campaigning in ohio - dispatch #6

this november 3rd has been as balmy as any warm summer's day here in cincinnati. the line-up at the early voting center is already challenging the lengths it achieved on saturday. twas apparently wrapped around a downtown city block by 7.30 this morning, and by all accounts, will be that long when the sheriff makes an arbitrary cut-off at 4 pm.

i have been staffing our voter taxi dispatch line since 8 am. i'm in the america votes election staging office in a cute office with a cute view of cincy's west side on a very cute E-minus-1. i share this office with the lively jessie jenkins of the naacp voter fund, who has kept me pretty much in stitches with his punchy mouth. beyond the thin walls, we are surrounded by the determined voices of telephone canvassers leaning in for the final push of confirmed or almost confirmed progressive voters. it is so cool to overhear them giving voters the toll free number that would lead straight to my ride line. i've been making canvass calls too, in the spaces in between, and am actually enjoying that contact, however limited, with the very people who could bring this thing home. as the day plods on, logistics people are keeping us watered and fed and coffeed here as members of my intrepid cincy voter shuttle team flit around this buzzing town to drive ohioans to the early voting center.

well now here it is: today is the last chance for early voters to get it done. the crowd is evidently thick, mostly enthusiastic. you really get the sense that people are doing more than show up to vote -- they're taking some sort of stand. i've managed to grab a few interviews and am always heartened to hear about the motivations of folks: 'a black man is so close to the white house you can almost taste it', 'i ain't never done anything that felt this important'. oh sure, people are cranky pants in those lines, but generally, the atmosphere i've seen is festive. there is music and dancing and whooping among the groans of pained feet. volunteers from any number of campaigns are doing their best to distribute water and snacks and folding chairs to the waiting voters; others are just helping keep spirits up with comedy and chants. the critical task is to keep people from defecting. we're just so aware of the unlikelihood of dropouts ever coming back -- even on election day. speaking of which, none of us is sure what tomorrow will bring. as for my organization, we hardly know whether to expect 20 or 200 ride requests. of greater concern is what trouble of a macro kind we might face. ohio voters know damn well the kind of problems that possibly await them at regular polling places tomorrow. that's why the early voting period has yielded such tremendous turn-out. and that's why it's been easy to feel fulfilled about the kind of work we have been able to do. meaningful.

bitter am i that i missed the mary j blige/jay-z event today. would have been uplifting, i think, if only for some tension relief. that tension would have either been aided or exacerbated had i attended the big barack/michelle rally in cincy last night -- i just wasn't sure how my crowd tolerance would hold up, not to mention the work erik and i knew was priority: oh driver-map-making and leaflet-dropping, you time suckers.

(i've been amused by the extent to which corporations seem to have climbed aboard the democracy express: starbucks is offering big coffees for anyone who claims to have voted; those same people can exchange their proud votership for a krispy kreme, too. jesus.)

most difficult to grasp, i think, is the notion that the end is finally here. the polls say things i should like, as does the pulse of the situation on which my finger has been firmly placed all this time. but i refuse to celebrate until it is time to celebrate. this night four years ago in a decorated madison ballroom was absolutely the saddest night of my entire life -- and we didn't even like john kerry that much.

i think i've been surprised by the range of emotions this roller coaster has been. what was first fatigue has given way to homesickness that is thick. every single feeling is amplified by the fatigue and intensity of it all. i miss my bed and routine and the easy silence of close friendship. i've come to realize just how deeply i appreciate things like the fidelice bakery, prolific middle eastern cuisine, and the daily presence of the french language.

on the one hand, my ohio stint has flown by, but on the other, it is a lifetime. there just winds up being such an attachment to a place the longer you work in its roots, you know? i'm glad i chose to spend the duration in ohio, not play political tourist as i once thought i might. there are pros and cons to either choice, i suppose, but i'm sure content with mine. i have learned things yet to sink it and felt things never to be forgotten. i'm wobbling over all that i've built here, and all that i'll have to leave behind in just a few fleeting days. including people. if this whole nutty edifying draining thing hasn't been all about the people, nothing ever will be.


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10:26 a.m.  

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