>I just can’t hide it!

>It seemed no one was blogging. My online friends were all on Twitter or Plurk. Husband was at work (when you’re in the media, election night is a worknight), Amigo was doing homework, and La Petite was also working. We text messaged through the main events. As one state after another turned to blue on the map and the electoral vote total grew on Obama’s side, we sent each other texts that grew shorter and more and more exciting. When it was all over and she had finished putting the school newspaper into print and online, she emailed me and called the whole experience “… amazing. It’s going to be one of those ‘I remember where I was, who I was with, and what I was doing when I found out that Obama was elected as our 44th president’ type moments.” But will she remember that she was part of the process? Attending a rally in June, talking to her friends, providing pictures of Senator Obama to the paper (and to her mother’s blog!) and talking to her friends about campaign issues made a difference, as did her vote.

Voters of all ages and all political stripes cared enough to volunteer, to operate the phones, to write checks, to put signs in their yards. Poll lines were long. I was #21 in my ward, in line when it opened. Husband was #121 less than forty minutes later. The passion of this election grew and grew and grew until it became more than a million people in Grant Park, others in the streets outside the White House and in storefronts turned Party Headquarters across the country.

I don’t remember ever seeing this much excitement around an election. It isn’t a Super Bowl, a Stanley Cup, a World Series or a Madison Halloween party. It’s a Presidential Election! And from now on, that sentence will never be the same.

It’s a Presidential Election that made history. Best voter turnout in forty years of a century, depending on your source. Record money raised and spent, although that can be taken as a positive or a negative. Record number of early voters by absentee ballot.

And the most important record of all: the American electorate finally crossed the racial line and elected a young, intelligent, articulate, and forward thinking man. And in the process, America elected Barack Obama the first African-American President of the United States.

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>Election Day Memories

>Favorite bumper stickers:
“I’m pro-accordion and I vote.”
“Republicans for Voldemort”
“A Child is more than a Test Score”

The last one isn’t precisely election related, but it does make a strong statement on current policy.

Best sights to see:
Long lines at the polls (Active participation in Democracy! w00t!!
Campaign signs
“I Voted” stickers on multiple lapels
A thriving and busy campaign office

And this:

Update: Memories? This was the most amazing election day ever. I am so, so proud today.

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>…while volunteering at the local Democratic Party Headquarters

Please sign in.
Stacks of 25, please.
When McCain picked Palin, that was the end.
I need more of the Congress pamphlets. I have enough for President.
Are there any pens that aren’t chewed on?
Hello, my name is Jon, and I’m a volunteer at the Democratic Party for Change.
We couldn’t run this campaign without volunteers.
How long will that phone cord reach?
Is the nine to twelve shift all right?
Here, kids, go get Starbucks for all of us.
Thank you.
How many hours until the election?
Here’s the address where you’ll be meeting.
It’s important for my kids to see the process.
Let me get that for you.
Thank you.
We need a lot of people to keep this machine running.
Data entry? I can do that.
I’m confirming your shift for “Get out the Vote” on election day.
Do you need Energy Plan brochures or Economic Solutions?
Share the excitement!
I remember you. I talked to you last night.
Can a voter register if she moved here in July and still has a Hawaii drivers’ license?
Where are we? What’s our address?
You can register up to the fourth of November. On the 5th, you’re no good to us.
Yes, you can register at the polls on election day with the proper ID.
We couldn’t run this campaign without volunteers.
Thank you.

It’s just an empty storefront re-furnished with desks, tables, chart paper, shelves, and temporary wall signs. Nothing is new. Even the phones on the phone bank are old fashioned telephones with cords. Laptop computers are adorned with bumper stickers and campaign buttons. Handmade posters share space with professionally printed pieces. Scripts for the phone bank hang on the wall with tape, sharing space with additional information like the address of HQ and a map of the polls. But amidst the murmur of voices and the clicks of the telephones, there’s an underlying energy that fuels the crew.

We all know it’s no longer a matter of days. It’s a matter of hours. This election matters. At this late date, all we have left is hope.
Ah, yes, and the most important tool: we have our votes.

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>Vouch for this, Senator McCain.


Senator McCain, poor families don’t need vouchers.

Poor families need food. They need housing. They need jobs. They need security.
When a girl in the class down the hall couldn’t come to school because she didn’t have shoes, we asked her little sister what her mom did with the paychecks from her job. She said, “She saves all her money so we can get a house.” Get a house meant find a place to rent, not buy one. They were crowded into a small flat with their uncle (four kids and a mom) and wanted to rent an apartment on their own. They owned no furniture, no appliances, no basic supplies. All they wanted was to establish their independence.
This girl wanted to come to school. When her shoes broke, she worried that she was losing her record of perfect attendance. Despite her poverty, she wanted to be here. School for her was a safe and secure place to be, a place to be a part of things. A place to learn.
Senator McCain, do you know who found shoes for her? Her teacher found two pair of spare gym shoes and brought them to her house so she could try them on. I found another pair in my closet after I found out we wore the same size. This girl doesn’t need a private school; she needs financial security for her family. She needs inflation to ease so she can buy shoes as her feet grow. We’re not talking about designer heels or peep-toe pumps; simple sneakers will do. She needs gas prices to stabilize so her mother can go to work each day and consistently earn money that will pay the rent.
Senator McCain, look past your expensive shoes and your multiple houses. Look beyond your wealthy colleague and her privileged lifestyle. Look at those who are already suffering and fear the potential of an oncoming depression.
When your volunteers called asking for support, I told them, “Not a chance” and hung up the phone. I’m on the front lines seeing families suffer. Trickle-down economics won’t help these families. Neither will your private-school vouchers.
Senator McCain, you are woefully out of touch with the real world.
I’m voting for Senator Obama.

photo by La Petite, June, 2008

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>’Tis the season to think globally, act locally, and vote!

>October. Leaves are changing color, the air is crisp and cool but pleasant, and school is in full swing. Weekends mean football, leaf raking, and politics.

We made our usual trip to the downtown Farmers’ Market today. It’s nearing the end of the market season, so there were fewer vendors and fewer customers, but we still managed to find deals on local produce and products. I settled Amigo near the musical entertainment and then proceeded onward to my favorite booths. One of my favorite farmers wasn’t there any more. We’ve bought sweet corn and squash from him; maybe he’s done selling for the year. My favorite baker was there, so I bought two loaves of her bread. We picked up honey crisp apples and a bag of fresh pairs, er, pears. Husband bought a bag of very fresh cheese curds (squeak, squeak). We picked up two pumpkins and moved on to pick up Amigo.

That’s when I was distracted by a man holding campaign signs. Obama signs have been hard to get in our town. As soon as the Democrats’ office gets a shipment, they sell out. When I saw this man holding three — 3!! — Obama signs under his arm, I asked about them. He directed me to the Dems office two blocks away because they had just gotten a batch in. Husband took Amigo and the goodies back to the minivan while I hoofed it down the road to pick up my coveted signs.

The office was hopping with activity. Penny (the local candidate for state assembly) was there working with volunteers. She thanked me for the letter I’d written to the newspaper in her support and then directed me to the desk for buying signs. The harried volunteer there didn’t have change for my twenty (I’d used my smaller bills at the market), but another staffer helped her find some. The still didn’t have exact change, so I bought two signs and two buttons, knowing I could find another home for the second sign.

Sure enough, the sign ended up at the house across the street before I even had mine set in the lawn. My neighbors were on their way home from a walk and were thrilled to take it. Husband prefers a clean lawn, regardless of his voting preference. But he’s willing to indulge my political activism for a few weeks leading up to November 4th.

A matter of minutes after I’d posted my new gem, er, sign, the phone rang. It was a volunteer from Planned Parenthood making calls to support their favored candidates. I don’t remember campaigns getting this aggressive four and eight years ago. I’m getting recorded message calls from the Republicans, daily (daily!) mailings from both parties, phone bank calls from all of the Democratic candidates’ staff and/or volunteers, and personal contacts with several of the candidates themselves.

I started my day acting on my conviction to buy locally whenever possible. I ended the morning acting nationally, if not globally, by acting on my conviction to make a difference this election. I’ll vote in November. Between now and then, I’ll do whatever I can to make a difference in my own small world, and I’ll hope for the best results so that our elected officials can and make a difference in a bigger way.

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>Walk a mile — in my shoes, not your privileged pumps.

>Three young women, all coworkers, celebrated a colleague’s pregnancy by sharing their own baby stories.

“Shelly” told about finding herself pregnant at 18 in her senior year of high school. When the young couple decided to become sexually active, she looked into getting birth control. It was too late. She found out that the old wives’ tale wasn’t true: she did get pregnant the first time. She made plans to marry her boyfriend, got prenatal care, and gave birth to a lovely baby girl. The wedding plans were cancelled when she realized they were not really suited to make a lifetime commitment, and raised her daughter through toddlerhood before meeting and marrying the man who would adopt the girl as his own.

“Lily” was in her early 20s when she found out the baby was on the way and pushed up the wedding plans already in place. Soon after her son was born, she found her husband cheating on her, realized the shotgun wedding had been a mistake, and left to raise her son on her own.

“Jenny” was in college when her birth control failed. Her boyfriend left her, and she decided to give the baby up for adoption. Nine months later, she did so.

These three young women could have opted for abortion. None did. But not all young, pregnant women have the resources, the family, the health insurance options that they did. All three worked in a low-paying field (child care) that nevertheless allowed them some crucial benefits such as health insurance and discounted child care. They lived in a city with good access to low-income housing and many support networks for families in need.

Many, many girls and young women don’t have the advantages that these three did. Many girls and young women have no options: no insurance, access to prenatal care, even housing for themselves and their children.

It is for those young and younger women that abortion needs to remain safe and legal. I fully believe that no one wants to abort, but some, very few, simply must. For those few, the law must preserve the option to control their own bodies, their own outcomes.

Governor Palin, do you hear me? Many families lack the privileges you and your daughter enjoy. The health insurance, the securely employed and supportive family members, the opportunity to continue working without discrimination for becoming pregnant. When you chose to raise your child with Down Syndrome, you knew you could handle the challenges. When your daughter Bristol became pregnant, she also enjoyed health insurance and a supportive family.

Walk a mile in the shoes of the pregnant teen who gets kicked out of her home. Walk a mile in the shoes of the mother with an illness that makes pregnancy risky for both her and the baby. Walk a mile in the shoes of the family with no insurance who can’t afford prenatal care and will have to go into debt to give birth in a hospital. Walk a mile in the shoes of the victims of domestic abuse, trying to protect their children, unable to provide for and protect another. These are the women for whom support needs to be in place. And for those without options, abortion needs to be there: safe, legal, and rare.

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>Who am I?

>According to this poll, I am a social liberal, an economic liberal, and best described as (drum roll) a socialist. According to them, I “…exhibit a very well-developed sense of Right and Wrong and believe in economic fairness.” When I clicked on Famous People, my icon was very close to Barack Obama, but exactly on Hillary Clinton. According to their interpretation of political ideologies, mine was right on the edge of the socialist area, bordering on Democrat.

This was an interesting quiz in that it focused on, as they put it, “fundamental values” and “avoided the edgy party issues.”

If you’re offended by the Socialist label, please think again. Just like chocolate and coffee, all in moderation. Here’s their explanation:

For example, on the economic axis, a highly permissive system, like the American system of the early 1900s, might mean things like low taxes and increased scientific innovation. It might also result, as it did back then, in unrestricted child labor and millions of poor people with black lung. At the other end of the economic spectrum, a highly regulated system might conserve the environment, establish national health care, and eliminate poverty. But as we’ve learned from the Soviet system, extreme regulation can also lead to stagnation, sameness, and unhappiness.

In other words, balance is key. We in the U.S. of A. have high standards for government services and regulations, but we pay for those through our tax system. We are constantly looking for the perfect balance, and never quite finding it. That’s a large part of why I find all things political evolving and fascinating.

Try it yourself!

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>Box Tops for Bail Outs! Of course!


Note: prepare for major snarkiness and a significant dose of sarcasm.

(Actual letter to the editor)

“It seems that The (insert local newspaper name here) could provide an extremely valuable service to the schools and communities by placing a reminder every week on the front of the paper for everyone in the Fox Valley to save the “Box Tops for Education” that come on so many grocery items. If everyone saved all the box tops that are in their house and turned them in, the schools could make thousands of dollars and help alleviate the budget pressures. Save all your box tops, help the schools, and you won’t have to listen to all the budget debate. And it doesn’t cost anyone anything extra. Just cut the box tops you already have.”

I was momentarily speechless. Then I nearly snorted coffee out my nose as I laughed out loud, even as my blood pressure rose. This is the solution? Box tops! Of course!

If Box Tops will solve the school budget crunch, what about Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac? Washington Mutual? And more? Box Tops for Bail Outs! Of course!! Buy enough cereal and granola bars, and those golden parachute executive packages will be fully funded.
$700 billion bail out? Cut out your box tops! Can’t you see it? Treasury SEcretary Henry Paulson goes down on one knee to beg for…more box tops!!
McCain won’t have to suspend campaigning (not that he really did) and back out of a scheduled debate. No one in Washington will need him: Box Tops are the answer!!
The so-called Government Accountability Office (an oxymoron if I’ve ever heard one) will be able to solve all the issue by recommending a trip to the grocery store! Grocery stores will then thrive as their customers flock to the aisles with the brand name items that carry the economic magic of Box Tops for Bail Outs. It’s a win-win!!

Meanwhile, my classroom windows still don’t open and close properly, the pencil sharpener doesn’t work, our school office can’t afford another shipment of copy paper, and the state funding formula is still a wreck. Maybe I need to rethink this Box Tops for Bail Outs idea, and keep those pennies for my school. After all, if the economy is fundamentally sound, the BigWigs in charge of finance really don’t need the help, do they?

Do they?

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