HELLO FROM EAU CLAIRE, WISCONSIN:

HELLO FROM EAU CLAIRE, WISCONSIN - where the only thing more crooked than the Chippewa River are some of the former members of the board of education.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

AN HISTORIC DAY FOR AMERICA AND AMERICAN VOTERS -- AND I WAS THERE!


There is such an electricity in the air today! I couldn't help but find myself back at Obama headquarters this morning even though my right knee was still in bad shape from yesterday's foray. The first person I saw when I walked in the office was Ginny Jordan, who taught Home Economics in a room just down the hall from mine! She, too, got out of teaching and is working as a dietician.

I spent the first hour on the phone banks, calling people to remind them to vote. I was given a script to follow but I "went rogue" and changed it a bit to truly represent myself: "Hi, this is Larry Heagle, an independent voter, calling from the Eau Claire Democratic Office --"

Then the staff asked me to report to a voting site at a church behind Delong Middle School, where I taught for a number of years, to work as an Election Monitor. I found the location and joined Liz, another worker, in the chore of checking off registered Democrats as they voted.

I could tell that the election official seated directly in front of me (they wouldn't allow us to sit) was a Republican by his attitude. Before I arrived he had insisted that we had to be at least six feet away from the voting check in station that we were to monitor, thus effectively eliminating any chance of us to hear the names of those signing in to vote and rendering us useless.

Fortunately, the Dem office sent out an attorney who got that squared away. but now we were forced to continually bother him for the names we had missed whenever there was a lull in arriving voters. This irritated him greatly, but he had brought it on himself.

The woman election official at the end of the table next to him asked him why we were present and he snapped "Voter flushing!" She giggled a bit at this, to which he said: "I'm serious. They want to know who hasn't voted so that around mid afternoon they can get on the phone and "flush" those absent voters out and get them to the poll."

I said nothing but thought to myself: "He is familiar with this tactic because he has used it in the past." The Republicans don't want everybody to come out and vote. It's not good for their candidate. Yesterday they even admitted it on television.

Unfortunately, the standing around for so long led me to an early retreat as an Election Monitor. My already over-extended right knee started barking at me and I had to give it up. It's just as well because this polling station draws a lot of Republicans and I was becoming depressed.

I did take time, before returning home, to go to Starbucks for my free cup of coffee that they had advertised for anyone who votes.

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I received the following e mail from my pal Stan Johnson, one of those damn "liberal" attorneys from Madison, Wisconsin, who years ago gave me a great bumper sticker that reads: "Have you slapped a Republican Today?" Actually, Stan gave me two. One I put up (pictured above) on my office fridge and the other I put on the rear bumper of my now long gone 1965 Oldsmobile '98 -- such irony!

Any way, I digress. Here is the beautiful e mail I received:

I Didn't Vote For Obama Today

November 4, 2008, 9:37AM

I have a confession to make.

I did not vote for Barack Obama today.

I've openly supported Obama since March. But I didn't vote for him today.

I wanted to vote for Ronald Woods. He was my algebra teacher at Clark Junior High in East St. Louis, IL. He died 15 years ago when his truck skidded head-first into a utility pole. He spent many a day teaching us many things besides the Pythagorean Theorem. He taught us about Medgar Evers, Ralph Abernathy, John Lewis and many other civil rights figures who get lost in the shadow cast by Martin Luther King, Jr.

But I didn't vote for Mr. Woods.

I wanted to vote for Willie Mae Cross. She owned and operated Crossroads Preparatory Academy for almost 30 years, educating and empowering thousands of kids before her death in 2003. I was her first student. She gave me my first job, teaching chess and math concepts to kids in grades K-4 in her summer program. She was always there for advice, cheer and consolation. Ms. Cross, in her own way, taught me more about walking in faith than anyone else I ever knew.

But I didn't vote for Ms. Cross.

I wanted to vote for Arthur Mells Jackson, Sr. and Jr. Jackson Senior was a Latin professor. He has a gifted school named for him in my hometown. Jackson Junior was the pre-eminent physician in my hometown for over 30 years. He has a heliport named for him at a hospital in my hometown. They were my great-grandfather and great-uncle, respectively.

But I didn't vote for Prof. Jackson or Dr. Jackson.

I wanted to vote for A.B. Palmer. She was a leading civil rights figure in Shreveport, Louisiana, where my mother grew up and where I still have dozens of family members. She was a strong-willed woman who earned the grudging respect of the town's leaders because she never, ever backed down from anyone and always gave better than she got. She lived to the ripe old age of 99, and has a community center named for her in Shreveport.

But I didn't vote for Mrs. Palmer.

I wanted to vote for these people, who did not live to see a day where a Black man would appear on their ballots on a crisp November morning.

In the end, though, I realized that I could not vote for them any more than I could vote for Obama himself.

So who did I vote for?

No one.

I didn't vote. Not for President, anyway.

Oh, I went to the voting booth. I signed, was given my stub, and was walked over to a voting machine. I cast votes for statewide races and a state referendum on water and sewer improvements.

I stood there, and I thought about all of these people, who influenced my life so greatly. But I didn't vote for who would be the 44th President of the United States.

When my ballot was complete, except for the top line, I finally decided who I was going to vote for - and then decided to let him vote for me. I reached down, picked him up, and told him to find Obama's name on the screen and touch it.

And so it came to pass that Alexander Reed, age 5, read the voting screen, found the right candidate, touched his name, and actually cast a vote for Barack Obama and Joe Biden.

Oh, the vote will be recorded as mine. But I didn't cast it.

Then again, the person who actually pressed the Obama box and the red "vote" button was the person I was really voting for all along.

It made the months of donating, phonebanking, canvassing, door hanger distributing, sign posting, blogging, arguing and persuading so much sweeter.

So, no, I didn't vote for Barack Obama. I voted for a boy who now has every reason to believe he, too, can grow up to be anything he wants...even President.

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