Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election eve

The night before the election, Mrs. Nation and I decided to be good neighbors. We baked cookies and delivered them to the local Republican and Democratic headquarters. We packaged up two plates of cookies and walked downtown. We visited the Republicans first, about 9 p.m. In a lot illuminated only by the office lights, we saw three vehicles – two pickup trucks and a sedan. Inside, three campaign workers greeted us with a degree of surprise – and a cardboard cutout of Ronald Reagan.

They seemed to be craving an audience and we spent the next thirty minutes politely listening and answering questions. Mrs. Nation fielded the always dangerous abortion question, while I addressed questions about immigration, taxes, and socialism. The tenor of our dialogue was America is Changing, and that is Bad. With the Fox News Channel playing in the background, we had become a sounding board for their frustrations about an impending electoral loss.

While we discussed Obama and Palin, McCain’s name never came up. One worker, adorned in a “Read my lips – elect Palin” t-shirt, asked what I thought about Palin. “She has charisma,” I answered. “She’s personality-plus.” The worker then read notes from a Subway napkin about Palin’s experience versus Obama’s. (Did you know that Sarah Palin has a higher security clearance than Barack Obama?) Palin was clearly the draw for these staffers: they had met Palin and had a sign she had autographed hanging in the middle of the back wall of the main room.

After taking a few pictures, we parted company with the Republicans and headed to the Democrats’ office. The room exuded a cool confidence: we found a relaxed, focused group of campaign workers (at least 10) and a table full of Obama materials. They greeted us with a little skepticism – after all, we had just come from the Republican office – but were excited about the cookies. Some campaign workers continued to work in back rooms, two workers stepped out for a smoke break and two others relaxed on a well-worn, dated sectional couch. Three different workers recognized us: one was a colleague from my office, another had met me at the district convention, and the third had just visited our house earlier in the day, reminding us to vote.

Conclusions? In this Jewel of the Prairie, in a little gem of a state (as Molly from Bittersweet likes to say), Obama can take a victory lap. Yes, he can. The local Republican campaign workers are rightly worried about Democratic control of the White House, Senate, and House of Representatives. However, the Democrats would be foolish to interpret their victories as a mandate. The past two elections have served as de facto referenda of poor leadership in our federal government. Before those about to assume power begin to act on any perceived mandate, they must begin to restore the checks and balances that have made our government the envy of the world. Let us hope and pray that our leaders can institute solutions that will begin to heal our nation’s wounds.

I sent in my ballot Thursday. Some people have complained about the cost of elections and the amount of work it takes. To them, I say: it is the cost of freedom, the dues for democracy.

One final thought: I find it interesting that people - including me - have taken pictures of their ballots. Why is this? Perhaps we want to document our votes for posterity?

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