11.4.18 Midterms

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A large banner saying “VOTE” in front of the Portland Art Museum this afternoon.

“I’m going crazy about these midterms. I can’t wait for these next few days to be over” is how I’ve started conversations with about six or eight people this last week. This sounds sociopathic but I’m an external processor, which is a plausibly sciency sounding way to describe how I need to talk things out with others to know what I think (I didn’t make it up, but it still could be bullshit, I guess). It’s led to lots of other conversations:

  • “Ugh. Yes.”
  • “What were you doing on the last Election night? It seems like everybody has a bad story.”
  • “What’s going to happen is going to happen. There’s not really a “good” result and a “bad” result.”
  • “Me too. I keep reading and refreshing 538.”
  • “You’ve done your part, now your focus can go back to your lived life.”

All of which are good and valid responses, fine. What I really want is for somebody to hear the anxiety in my voice and gently show me that I’ve completely misread the course of world history for the last two years, that I’ve made all a big mistake, a hallucination I created myself and that there’s nothing to be worried about. In the absence of that, I’ll share and take comfort in what I can.
On Saturday, I did something about it. Earlier this week, a friend, Z, texted me if I had voted. I texted her that I was walking it over, then she replied by asking if I would be willing to text friends to turn out the vote, and I didn’t reply back because the idea made me uncomfortable, and I felt ashamed for feeling uncomfortable. She wasn’t even asking me to text strangers, just my own friends and network. Still I struggled with the idea of asking.
Later in the week, when another friend that works in state government asked if anyone wanted to join him in canvassing in Hood River, I knew that something was calling me out of my comfort zone, and I was going to feel bad if I didn’t listen to that voice. I texted Z:
I’ve never canvassed before, and I was nervous about it. We showed up to the campaign office of the state representative we were knocking on doors for. The past two years have been a tremendous political education for the entire country, which is so far the most positive effect of the 2016 election, and hopefully one that lasts. People who never followed politics before cannot escape it, people who were not that engaged are learning about all kinds of mechanisms like the Supreme Court nomination process, gerrymandering, and census manipulation, other people who have always participated in the process are starting to actively think about ways to reform and change the rules to respond to the ways that conservative politicians have already changed them. For me, it’s moved me to donate and try out directly participating in a way that no other election has yet.
This is a pretty long winded way of saying that my schema for what a campaign office looks like was a little more Aaron Sorkiny than the strip mall office I arrived at.
A very earnest and handsome education lobbyist oriented me, and then we were off to door knock. After all of the building up I had done in my head, we mostly hung flyers on doorknobs, and only had about five or six conversations with people the whole afternoon. But those conversations felt great, and even though its very late in the election season, it gave me a real window into how approachable the whole process is, and what a powerful tool and channel for community building it can be.
I’m going to be watching the results on Tuesday night, and I 100% will be on edge until the results are in, not just here in Oregon, but also in Texas, in Kentucky, in Arizona, in Florida, in Georgia. But I feel really good about having taken a big step towards reclaiming power for myself, and I’m already excited to get involved earlier for a candidate I feel passionately about in 2020.

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