I was standing in the checkout line of my local supermarket yesterday wearing my Obama button and had an encouraging encounter.
A young Hispanic family was ahead of me in line. Mom and dad were busy putting the groceries on the belt, so I grabbed a little children's book that happened to be on the display next to me, and started reading it to their toddler, who was roughly at my eye level sitting in the grocery cart (once a mom, always a mom). After a minute or two of this, the dad gestured toward my button and asked "How do you think Obama is going to do?" I told him I didn't think he would win Texas, but I thought he would win nationally and I felt like it was important to vote. Then I started making a plug for our terrific Democratic senate candidate Rick Noriega. Rick Noriega is a lt.colonel in the Army Reserves and an Afghan war vet. I like to bring him up when I am talking casually to strangers because his military background makes him appealing to even McCain supporters, and because fewer people know anything about him than know about the presidential candidates. The dad then told me that he would be voting for the first time. He looked about 35. I am not sure if he had just become a citizen, or had simply never wanted to vote before. Then the twenty-something check-out clerk volunteered that it would also be her first time to vote. The dad then asked me if you had to vote for the offices other than president. I said that there were frequently races or propositions that I didn't know anything about and where he could get a voters guide. Then I explained that he could vote a straight Democratic ticket (hint, hint), or just vote for the races he knew something about (another plug for Noriega!). Then the clerk wanted to know about early voting polling places. I told them both that my son would be voting for president the first time too, and how excited he is about it, although he is voting absentee so it would not be quite as exciting for him as it would be for them, actually going to the polls.
I think both of these first-time voters were already planning to vote for Obama, so I don't believe I swayed their presidential votes. But I felt like I might have planted a seed about Noriega. And it made me feel really good to be part of such a civic-minded discussion. I cast my first for Eugene McCarthy(geeze, how many decades ago was that?). I haven't missed a presidential election since, although it usually felt like my vote was a kiss of death. And I have never been as optimistic and eager about an election as I am this time. Even here in red-state America, I really feel the change in the air.