November 06, 2004

Election Day

November 2nd, 2004 started for me at 4:30, when I awoke restless about the day ahead. A lifelong malcontent, this was to be one of my first ever days spent actually working on a campaign; helping MoveOn do what needed to be done on election day. I'd finally finished the awful project I'd been working on, so the day was free to volunteer.

An hour later I dragged myself out of bed, sat at my laptop and sucked down some coffee, looking for any late developments and weeding out Rolex spam. The weather forecast said sunny. Yeah, right.

At 6:40, I drove up the hill in a light cold drizzle, and had to park surprisingly far from the seminary polling station. I joined about a hundred of my neighbors waiting in long covered hallway for the door to open a 7. At the appointed hour, the doors opened, and we moved quickly through the process (this is Saint Paul, after all). By 7:15, I was back outside and once again amazed that there were already about 250 people waiting, some of them standing in the drizzle, which wasn't getting any warmer.

After a nice breakfast and more coffee, I managed to get down to the MoveOn headquarters in Minneapolis, only a little behind schedule. The scene was one of barely controlled chaos. Bloodshot eyes, stacks of xeroxed pages, folding tables with rows of cheap rented laptops, wall to wall kids, and a few old-timers like me. Mostly, it was the youngsters who were in charge, shouting instructions to be heard over the din, as we, the dazed newbies tried to figure out what we had to do.

Eventually, we were sent out with some fat stacks of paper, printed out from some sort of database that had lists of people who seemed to be likely to vote for our side. Our job was to knock on doors and make sure everyone was getting out to vote. At least the drizzle had let up.

The results were about what you might expect. Almost nobody was home. Those that answered were generally somewhere between enthusiastic and annoyed that people kept knocking on the damn door. We kept running into the DFL contingents crisscrossing the same area, doing the same thing.

If you're not from around here, the DFL is our own version of the Democratic Party. It's the result of merging, in 1943, with the much more radical Farmer-Labor Party. These days, it seems like a bit of a joke, when you see how watered down the whole platform has gotten.

By a little after noon, we'd gotten though our lists, and headed back to the mother ship. More controlled chaos, just a little more animated now. Despite all the activity, they weren't quite ready to assign me somewhere yet, so I headed next door for some falafel.

Finally, I was sent off to the Seward neighborhood, to do some door-knocking in apartment buildings. Through a silly series of missed connections, I ended up hanging out with a couple of nice people manning a station outside a polling place. We held signs in a cold wind and tried to direct people to the right place to vote. It was a little more confused because the polling place a couple of blocks away had the exact same number on the street. So people would see the "vote here" sign, note the address on the building, and stand in line only to be told they were in the wrong place.

The best moment was when a school bus pulled up to drop off some kids. The three windows in the back of the bus slid open and two little black faces in each window chanted "Kaaa-reee Kaaa-reee Kaaa-reee Kaaa-reee" and then "Buuuuuuush booooooooo" and then "Kaaa-reee Kaaa-reee Kaaa-reee Kaaa-reee."

The second best moment was the rag-tag "off to VOTE" marching band that came across the 94 pedestrian bridge from Augsburg. They even started to go into the polling station, but were apparently turned promptly around. It was a moment of pure joy to savor now that bitter reality has set in.

Our fingers were getting numb from being clamped onto the sign, but luckily, my lovely and thoughtful sweetie brought us a pot of hot coffee and bag of scones. Oooh, how elitist of us. At least they weren't croissants. But it was, of course, french roast. There are limits to chauvinism, after all. Or at least there should be.

I ended the day slogging through a huge list of phone numbers, trying to see if anyone still needed help getting to the polls (no) and had voted (yes, happily). Finally, I checked in with my fearless leader, gave her the numbers, exchanged thankyous.

Happy, content, buoyed by a glass of wine, I felt like we'd really finally done it. Enthusiasm and confidence slowly slipped away that night to a cold hard knot of despair and fear for our future.

Posted by Hal Eckhart at November 6, 2004 10:47 AM | TrackBack
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