I vote in every election. I live in upstate NY, so it’s not a hugely consequential vote in this cycle. The presidential race was never contested here, the congressional election is safely Democratic, we’ll lose the local state senate race, really not much going on with this election.
So my wife and I went to vote this morning like we always do. It’s about a 4-minute ride to the polls from our house, so I flipped my iPod to the Dixie Chicks, “Not Ready to Make Nice.” What a cliché.
Along the way I started to think about the infuriating, enraging, exasperating four years since our last chance. Then I went deeper, remembering 2000 and Bush v Gore and deeper still, the Clinton impeachment. And I reached back to my first election, when Reagan upset Carter in 1980, and the Senate flipped, and suddenly everything I knew about history and politics was stood on its head. No, I’m not ready to make nice.
We got to the school where we vote, and I walked in feeling determined, angry, resolute. (My wife will never understand. She thinks I’m a maniac.) Inside at the desk, a gay couple who are neighbors and friends was sitting at the desk. One of them signed me in and pointed me to the booth. I worked through the questions, then started at the bottom of the ballot, pulling D’s the whole way.
When I got to the Presidential choice, phew, the Yiddish term is “verklempt”, overcome. You have all worked so hard, and we have suffered so long. Our national institutions weakened, our financial institutions crumbling, our economy a wreck, our standing in the world in a shambles. But here it was and here I was, and I felt like I was hammering one nail, just one, but tens of millions of others would hammer the rest of the nails and in the end we will have built something big and strong and powerful.
Then I knew, that’s what hope feels like. And it’s different. It’s not anger or retribution, it’s just the determination to rebuild our country, better, stronger, fairer. Tonight - I’m sure of it now – we can celebrate our victory. The work, the real work, starts tomorrow.