Steven (unzeugmatic) wrote,

Welcome to the Hard Work of Democracy

Well that's what the election worker said to me when he gave me my ballot this morning, "Welcome to the Hard Work of Democracy". In truth it wasn't hard at all for me. My polling place is a block away from my home and they were calm and kind and efficient. Most surprisingly, we did not have to wait for an open voting booth if we didn't want to. There were long tables set up, and we could fill out our ballots anywhere if we didn't want to wait. I was through in minutes.

I live smack dab in the middle of what is considered a low-income high-minority demographic, so I have been getting many visits from and Kerry volunteers over the last two weeks. They have all been kind and pleasant and the first words out of their mouths were an identification of what organization they represent. Compare this to the Sproul organization, hired to register Republican voters throughout the country, who identified themselves with a misleading non-partisan name and then disposed of the ballot applications from Democrats. They did this in Minnesota, but here we can register on election day itself, something that I firmly believe needs to be possible in every state. But entrenched power keeps itself in power by disenfranchising those out of power, to state the obvious.

It was cold and dark and rainy when I voted this morning, but kitty-corner from the polling station were people sitting, swathed in blankets beneath umbrellas, carrying signs indicating that they were there to offer legal help for voters. I spoke briefly to one of these lawyers, who said she was hoping for a long boring day with nothing to do, and she didn't mind being cold and wet if that was what this yielded.

So there were hopeful pleasant exchanges, small things I'll need to remember and cling to. My polling station serves my neighborhood and a portion of the hippie neighborhood (Powderhorn). I think all the poll workers came from Powderhorn. People were greeting each other with smiles and a muttered "Vote the bastard out." More things to remember and cling to.

Because what I want to cling to as the horrors of today (and the various methods of voter disenfranchisement) come clear is something I've been seeing over the last weeks: More passion and anger and engagement than I've known in decades. The gay bars here display large Kerry-against-a-Rainbow signs, and the traditionally apolitical group of barflies wears Kerry buttons even on their Halloween costumes. At the Anoka Halloween parade last Saturday the Kerry volunteers were out in force, distributing stickers and signs. The Bush volunteers were nowhere to be found, most likely because the parade conflicted with a big Bush rally at the Target Center downtown but that couldn't have explained all of this. I've been seeing more and more signs growing on the lawns of South Minneapolis which is, in general, a Democratic stronghold (more than Anoka) but this signage is unprecedented in my years here. You don't put a sign on your lawn unless you feel very strongly about your support for a candidate. So it isn't the numbers in particular that I'm taking in, but the strength of the passions that I see and hear.

The heartening thing I'll have to make a point to remember is that this makes me feel less alone. Whatever happens today I see resentment and anger and passion rising up, anger and passion at least as strong as mine. It was in the movie Fahrenheit 9/11 that I first saw footage of the angry protesters at the last presidential Inaugural. I read two newspapers daily, watch much TV news, and follow a few web sites, and this was the first I'd seen of this. Had I seen the extent of these protests four years ago I would have been more heartened than I was at the time, when I was merely numb at the realization that a concerted explicit campaign by the Rebublican party not to count all the votes in the state of Florida was greeted by the media as just another story and not the betrayal of Democracy and the public trust that it was. It wouldn't have helped in a practical sense, but it would have been a good thing indeed had the Inauguration protests gotten the publicity they merited.

I still despair at many things, of course, too numerous to summarize, but I honestly feel at the moment that over half the country is with me right now, in more than a perfunctory fashion. That's not enough by any means, but it's more than I've thought for several years.
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