My election experience this year has been, as I'm sure it was for many, profoundly shaped by my experience in 2004. Picture it: I was a feisty, empowered undergrad at U of O, fully invested in the political process for the first time as an intern with the New Voters Project. During the nine months leading up to the election, we registered record numbers on the UO campus and got out the vote in style, and in the extremely liberal confines of Eugene, Oregon we were pretty convinced it was in the bag.
Up to the very last minute, I was driving around in "Get out the vote vans" picking up ballots from single moms in the suburbs who had written Bush in pencil, changed to Kerry with pen. When the results came in it struck me that "the unthinkable" was happening. I sobbed my eyes out watching Kerry's concession speech from a projector in my "Political Ideologies" class. I mourned and drank and did nothing. The final injury, the salt on this immense and mind-blowing wound, was that after all the voter reg that I had busted my ass for, my personal vote was not counted. About a week after the election, I received notification from the Lane County elections office that the signature on my ballot didn't match that on my registration form, could I please resign and submit? But of course it was too late.
Notions of conspiracy aside, this was the final straw in the devastation of my faith in the state of American democracy. Now with two useless college degrees and a desk job in Portland, I've descended into pseudo-anarchist outside-living. My faith has not been returned by this election cycle, and I don't know if it ever will, but Obama is something different. I haven't been able to bring myself to do any volunteering, canvassing, phone banking this time around, even though I believe in Obama so much as a candidate. It's just that after my 2004 experience, I couldn't convince myself that anything I did could actually affect the outcome of such a flawed and corrupt process. Barack Obama gives me the hope that in the years to come I'll have a reason to believe again. My ballot is in and I'm waiting and hoping right along with you.