Monday, November 3, 2008

Reminiscing about Voting

My family is fairly good about not assigning gender roles. Both my parents cook, my brother and I both play legos, and I've never owned a Barbie (yes, that would be funnier if my brother had, but he hasn't). Yes, there are some things that we only did with one parent. (Mom went swimming, ice skating, and canoing while dad went fishing and float-tubing.)

My bro and I - Barbie free for 21 years when this photo was taken

But most indoor things could be with either parent. Since my mom was a homemaker when I was little, she was more likely to volunteer at my school or go on field trips.

Mom and Dad

Voting, however, is something I do with my dad (at school). My mom's a Canadian citizen, so she can't vote. That comes in handy when dealing with political phone calls.

I remember going with dad once, when I was little. They were doing a kids election while the parents voted. The local polling place was my elementary school library, 1.5 blocks from our house. This was probably the 1992 presidential election (I have vague memories of Perot and Clinton) so I would have just turned 9. Dad must have stopped by the house after work, since it was dark. Being November, in Alaska, it was also snowy. A time where it felt, at least to me, like we should be curled up with a book, inside, not headed back to school. Both of us voted and got stickers and I remember it being very exciting. Obviously it was more exciting to me, since my dad has no memory of this.

Our old house, by the school

It was ten years later before I'd go to the polls again with my dad. This time, he picked me up from the dorms around 6.45 or 7, to get to the polls when they opened and to vote in time for him to get back for an early lecture. My first vote being a midterm election, as a liberal in a red state, it wasn't all that thrilling, other than the part where I was part of the process. And there was the cool feeling that this was something that only my dad and I were qualified to do. No matter how much they wanted to, mom and my brother couldn't vote.

In 2004, the process was repeated, only this time I took it more personally. I'd spent the primaries in the UK, watching the bizarre show from abroad, not fully understanding how, when I left in January the nominee was bound to be Dean, and when I returned in June the nominee was Kerry. The day of the elections, I spent the evening in my room, watching returns online, constantly pressing refresh and hoping the map would change. A family friend was running for a state Senate seat in Alaska, and when the electoral math, sans Alaska, was computed, I couldn't bare it. I decided to wait up for the Alaska returns. Hoping, against all hope, that our friend would win, and while that wouldn't make up for map of red, it would at least feel like a small victory. (Sidenote: I like living in a state that votes my way or makes me feel like my vote will count. Polls show Obama with a significant lead in MN, but the Senate race between Barkley, Coleman, and Franken is a true toss-up).

But Gini lost, getting only 31% of the votes. (And yes, this was in Sarah Palin's 'hood, so to speak, and Gini's opponent had been in office since 1995.)

I woke, in the morning, to a bunch of elated classmates. I had one friend to commiserate with, but that was it.

This year will be different. I am more excited than I can ever recall being for an election. I was trying to describe it to my friend Simon who I primarily communicate with online. I've called her three times in the four years I've known her. The first two were when I was on the train to go visit her. But the second was when I called her on my way to go see the Faith Healer with Ralph Finnes. I had to share my raw excitement about seeing Ralph Finnes with someone, and she was the perfect person. She shared my enthusiasm and understood why I'd called. Today, I almost picked up the phone to call her again about how excited I was. We are both die-hard West Wing fans and I was trying to explain that I was almost as excited as watching the show (yes, that sounds pathetic, but in Hollywood they weren't letting voters decide it all, it was the liberal writers...) Her response: "Yeah, I think "Ralph Fiennes excited" about sums it up..."

Ralph Finnes

So here I am, 17 minutes from a day that will define my generation. Many of my classmates from 2004 now have status messages on Facebook supporting Obama. I've donated money to the campaign, passed out voter info flyers, and proudly worn an Obama button (or two, or three) for several weeks. This is an historic election. An election in the internet age. An election where millions have voted early. An election where either ticket, God forbid, will be a first.

So I'm voting. I'll get up in about in about 7 hours and walk a block to my polling place, where I assume I'll stand in lines for a while. I did my research on all the other candidates and initiatives on my local ballot tonight. (There are 18 choices to be made, plus numerous uncontested seats.) I'm voting for myself, I'm voting for my mom, I'm voting for my international friends - both in this country and abroad. I'm voting for my cousin's kids and my future kids. I'm voting to make the world a better place for everyone. And that's really why I'm excited.


Reid said...

Erin started reading first, but I posted a comment first. Hah!

Reid said...

Substantive comment: I thought of the West Wing again today, how the parallelism between the Obama and Santos campaigns continues. Now we have an important figure dying at the last minute in real life too (though I admit, it's not quite the same).

Captcha word: muchnot: n. the length of time remaining in Red America.

Anne said...

Katie - I am so proud of you. I am glad that you used your dad as a role model!! Let's hope that by tonight this country has a real chance to head in a better direction.

Simon said...

I really enjoyed this post. First of all, how cute is your family? SO cute! (And by the way, I totally have your picture of Ralph Fiennes saved to my computer.) I think the act of voting is such an interesting thing. Today when I was in line the guy in front of me said, "You know, in some countries it's illegal NOT to vote." And the guy behind me snorted and said, "In some countries it's practically illegal TO vote." And I thought, having the choice to be an idiot and not vote seems particularly American and kind of great. I would add something more here that's actually substantive but it's time to go back to avid tv-watching...

Katie said...

Reid1 - You sound like you've been spending too much time on 538, given you are excited about posting the first comment.

Reid2-I was thinking of that at the time as well. And I think now with the CoS named, I'm trying to wrap myself around the Emanuel in the position by thinking about Leo and trying to figure out what that position actually is that way.

Mom - YAY! And I'm glad you figured out how to post comments.

Simon - One day, perhaps, you shall meet my family. They are pretty darn cool. It baffles me that some people choose not to vote. I felt horribly guilty cause I didn't have my act together to vote in the primary this year. (I caucused in Feb, but there is also a Sept primary and I just didn't know enough and couldn't find my passport and didn't have an MN license...) I still carry some of that guilt in fact.