporting the same thing everywhere. On the news they’ve been talking about a record turnout, 130 million voters nationwide, but I didn’t really consider what that would look like on the ground. What it looks like is little “D” democracy.

I’ll be excercising my California right to take time off to vote by leaving here an hour early. I wouldn’t do it except that I have it on good authority that my own polling place has been swamped with voters most of the day already.

I harbor no illusions. This is a historic moment. This election, and the man we are electing, will change this nation forever. At the same time, we face greater challenges than ever before, both as a nation and as a world. After this long, strange, hopeful campaign it feels as if we are at the end of something, and we can finally exhale.

But we’re really at a new beginning. There is a lot of work to do. The problems we all face — the financial collapse, climate change, tribal hatred and war around the world — are bigger than at any time in my life, and make no mistake: we all face them, and there can be no solutions without the work, sacrifice and cooperation of every one of us, regardless of how we vote today.

So please pardon me now, as I go get in line myself. I’ll see you on the other side, and we’ll push on together.

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UPDATE, the morning after: Obama’s acceptance speech — It’s almost too much. I feel as if I have been eating nothing but sticks and dirt for eight years, and I have suddenly been given a spoonful of pure maple syrup. (McCain’s speech wasn’t bad, either.)

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9 Replies to “Big Day, 2008”

  1. It sure will be nice to have a president who can speak in complete sentences and use polysyllabic words (and pronounce them correctly, without a phonetic translation!).

  2. Vikki – I walked in to my polling place at 5:00 PM sharp. There was no line at all. I was on the list, signed the guest book, got my ballot, inked my spots according to my painstakingly premarked sample ballot, watched them send it through the scanner, and was out of there in five minutes. As I left, though, a line had formed and there were ten people in it, with more coming toward the door. I think I must have just beaten the vote-after-work crowd. I actually was a little disappointed. I had my MP3 player in my pocket and I was ready for the long haul and a little voter camaraderie. I was even spoiling for a fight at being told that they couldn’t find my name on the voter roll. But nothing went wrong.

    I hope it lasts.

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