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On Election Night, I "partied" with Barack Obama and his 10,000-plus "ground game" volunteers plus others at the McCormick Place Convention Center.
Yes I did.
How did I get there? Last-minute dumb luck and five Obama for America Get Out the Vote trips on a Democratic Party of Oak Park bus and van to two battleground states in one month. With other volunteers, I registered voters and got out the early vote in Dubuque, Cedar Rapids, Milwaukee and Racine.
To double up the odds of a Paul Ryan congressional unseating and vice presidential defeat, not to mention helping Senate hopeful Tammy Baldwin get elected, I went to Racine twice.
Meanwhile, in some Republican yards, Ryan was getting a political twofer: a sign promoting him for Congress and, next to it, a really big one promoting the Romney/Ryan ticket.
That was surreal.
On Election Day, with my 22-year-old son, Colin, and two other loyal local Dems, I traveled in a late-model van back to Racine — all fired up and ready to go.
For me, it was a clear choice.
So on that chilly, overcast Tuesday in Racine, from a local union hall, we stepped into a compact, middle-class neighborhood. In the drizzle, my oldest son and I knocked on the doors of a diverse mix of blue-collar folks, all of whom had already voted, needed info to vote, or weren't home.
At a rectory, we chatted up a socially active, pro-life nun who was undecided, and still praying for political guidance. When we parted ways, she touched my arm and told me how I might have been a sign sent to her from a higher source.
Red to blue? I'll take it.
On our second round of addresses, in an unincorporated, lower-income area of this "union town" on Lake Michigan, a bespectacled, bald-headed vet, a Democrat, regaled us with a delightful anti-Romney rant. He was speaking from an open, second-floor window while on the first floor, through a window pane, we saw his elderly, house-bound dad laughing and pointing up.
When the former military medic in Afghanistan wanted to thank us for our civic service that day, we smiled and thanked him for his.
Finally, following a day that began in the dark, by 8 p.m., oh what a night it became.
In our rag-tag canvassing clothes, and fresh from the trenches of Racine, we arrived at McCormick Place Convention Center, ready to bring this election season home.
Because I am a person with a visual disability, Colin and I were led to a front-and-center, elevated platform. It was one of the best seats in the house. Perched there with us were about 20 other dedicated ground-game players, all of whom were elderly and/or individuals in wheelchairs.
Then it started.
Bam. Iowa and Wisconsin went blue. I jumped for joy.
Soon thereafter, 10,000 American mini-flags wildly waved as we whooped and hollered when pundits reported that Obama took Ohio, Virginia, Nevada, and so forth.
At 12:35 a.m., wobbly legged and blurry eyed, we watched newly re-elected President Obama take the podium. It was worth the wait.
Through it all, until about 2 a.m., a young African-American woman stood nearby with her mobility-impaired dad. As the red, white and blue confetti accompanied the celebration and elevated this historic moment, my seminal moment arrived: Being flanked by the future with my 22-year-old son and a 20-something woman who spent the evening giving me high fives.
Yes, now I do know what democracy looks like. It's them, and it's all of us. Four years from now, we'll be on the bus to bring in the vote for our first female president. No worries. I'll save you a seat.
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