Wednesday, November 05, 2008

remember, remember the 4th of November

As I noted somewhere in the rush of jittery posts I've made over the last few days, I spent Monday afternoon at an Obama phone bank in Culver City, calling identified Obama supporters to make sure they knew where to vote the next day. It was an interesting experience. I was really nervous to start out, because I don't particularly like talking to strangers, but it turned out that I was mostly leaving messages. People in battleground states or swing states, like those I was calling in Colorado and North Carolina, were either not home or so sick of campaign phone calls that they were no longer answering the phone. I got quite a few numbers that had been "temporarily disconnected" and even a couple people hanging up on me, but for the most part people were nice. I suppose that's the nice thing about calling pre-identified Obama supporters- you're less likely to get the raving Republican lunatics who just want to lecture you.

I ran into Zoe at the phone bank, and Andres and Jennifer Bash both happened to be working (on Tim Burton's Alice In Wonderland, damn them) at the studio where the phone bank was held, so I got to see them briefly too. Anyway, Zoe and I set up our call lists at a table and went to it. For the most part, calling was uneventful. The funniest call was Zoe's- she got stuck on the phone with an old man "who sounded as though he didn't have his teeth in" for at least ten minutes, listening to him extoll Obama's virtues and also repeatedly complement Zoe on her speaking voice. I got some people who said they were voting for McCain, which was disconcerting given that, as I said, these were supposed to be Obama supporters. I had one woman who was undecided, and refused to let me help her decide. A few people really seemed happy to have the number I provided that they could call for a ride to the polls, and even more were glad to know their polling place. One woman answered the phone and, when I asked for her husband, told me he had recently passed away, but not to worry, because she was voting for Obama.

It was strange, sitting in a giant empty studio stage with a bunch of strangers on their cell phones, calling other strangers. I liked overhearing everyone's style of cold-calling- some people stuck to the script religiously, some gave it their own spin, some deviated completely and preached about how great Obama was. It was tempting to do that, sometimes, but I pretty much stuck to the script, because my nervous feeling never went COMPLETELY away. In the end I was glad I did it- I felt like I was actually helping, like I could possibly be making a difference in how Election Day went. And maybe I did, who knows.

I woke up Election Day morning, after about 2 anxious hours of sleep, at 5am. It was dark and somehow felt different than all other dark 5am mornings I've had in Los Angeles- and not just because it was raining. Everyone was still asleep, but something just felt like today would be monumental.

And was it ever!

I was up at 5am to get to Steve and Kirk's house by 6am and in turn make it to Brentwood by 6:30. We were heading out for a last-ditch effort to get people to vote NO on Proposition 8, a the ammendment to the California Constitution that would ban same-sex marriage in the state. I was almost more nervous about this than I was about Obama winning, because every single poll showed the Prop 8 race as extremely close. The stupid LDS Church poured boatloads of money into the Yes on 8 campaign, and it showed in the polls.

Steve and Kirk and I arrived at a Ralph's parking lot in Brentwood, and were assigned to hand out palm cards at a Christian Scientist Church, which turned out to be literally just across the street from the Ralph's. How convenient! We staked out the area- we weren't allowed within 100 feet of the polling place, and the area was marked by two yellow signs on posts. We sort of formed a triangle around the busy intersection where the church was and gave a palm card to everyone who walked towards it- "Good morning! Are you planning on voting today? Would you mind voting No on Proposition 8?" That was my spiel- I figured politeness was better than just bombarding them with "No on Prop 8! It's unfair and wrong!" The training we'd gone to on Saturday told us to do something in the middle of those two, but for whatever reason I went with my way. It seemed to work pretty well. It was a very anti-prop 8 area, which was encouraging, for the most part. The people who were pro-prop 8 were mostly polite as well. One guy exclaimed "I'm voting FOR it! Have a great day though!" when I asked him to vote no. How odd.

The weirdest thing that happened was around 8am, when a little old lady pulled into a parking spot right near where I was standing. She got out, and I approached her with my handy palm card.

ME: "Good morning, are you going to vote today?"
HER: "Yes."
ME: "Please vote no on Proposition 8." (I try to hand her the card.)
HER: "You know, there's such a thing as a sacrament."
ME: "Um, that's true."
HER: (pats me on the shoulder) "Next you'll want to have sex with animals and you'll put that on the ballot."
ME: (pause) I don't think I will, but thank you for your opinion and have a nice day!

We were supposed to do that- wish "the opposition" a nice day and disengage as quickly as possible. But it was REALLY HARD to disengage from this little two-faced kindly-looking GRANDMOTHER after the sacrament comment when the old witch was SMILING AND PATTING ME ON THE SHOULDER. EEWWW DON'T TOUCH ME YOU BIGOTED LITTLE CRETIN. She went into vote when I turned away from her, and I had half a mind to slash her tires or key her car or something, but I figured that would be less than productive.

For the most part, though, our little polling place was fairly uneventful. There were spans where hardly anyone would come by, and the 3 of us would just be standing around, bored, on our respective corners. We kind of all wished that we'd had somewhere with a little more foot traffic, but by the time our shift was over at 10am we had gotten to at least a couple hundred people, I'd say. And most of them seemed to be voting no on 8. Woo!

We left at ten because we all had to vote, and Steve had to get to work. I drove home from their house in Larchmont and went to vote at the elementary school on Wilton that was our polling place. I ran into Nausheen in line, which made the hour-long wait go a lot faster. And then I VOTED FOR BARACK OBAMA! It was an amazing feeling, after all these months of being behind him, after defending him against so many Hillary Clinton fans and following the news and the blogosphere as though my life depended on it, to actually VOTE for this amazing man. I'm sure I probably wasn't supposed to take that picture, but I couldn't help it.

I went home then and anxiously surfed the blogs, looking for updates and news that I knew didn't exist yet, and then I took a nap, because I was tired and all but mostly just to kill time before the election returns started coming in. When I woke up I made cookies and headed to Kevin, Lauren and Will Adashek's house in Santa Monica. I was stuck in traffic on Pico when Ohio and Pennsylvania were called for Obama, and I started squealing and bouncing around in my seat so that the guys in the truck next to me looked at me like I was insane. Which I am.

At Kevin's house were a bunch of 2nd year DPs (in Kevin's class, I am now a "3rd year") and I watched the returns. I had my laptop with me and pulled up a map of the United States so that Russell, who is Canadian, could follow along with the states that were going red or blue just like the rest of us- he wasn't forced to memorize them in 5th grade like everyone else.

Everything was looking good two minutes before 8pm- as Dan Adlerstein put it, "Barack Obama will be declared President in two minutes." It was true- he had 207 electoral votes and was obviously going to take California. As long as he took Oregon, Washington, he would win. But it was hard to believe, even then, with 120 seconds until the world changed. Kevin scoffed at me still being worried, and he had every right to- but it was just too good to be true...

CNN had a weird little pause, where nothing in particular happened and Wolf Blitzer looked as though he was about to pee in his pants. And then they called it- "Barack Obama is elected President of the United States", said the screen. I had expected this moment to be filled with screams and wild jubilation, but instead we all just sat there, stunned into silence at what had just happened, and then slowly started laughing, crying, etc. There was no wild celebration, just pure joy in the form of "I can't believe it." Low-key, yes, but it was still a moment I'll remember forever.

I would have given anything to be at Grant Park- I really, really missed Chicago, watching it on TV, and Chicago at a monumental time like this must have been incredible. People I know who were there could barely see Obama and could only barely hear the speech, but still, THEY WERE THERE. They will always have that. What an amazing thing to be able to say. I can only hope that someday I too will be able to stand in Obama's presence and hear him speak.

Eventually, people started to go home. I waited around for awhile, hoping they'd call one of the 5 crazy states that hadn't been called yet. But eventually I figured I'd go home and watch the internet for the Prop 8 returns. Peter came by for awhile when I got home, and told me about the Prop 8 protests that were already happening in West Hollywood, where he'd been watching the returns with Miguel and Mike. I told him about my encounter with Crazy Animal Sex Lady.

What a day. When I went to bed it was pretty clear that Prop 8 was going to pass, which is fucking ridiculous, but the rest of the California props went good ways. Even Prop 3, which I'd voted for (the children's hospitals bond) and which was defeated, I was ok with being defeated-- apparently there have been equally large bonds distributed to children's hospitals in recent years, and the money from those haven't been entirely used up yet. I think it's probably good, with the shitty economy, to use the money you have before asking for more.

Sadly, Arizona and Florida also voted to ban gay marriage. This is clearly going to become the equal rights cause of my generation- and I say, bring it on.

Just as sad is Arkansas Act 1, which passed, and which bans cohabitating couples from adopting or becoming foster parents. Subtext: gay couples living together cannot now adopt or foster children in Arkansas. I honestly don't know if this or Prop 8 is more fucked up-- it's just about a tie, but to deny a child a loving family and a secure home just because two people might be gay is absolutely absurd and does a lot more to HURT families than to "protect" them, as the Act's proponents say it will do.

On a happy note, both Colorado and South Dakota defeated bans on abortion. Most notably, Coloradans turned down a bizarrely written initiative which dictated that life begins at the MOMENT of conception, thus qualifying all pregnant women to be noted as "two people" on the US Census, and, as Will put it, allowing them to drive in the carpool lane.

So it was mostly a wonderful day, with a few major setbacks in terms of human rights. I stayed up late into the night reading blog posts and newspapers from around the world, watching youtube clips of people rejoicing in the streets of every major city I can think of. It was an incredible feelings, to be a part of history like this, a feeling I don't think anyone in my generation has felt. Sure, we were "a part of history" when September 11th happened, but that's hardly history one WANTS to be a part of. I can't remember the last time I was proud to be an American, but I was yesterday, more proud and ecstatic than I can put into words. I slept better last night than I have in a very, very long time.

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