Signs of the Times

November 14, 2008

I’m waiting for numbers. As in how my Portland precinct voted in the presidential election. Only county-by-county totals are available, though I know Barack Obama’s tally will be staggering. During the campaign, I saw only one John McCain sign in the neighborhood, and it was homemade. Obama signs, including this one in my yard, spread like dandelions. And nobody is taking them down.

Compare that to Smyrna, Georgia, the suburban Atlanta city where my daughter lives. Erin told me today that her neighborhood had not a single Obama sign. That makes her volunteer work for him all the more impressive.

No surprise that my county, Multnomah, was an Obama stronghold. The final tally was 77 to 21 percent. Voter turnout was a hair under 84 percent, a point lower than in 2004, but an increase in registration bumped up the total ballots cast by nearly four hundred.

John Kerry won the county in 2004 with 72 percent of the vote. In my precinct, the percentage was 75. The precinct turnout was 92 percent out of 2,335 registered voters. George Bush received 484 votes, and I’m guessing McCain didn’t break 350. Here’s a prediction: Obama topped 80 percent in my precinct. Stay tuned for the update.

Transcending the numbers is a fascinating but sad truth: there was — and is — little conversation between the Obama and McCain camps in Portland, Smyrna, or anywhere else. We generally stick to our like-minded brethren and chatter away because it’s comfortable. Rarely do we engage the other side, avoiding confrontation or engagement in futile acts.

One encouraging anecdotal development: Erin knows some hardcore GOPers who are getting comfortable with an Obama presidency. Not with downtrodden resignation but buying into the idea that he can lead us out of an epic mess, philosophical disagreements aside. Maybe Obama’s biggest challenge isn’t the economy but restoring civil give-and-take between victors and vanquished.

I miss the long-lost days when arguing politics was fun and enlightening.