Sunday, November 9, 2008

An American moment in my home county...

Having made my choices several weeks ago, I had a little free time last Tuesday. I took a drive, with no portfolio, a full tank of gas, a few opinions about what I'd find, and an agenda summed up by one word. Curiosity.

I've lived in places where my neighbors feared to vote or didn't care to vote, and sometimes I've shared both emotions. At the end of our media-fueled year of election hype (National Public Radio actually started a countdown. "365 days until the vote," said one anchor last November.), I wanted to see if my neighbors were excited, enraged or even engaged. Here is what I found:

North of town, cars were parked out on the highway at the Trimble fire station. No visible lines, but the north part of La Plata county showed up for this one. Campaign signage in the area split about 60% - 40% Obama, and a little more evenly balanced for our local candidates.

Downtown Durango felt Demo blue, and "I Voted''stickers adorned passersby. Democratic campaign workers worked the residential streets. I didn't see any evidence of a similar 'get out our vote' effort from Republicans. A couple of businesses were giving away beer or coffee for having voted, a practice I later learned is illegal in our state. Unswayed by appeals or incentives, I hit the road again.

Campaign signs supporting Democrats had been knocked down south of town, but they were back in place. The Sunnyside precinct was quiet, and signage swung pro-McCain. Toward Ignacio, more McCain along the way, then a quiet and almost sign-free home-town of our Southern Ute neighbors. Back toward Bayfield, and a definite mix of opinions in the town center. No crowds, but signs of high interest adorned the streets near the precicnt. North to Vallecito and on the home stretch I passed signs that pointed to the national and local polling results published the next day.

Here it is, gleaned from my observations and our local newspapers:

Overall, my county came out. Between early, mail-in, and precinct totals, almost 3/4 of us voted. We liked change a little better than some, a little less than some, of the rest of the country. However, local politicians largely stood on their own popularity. We're not a county of straight ticket voters.

Early voters accounted for approximately 60% of Colorado's vote. Locally and state-wide, people who wanted to vote could vote, without the hours-long lines that plagued some states on election day.

Though some didn't appreciate the repeated visits from campaign workers (you know who you are, and as a very private person myself, I don't disagree), 'get out the vote' efforts work, and are here to stay. I suggest a window sign stating that your vote has been cast, and commitment from campaigns to honor such signs. Locally, it just might work.

Reportedly, some campaign signs were defaced, and others knocked down, but I saw none of this in my travels. Mostly, we leave our neighbor's opinions standing, and stay pretty civil as we prepare to live next to each other no matter which way political winds blow us.

Speaking of which, now that we've had a chance to vote, and then enjoy a few free (or bought-and-paid-for) beverages, I encourage sharing your vision with the incoming Obama administration. They asked for it, and now they deserve to hear from all of us. If all this just gets you started, you can join a conversation about the American Dream at Bill Moyer's Journal, or head down to your favorite local hang-out and talk to your neighbors, over a cold or hot something.

If you're just about sick of it all - have another beverage, pat yourself on the back, and rejoin the conversation whenever you're ready. It's less than 4 years until we get to do this again, but I'm leaving the counting to someone else.
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