In the last few days of the campaign, I sat for hours with eight other women in the garden room of another woman’s house. Other people moved in and out of the living and dining rooms, all holding lists of likely voters and cell phones, calling to get out the vote for our candidate. We were old, young, and most ages in between, a high school girl, a grandmother, a housewife, a retired teacher. We knew it’s nearly impossible for a single voter to have influence, but joining with others to encourage lots more people to vote, now we have the potential to speak to the direction we want our country to move in the future.
In between shifts on the phone, some of us get packets of names and addresses, get in our cars and drive to different neighborhoods. We climb hills and stairs, knocking on doors, talk to people or leave stickers with information about polling places and the importance of their vote. I met a woman in her 30s, still in her pajamas at 10:30 in the morning who tells me defiantly that she isn’t going to vote. When I asked why she said “because I didn’t want to.”
I wished her a good day, when she gave me this chance to practice the discipline of “bless and release,” an opportunity that comes often when connecting with real people with whom you have a difference of opinion. The women in the garden room admitted in short discussions between calls, this part is rarely easy.
The morning after the election I learned that our team, over the four days had made 10,784 phone calls and knocked on 11,264 doors. Just as someone emailed those figures, the national figures of the get out the vote ground effort arrive. Three million door knocks and 15 million phone calls. No wonder we feel tired.
A lot of us had felt really bad about the 2012 election year process – the extreme amounts of money spent, the negative attack ads, the half-truths and outright lies in the public discourse, and the deafening silence on important issues such as immigration reform and climate change. I had begun to wonder whether our democracy could survive this onslaught to reasoned adult behavior, or whether it even should. It almost seemed like we, as a people weren’t grown up enough to govern ourselves.
But this morning after I’m feeling elated about the election process I got to be a part of. It seemed to me that we, the people won. I’m thrilled to see that the practices I found so abhorrent did not work. Not one candidate was able to “purchase” an office by using the superpack money of billionaires. Most candidates did not achieve an office as a result of their negative attack ads, and those men who proposed preposterous theories of science and behavior were defeated. And especially, the attempt as voter suppression failed.
I saw in that room where I was calling from, and in the long lines at the polls, and in my conversations with people who voted, voter suppression efforts only fueled people’s determination to exercise their voices by voting. Those of us who cared, and it was great to see how many people did, reached out to others who may have been discouraged or sufferings in other ways, and encouraged them to vote. It made all the difference because in the final hours of election day, the only thing that really matters is whose team shows up at the polls and actually vote.
When the election was over, I felt relieved that both candidates came up to what the moment required. Romney’s gracious, and compassionate concession as he vowed to support the president, Obama’s expressed gratitude to all the people who voted for him, the thousands who worked to get him elected, and those who took part on the other side. I loved hearing him declare his willingness to be the president of all the people; those who voted for him, those that voted for someone else, and those too disheartened to vote at all. Perhaps we are grown-up enough to take part in our own governance.