So I finally voted. I live in Los Angeles County in California, and there is only one place to vote early here:
It was an interesting experience to say the least. First of all, it was a pain to go there, as the only place to early vote is about an hour from my house. Once I got there, the line took me two hours to get through...that's two hours exactly to get to the part where I was given my ballot. Then it took another half hour to find an open booth, vote and double check my selections. While standing in line, I talked to the various people standing around me. Most were Obama supporters, as you might expect in Los Angeles County. The guy standing in front of me was very nice and wore an "Obama for President" T-shirt until we got close enough that he was required by law to remove it. At first, we talked generally about why we supported Obama. He was an African-American male in his 40s, I'd guess. Nonetheless, he was adamant that Obama's superior intelligence was the primary reason for his support for Obama. (For the sake of the remainder of this post, I'll call him ObamaShirt.) Here's a picture I posted on twitter from the early vote line of ObamaShirt:
One of the crazy realities about voting for the first African-American to run on a major party ticket for President is that many people feel the need to defend their vote in some way. I suppose as a white liberal woman, I should feel defensive myself. I should feel the need to explain that I'm voting for Obama for reasons other than "liberal guilt." Were I a black woman, I might feel the need to explain the reasons for voting for Obama other than his race. Perhaps not.
Since I'm not black, it's hard to suppose who I would be if I were. As it is, I find it difficult to feel anything that would necessitate a justification for my Obama support. I'm not saying that I'm immune to liberal guilt, I'm just saying that it isn't something that overwhelms my consciousness to the point where I notice it as a primary motivator.
In fact, my support for Obama as a politician and leader is the strongest I've ever felt in my adult life. This support is grounded in an appreciation for the breadth of knowledge, keen insight and wisdom he has exhibited during his public life. The confidence I have in his abilities is too strong to stem from guilt or obligation.
Now, before you go running for the antidote to the Kool-Aide you're now convinced I must be drinking, I will say that I have much lower expectations of what Obama will be able to accomplish as President than I do of what I believe he has the capacity and desire to do. Much to the chagrin of most candidates over the years, a President does not have the power to unilaterally execute his promises. Even with an expanded definition of the powers of the Executive Branch, Bush was unable to push though 100% of his agenda (thank goodness.)
I believe Obama will be a more effectual leader than most, however. One thing that he seems to have an innate sense of, is the fact that the power of a President flows from his connection to the people. As such, I believe he will utilize his exceptional communication skills to rally the populace behind his political agenda. But I digress...
So, I'm standing in line with Obama supporters in front of and behind me. At one point, I take a moment to discuss Proposition 4 with a woman standing a few people in front of me. It requires a waiting period and parental notification before minors can obtain abortions. We discuss the ways in which that might be problematic for girls who have abusive parents and; we agree that someone considered old enough to take responsibility for a child should have the right to decide if that is something she is willing and ready to do.
Not long after that exchange, ObamaShirt brings up Proposition 8, which essentially eliminates the right of same-sex couples to marry in California. Turns out, that like many people, ObamaShirt has eclectic political views and; not all of his views were "liberal." By the way, I'm fine with that. While it is true that in general I consider myself a "liberal," my politics are not "liberal" down the line, as I take each issue as its own question. I find labels to be ambiguous at best and misleading at worst, especially considering the ways in which the meaning of this word and its opposites continually evolve.
I'm "conservative" when it comes to many economic issues, "liberal" on many social issues and "centrist" on various other issues. For instance, I strongly believe in a person's right to believe that the first woman was made from a man's rib, but I don't want my tax dollars to be spent on teaching that to children in our public science classrooms. I think it is more appropriate to teach the Bible in church sermons, Sunday school classes and in the home...which by the way are the places I learned about God growing up. But I digress again...one of my bad habits =-)
I won't go into the discussion we had at length, but suffice it to say that the conversation included him retrieving his Bible from his backpack to read Leviticus 20:13 to me:
I with the old "slavery is in the Bible" argument. When that didn't work, I countered with Leviticus 20:18:
"If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them."
This passage basically means that it is also an offense to God for a man to sleep with a woman when she is having her period, even if that woman is his wife. Since most Christians don't consider that to be the taboo that they believe homosexuality is, this seemed to be a legitimate route. Unsurprisingly, this line of reasoning failed to sway him as well. Ultimately, I grew tired of the argument and moved on to crowd watching.
"If a man lies with a woman during her sickness and uncovers her nakedness, he has exposed her flow, and she has uncovered the flow of her blood. Both of them shall be cut off from their people."
Happily, I noticed at that moment that Larry Wilmore, regular contributor to the Daily Show was standing about ten people behind me in line, waiting to vote. I walked back and accosted him for a photograph. As someone who has spent most of her life living in either Los Angeles or New York, and who has worked in the entertainment industry for many years, I've met quite a few celebrities, including Jon Stewart several years back. Nonetheless, I've never asked someone famous if I could take their photograph before. I guess I've been socialized to leave celebrities alone for the most part.
The thing is, it was just too perfect that I had been standing in line, waiting to vote for an hour and a half, trading Leviticus passages with a stranger, and one of the guys from the best political satire show of our time happened to be standing in line with me. Had to ask him! He was very nice about it. The photo didn't turn out, because the light was bad and I had to take it with a borrowed cell phone...but at least I have the story!
So that's my story of voting early. I don't know if it's worth it for everyone to vote early...but I'm happy I did. It was certainly an adventure...one that could only happen in this crazy democratic experiment they call the United States of America!
Whether or not you vote early...DO vote. You'll never wait in line for a ride or movie or concert that makes more of a difference in your life than the vote you wait to place in this election. And who knows...you may just get a few great stories out of the experience!