This is part 3 of my account on Exit Polling in the inner city of Milwaukee. Part 1 is here. Part 2 is here.
All in all, it was a day of fresh perspectives, and that’s what made it all so enlightening. A month ago, I would have never imagined being in that polling place on that Election Day, but being there gave me eyes to see what I don’t normally see – poverty in America, and the palpable hope that an election might somehow alleviate it. “Gotta get him outta there,” was the basic refrain I heard more than one time during the day, no doubt referring to Mr. Walker.
I saw poverty in different places that day, on my surveys, for instance, and certainly in the extremely overweight young gal who sat across from me all day serving as a greeter, helping voters discern which precinct they were in. During a lull, a caring teacher from the school took time to speak with this gal to assess and try to help her daughter who attended there. What I remember overhearing…was sad.
But fresh perspective came to me again when Larry walked into the school. Last time in Madison I was alone the whole day, and I certainly didn’t expect any company this year, but long about 10 a.m. a friendly 60ish-year-old man showed up with the same Edison Research lanyard I was wearing. He was a supervisor making rounds named Larry Thomas, and we hit it off right away, especially when he pitched in to help from the get-go. When we had a chance to catch our breath and chat, we had great rapport, and he came to visit me again later in the day.
And it was that afternoon when Larry, a black man, said something I appreciated. It was about our President, whom Larry referred to simply as “Barack.” Now I, of course, like everyone else, have a perspective on Mr. Obama. For instance, I believe he hurt our country deeply when he announced his support of gay marriage. And his pro-choice stance is completely incomprehensible to me, at least for one who proclaims himself a Christian. But I do pray God’s blessings on him every day, or most every day, I’m guessing more than many of his supporters do.
But that day brought fresh perspective again when Larry began to wax eloquent about how he has seen older black men walk into the voting booth differently these days…with their heads held high, because after years, decades, yea, centuries of oppression, a fellow black man holds the highest office in the land. And though overall I was disappointed when the election of 2008 concluded, I gladly remember that I too felt a surge of pride in our country when Mr. Obama was elected. And in that moment, talking to Larry on Election Day in the inner city of Milwaukee, I was reminded of that pride. Admittedly, I couldn’t help but wish that it was a black man with vastly different policies, but I had renewed appreciation for all that my new friend was saying.
It came time for him to move on; we had a warm goodbye, exchanging cell numbers and email addresses, and I invited him to Edgewood, which he seemed quite open to. Larry’s a Milwaukee resident – join me in praying that he might make the drive some weekend.
My day concluded around 8:30 that evening when leaving Westside Academy One, I called in the final vote totals to Edison Research. The two precincts showed incredible unity with Mary Burke taking over 95% of the vote. She had clearly won the battle of Milwaukee, but before too long, she would lose the war for Wisconsin.
As for me, I had a fine chance to participate in democracy, and to remember afresh that though our country seems to be heading down so many wrong directions today, not all is bad. Racism may not be dead, but it’s been dealt a serious blow.