Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | November 4, 2008

Waiting to exhale

I’m so relieved that it’s finally Election Day – I don’t think I could have lasted much longer. Just a few more hours until the votes are counted, the results are revealed, and I’ll finally be able to exhale. Will it be a sigh of relief or of disappointment?

American Prospect columnist Courtney Martin captured my feelings perfectly in a piece she wrote a few weeks ago for the Christian Science Monitor the about the presidential election: “Like so many Americans, I feel as though I am holding my breath. … There is part of me, I admit, that is fearful and self-focused and, worst of all, cynical. … But there is another part of me that is courageous and compassionate and, best of all, idealistic. … As Nov. 4 nears, I feel heavy with internal struggle and dangerous anticipation.”

Like Martin, I closely followed my preferred presidential candidate through a long, tight and dramatic primary campaign and a nasty general election campaign that kept both my interest and my blood pressure at peak levels. The intensity this election year is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.

As always, I’ve written about the issues and the candidates. But this election season was different for two reasons: I did my first phone banking for a candidate and had my first yard sign skirmish.

Last week, someone twice tried to place a Yes on Prop 8 yard sign in our front yard. My son caught the perpetrator the first time, and he told the kid that the Yes on Prop 8 yard sign was not welcome on our property. The next morning, when I got up near dawn to walk the dog, I found a Yes on Prop 8 yard sign in our yard.

Of course, the Yes on Prop 8 sign didn’t see the light of day. Instead, it saw the inside of our trash can. This person’s efforts to impose his voice using our property reduced the number of Yes on Prop 8 yard signs in visible to the general public. That’s not all. His efforts also caused me to get three No on Prop 8 yard signs – two are planted in the front yard and one rests in the front window where it can’t be stolen – and to make a cash donation to the No on Prop 8 effort when I picked up the signs from the downtown Morgan Hill Democratic Party office.

All of which causes me to wonder: Which is worse, trying to silence someone’s voice by stealing a yard sign, or trying to impose your voice over another’s by planting a clearly unwanted yard sign on their property?

This little skirmish demonstrates that tensions are high because a lot is hanging in the balance today. The candidates and issues – from the White House to local races and measures – will dramatically affect all of our lives.

But the prospect of persuading our fellow citizens is behind us now. The time for feverish campaigning and obsessive poll watching is over. We can only vote and await the results.

Which reminds me: Have you voted today? If you are registered, be sure to cast a ballot before the polls close at 8 p.m. You can find your polling place by visiting the Smart Voter web site.

If you are eligible to vote but are not a registered voter, shame on you. Not only did you miss your chance to participate in this historic election, you also diminish any claims you might try to make to being patriotic.

If you can’t be bothered to register and vote, you cannot claim to be a patriot or claim to honor the sacrifices of those who fought, bled and died for this country and those who worked to secure voting rights for women and minorities. The Rev. Theodore Hesburgh was right when he called voting a “civic sacrament.”

The 2008 general election civic sacrament is almost behind us. And as much as this historic political season has captivated me, and despite the deeply ingrained nature of my political junkie status, I’m ready for a break. I’ll keep a close eye on election returns tonight and then – absent any 2000-style election night drama – will happily move to a calmer, less-intense winter. At least for a few weeks.

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