Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Election Day is very different now that I am retired.

For over two decades I have been a democratic committeeperson. In my radical youth I never expected to end up doing grunt work for the Democratic Party. As a young woman, I had no interest in working within the two party system; why bother choosing between Tweedledum and Tweedledee? I didn’t want to settle for piecemeal reform nor engage in the messy compromises that are part and parcel of participation in the electoral arena.

For me the wake-up call came in the early l980’s with the election of Ronald Reagan. It really did matter who won elections. This may not seem like a major revelation to most folks, but it was for me. I decided I could no longer afford to vote for protest candidates. (My first presidential vote in 1968 was for Peace and Freedom Party candidate, Dick Gregory.)

So in the 80’s I became a Democratic committeeperson. I don’t have the temperament (or inclination) to run for office, so I decided that I would work to elect good people—-particularly good women—-to office. It’s been a lot of fun, but usually I was simultaneously working at the polls and grading papers. A woman once came up to me at the supermarket and said, “Aren’t you the lady who’s always grading papers at the polls?”

For the first time, there were no papers to grade. No need to check my work voice mail and email to reply to those students who didn’t get my message that class was cancelled.

Maybe it would have been better to have had those papers to grade—-something to distract me from the absence of voters. Finally I was free to chat with all the voters for as long as I wanted, but the voters were scarce indeed. Most were unfortunately not all that interested in the state-wide judicial races which were the only real contests on the ballot--a far cry from the long lines and incredible excitement of November, 2008.

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