11.05.2008

An Update on Description 60

Out of the two things I voted for in the second half of Description 60, one of them lost. That would be Bill O'Neill for Representative to Congress in the 14th district (Canadians: that's the equivalent of an MP). You might have heard the other office I voted for went the way I was hoping.

Pretty much everyone knows that overall, Obama won Ohio, since it was a "battleground state" and all (now get the hell outta there, foreign journalists!). In Ashtabula County, Barack Obama got 55.35% of the vote, while John McCain won 42.17%. Folks in my county had to vote for at least 23 different offices (11 were uncontested) and 5 state issues (5 and 6 got all the damn commercials); with 45 different levies/tax-raises and zoning things spread out for different districts and townships.

I spent election night at a little party at Kristin's place, where the landed immigrant from Michigan and I were watching CNN and Indecision '08 while answering questions from our Canadian friends (which no doubt hipsters in the packed Bloor Cinema were asking at their big party): yes, they vote for all that different stuff, so it takes time to count; no, usually they don't get a head start counting the early ballots; this is how one of those old machines works; most of us don't understand the electoral college much either; everything differs from state to state. With the chatting and the snacks and the switching back-and-forth with the hockey game, once the big news came down, it was for me a little hard to process. It barely started to sink in when McCain conceded (in a speech that presaged a return to McCain 2000, hopefully). And then of course came Obama's speech: it was another one of those great Obama speeches...but HE'D WON. We were all different levels of misty. But it just felt so wierd.

Of course, Obama is all anyone has been talking about ever since, how it is a new day in America, some Torontonians saying "welcome back America". Okay, fine - it is a historic thing in a couple big ways.

However...

In the baptist church basement (where I went to Brownie meetings) where my parents voted, 214 people voted for McCain and 208 voted for Obama (8 people voted for Nader - that guy's always gotta screw things up!). 46% of the whole country voted for McCain and Palin. In many states, a lot of dumb stuff won. But then, some smart stuff won as well. I suppose everyone feels that way, depending on what side they were on. The U.S. is as much of a crazy quilt of selfish and selfless, guarded and self-flagellating, sane and nuts and ethnocentric as it's ever been. It's not like the U.S. was a mess, went through a week-long extreme makeover and last night they moved that bus to reveal a shiny new hearts-and-flowers country with one big Great Room. It ain't gonna happen. There's a hell of a lot to be done, and it might not get done. Obama's going to run into that buzzsaw that everyone else with good intentions has run into in any government; people will fight, people will screw up, people will get lazy and greedy, merde will happen. People might even die.

However...

At Kristin's party, I checked my email on her laptop and found a note from my ex in San Diego. We've had plenty of conversations about voting, and he's explained how he used to be energetic politically when he was younger, but started getting beaten down by circumstance and the system and had concluded f-ck it, what's the point. But with this election, through the primaries and onward, he started getting lifted. He found himself battling his cynicism. Finally, last night, he emailed me when Obama took California big-time: "We did it!! It actually happened!! Holy crap...Voting today was the best feeling ever..." Again, he's not a flighty kinda guy - it takes a lot to bring him up like that.

I think there are millions of people like him with similar stories; people who've had the commercials and yelling and noise shoved down their throats and up their asses. I also think there are tens of thousands of them in Canada, who didn't bother voting last month because it wasn't enough to vote against something - they felt they had nothing to vote for. That's just the way Stephen Harper wanted it, which is why he's still Prime Minister. But in the U.S., there was something to vote for, and it was enough to get them to feel voting mattered, and in turn that they mattered. That is absolutely what made the difference, and if anything good gets done, that will be why.

What I take away from this experience is that although terrible things may happen, everything may fall apart, humanity's worse natures may win again, it is always possible to go from discouragement to hope to action - and there is ALWAYS something to vote for.

Bonne chance, Qu├ębec.

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