Closeup of a Willamette white oak leaf among leaf litter in a forest floor

T-minus seven days

Published 2018-10-31

I voted in the first election I was eligible to vote in: the 1990 primary. I don’t remember who or what I voted for. Straight Democratic ticket probably. I remember where I voted, however: in the Fellowship Hall (aka basement) of the Church of Christ at 56th and Vine streets, in Lincoln Nebraska. Voting in church basements was my ritual thereafter about twice a year for six years. I never waited more than a few minutes in a line before voting, and no one ever gave me any grief about my right to vote, and I always lived near to a church basement. Voting might not have been so easy if I lived without a permanent address on an Indian reservation in North Dakota forty miles from a church basement. Which, in a manner of speaking, for a while I did.

Because I spent my twenties living out of a suitcase I missed a few elections. My voter registration was always in Nebraska (before 1995) or Oregon (thereafter) but I never voted with an absentee ballot. I missed the 1994 election (I was living in Wyoming…) and the 2006 election (…China). I voted in Oregon for the 1998 general election despite living temporarily in California, but I didn’t vote with an absentee ballot. I voted by mail.

Every Oregon voter votes by mail. We don’t have polling places any more. Voting by mail is a highly civilized way to vote. I don’t worry that my vote will be stolen or hacked, or the machine will malfunction, or the chads will hang, or the poll workers will refuse to let me vote. I can vote in the office, or at the kitchen table, or in a hospital bed. I can vote on a weekend or during my lunch break. If I come across a ballot measure or candidate I don’t know, I can do some research. It’s a take-home, open-book test.

Voting in a church basement requires homework. You have to bring a cheatsheet with you. It requires leaving work early. It requires being able to drive to the church and walk down the stairs into the basement. If those things aren’t possible, I have to make extra arrangements. Why should I have to make extra arrangements? If the state can mail absentee ballots to someone who asks extra nice, why can’t it mail regular ballots to everyone?

November 1996 was the last time I voted in a church basement (Central Presbyterian at 15th and Ferry in Eugene Oregon). I voted for Bob Dole! I kind of felt bad for Bob Dole. Bob Dole would have been an OK president, probably, but everyone 100% knew Clinton would win. So either way I was going to get a president I could live with. I miss square Republicans like Bob Dole. Bob Dole wasn’t the only Republican I ever voted for, despite having been a lifelong Democrat. For example I voted for Kay Orr for re-election as the Governor of Nebraska in 1990. Plus I liked Ben Nelson. It was a win-win election, just like the 1996 presidential election.

If this were any other year I might feel the same way about the 2018 Oregon Governor’s race. I don’t care for the way Phil Knight just tossed a few million into Beuhler’s cup, as if he can just buy himself an election outright. So just to spite Phil Knight I voted (and campaigned) for Kate Brown. Still, Beuhler would probably be OK as a governor I guess. He’s kind of square; he calls himself “moderate.” But this year I’m not picking battles. I won’t risk letting a single Republican through. Republicans this year are full of drama and rage and hysteria and so many lies, like drunken weepy contestants on a Reality TV show. The Republican brand in 2018 is the opposite of square, but it somehow passed clean through “cool” too. (Democrats try too hard to be “cool” — all that mugging with celebrities, ugh just cut it out. I want my public servants to be boring.) Republicans used to be square, that was like 95% of their appeal to me. But square dudes don’t lie this much. And really, nonstop lying just kills the whole brand. How can I be sure Knute Beuhler will govern as a “moderate?” You are known by the company you keep, Knute.

Listen: until recently politics was kind of a spectator sport for me. It was Team Red then Team Blue trading the ball. I was always on Team Blue but sometimes Team Red was in possession and eh, life goes on and Knute seems like a square dude right? But there are people for whom politics never was a spectator sport. Ironically those people are often the ones who have to wait in long lines to vote on machines that might be hacked. The wrong politics might take away their health care or marriage or kids or citizenship status or due process rights. The list of people subject to the “wrong politics” grows ever closer to Boring White Dude With a Mortgage (aka me). For starters I’m not wealthy enough to insulate myself from damage to Obamacare. And maybe, just maybe, now that I’m closing in on 50 I’m starting to care a little more about people who aren’t boring or white or dudes; who are closer to losing more than Obamacare. So this is ever less a spectator sport for all of us. First they came for…

Anyway, T-minus seven days now. Have you voted yet? Will you?

Addendum 2020-10-17

In reposting this I realized I only voted maybe a dozen times in church basements, which is a stupid and broken way to run a democracy in the 21st century…and yet I have such warm nostalgic feelings for it? This is a textbook case of “I miss this dog toilet” wherein old people nostalgize about the most stupid and broken stuff:

Old people miss the dog toilet that used to be under this cool new playground.