Four years ago, I spent election night (thanks to my brother in law) here:
It was exhilarating. Pretty sure I wrote some breathless stuff in my journal, on Facebook, in emails to friends. We (my brother-in-law, sister and I) were among the last people to leave HQ for the rally in Grant Park because of Martin’s job. We managed to get close, but not right up front. We weren’t important enough–we still say–to get in the Oprah section, but we were wedged in the entrance queue right next to Wesley Clark and his wife.
We walked toward home in crowds of joyful people in the middle of Michigan Avenue, looking forward to what came next.
This time, when Mr. Obama took the podium to all those cheers, I was in my husband’s 17 year old car, on a drizzle-slicked, dark road, coming home after an 18 hour day. It was a lot less thrilling, but not less satisfying. This time around, I was not on the frontlines of the campaign–I was on the frontlines of democracy.
I spent election day at a polling place in Wisconsin, making sure people who wanted to vote could and did. I answered a few legal questions; I answered some logistics questions; I made small talk; I watched and when asked, reported what I saw.
The polling place I watched was calm and apparently not considered worth contending. We had no observers from the “other side”, no electioneering or intimidating. Everything I did was to help people (who wanted to run an efficient and proper polling place) as they helped people who wanted to vote.
It lacked excitement but it felt valuable.
(Well, it was briefly exciting early in the morning when the scanning machine broke and it took about 25-30 minutes for someone to show up with a new one. It was even more exciting late in the afternoon, when important poll watchers started to show up to investigate the wholly ridiculous stories that had heard about our jammed machine.)
I left Wisconsin before any races had been called by the media, as I was pulling into our alley, I knew that Clare McCaskill, Tammy Duckworth, Tammy Baldwin, and Elizabeth Warren had won. I knew that Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Ohio had gone to the President. I learned that Virginia had flipped over to him as well.
Again, it was exhilarating. Especially the solitary nature of it. I was so very worried this time around. Spending the moment of victory, alone on the highway, tired from working made sense.