During the presidential and vice presidential debates in October, The Times gathered luminaries from the left and right to opine in real time about the candidates' positions and performances. On election day, we’ve invited them back one more time to leave us with some final thoughts about the campaign season that’s come to close at long last. With their decisions made and our ballots cast, here are a few of our opinionators’ last words.
It's impossible for me to vote for president without being moved by the sense of participating in history, of altering, however slightly, the course of the nation. Tuesday was no exception. My polling place in Pasadena was cheerful and bustling -- a group of students too young to vote were there on a field trip. They spoke softly and politely, not exactly reverent but clearly respectful.
One worker directed me to the right table. Another helped me sign the book next to my address. But it was the man who handed me my ballot who most seemed to belong there. He was an older black man, one eye gone white, a bit enfeebled. He'd been there all morning, and despite his physical limitations, he tended to his job seriously, dispensing ballots, thanking me for taking the time to vote.
Stanley was his name, and he looked to be in his 80s. That means he is old enough to have had trouble exercising his right to vote because of his skin. And there he was, handing ballots out at a polling place a few miles from the childhood home of Jackie Robinson, in an election to determine whether the country would reaffirm its confidence in Barack Obama.
One great thing about elections is the opportunity for people to get out of their comfort zones and engage "strangers" at their doors. For example, a spirited cadre of LGBT voters have contacted 250,000 Maine voters at the door on behalf of a marriage equality referendum. That's participatory democracy up close and personal, asking strangers to support your right to marriage. It's inspiring and worth remembering at a time of vast corruption and cynicism in our political culture.
I voted proudly for Barack Obama this sunny morning in Mandeville Canyon. I expect him to win because of superior organization, turnout and message in the battleground states. If he doesn't, many like myself will suspect the election has been tampered with. It took me only 10 minutes to vote, compared to 6 hours for voters in freezing Ohio. And it's shocking to see Ohio voters punching their ballots for Obama but seeing Romney's name come up.
Wednesday I resume my opposition to the Afghanistan war, calling for transfer of revenue from war to education and healthcare, and a renewed battle against global warming and, most of all, the tyranny of oligarchies cemented by the Citizens United court decision.
I live in Washington, D.C, which is 93% Democratic. So when we go to the polls for a presidential election, we don't vote-vote, because our individual votes don't count for anything. Our three electoral college votes were already in the tank for President Obama by the time the polling places opened at 7 this morning. In Washington we vote solely in order to make a statement or to send a message. For that reason our precinct's polling place at a neighborhood community center was jammed with long lines by 8:30 a.m. when my husband and I showed up. Statistically speaking the overwhelming majority of those people were Democrats, but most of them didn't need to be there. If 9 out of 10 of them had stayed home, Washington would have still gone for Obama even if every single Republican in the district had cast a ballot for Mitt Romney. But they were at the polls -- because they wanted to send a message that they liked President Obama, or they liked "Obamacare," or they liked Michelle Obama's White House vegetable garden, or whatever it is that gets Democrats behind Obama.
My husband and I, who are registered Republicans, also voted in order to send a message. My husband voted for the Libertarian Party candidate, Gary Johnson, in order to send the message that neither major political party would be serious about doing something about our frightening, spending-bloated $16-trillion national debt, as well as the urgent need to prevent America from turning into Greece. "If we lived in [battleground state] Ohio, I would have voted for Romney," he said. I myself voted for Romney, in order to send the message "Go Mitt!" to the candidate who has at least promised to get rid of Obamacare, with its Christmas tree of silly and expensive programs (there's one currently in operation that pays -- with our tax dollars -- inner-city grocers to stock fruits and vegetables that rot in their bins because nobody buys them), and Obamacare's potential, via those "death" and other cost-cutting panels, to gut the world's best and most sophisticated medical system.
I have two further observations about voting Tuesday in Washington. The District of Columbia does not officially have "voter ID" -- yet for the first time since we moved to the district 24 years ago, my husband and I were required to proffer our driver's licenses in order to cast our ballots, even though we have been registered in our precinct since 2002, when we bought our house. I started to wonder if liberals weren't right about voter ID -- that it works via tedium and long lines to suppress the vote, in our case the GOP vote. Second, while the Democrats in our neighborhood might have turned out at our polling place, they were doing so with considerably less enthusiasm than they had shown in 2008. Back then our entire street (except for us) was one long Obama banner, including an enormous pennant right next door. This year, no banners at all. I ran into my next-door neighbor a couple of days ago, so I said to him, "You don't have your Obama sign up." He said, "That was my wife" (he likes to ride motorcycles and shoot squirrels, which are not typical activities of male Democrats). "She doesn't like Obama so much right now," he added. At our polling place Tuesday, the wife happened to be standing right behind us in line. I have no doubt about how she voted. But I do have to wonder whether her decreased enthusiasm might be reflected in a damped-down Democratic vote all across America, especially where the votes counted.
I'm tired of the prolonged choreography of the presidential campaign. If we are still going to adhere to an electoral college process, then let's acknowledge that no more than six or eight states are in play, and dictate a six-week-long campaign in those states only. That little Colorado girl crying because she's tired of the election is crying for us all.
I'm tired of the gobs and scads and wads of money -- and now cloaked money, shadow money, dark money, pick your term -- that puts democracy on the auction block and yet hides its face from the commonweal. This is unworthy of any democracy, and a sinister model for the emerging democracies around the world to whom we want to be a model.
I'm tired of the strenuous efforts being made to keep Americans from voting, just to game the system for an advantage that the vote suppressers evidently can't win otherwise.
I'm tired of a jurisdiction-by-jurisdiction federalized voting qualification process that means that someone eligible to vote for president in Colorado may not be eligible in Arizona. Localities can decide who votes in local and state elections, but they shouldn't be the "deciders" of who votes in federal elections.
I'm tired of plutocrats masquerading as democrats.
I'm tired of Americans being valued as consumers but sidelined as citizens.
And I'm tired of the fact that the nation that invented high tech adheres to a ridiculous, anachronistic, one-day voting calendar crafted with 18th century agrarian market days in mind.
Voting Tuesday was pleasant and uneventful. My husband and I walked with our big sheepdog, Rex, to the polling station around 9:30 a.m. I guess we really beat the morning rush because there was no line whatsoever. The only people in the room other than the poll workers were a handful of senior citizens and a guy with falling-down pants and pungent body odor who had parked his guitar by the door and was worrying aloud about someone stealing it while he cast his ballot.
Rex is 12 1/2 and this is his fourth presidential election and his second time accompanying me into the voting booth. He'd been threatening to vote for Roseanne Barr, who, along with running mate Cindy Sheehan, is on the California ballot as a presidential candidate on the Peace and Freedom ticket, but I finally talked him out of it. I mean, you don't want to be like those liberals who cost Al Gore the election in 2000 because they voted for Ralph Nader. I have some friends like that and even 12 years later they're so guilt-ridden that if you mention polar bears or any cold weather animal, they get these despairing looks on their faces and immediately change the subject.
The whole voting transaction took less than 5 minutes. We breezed out as easily as we'd breezed in. Outside, there were no exit pollsters waiting with clipboards, no attorneys ready to pounce in case the voting machines turned out to be owned by Roger Ailes, no TV news crews hoping to catch footage of proud, stoic voters lining up for hours like immigrants awaiting medical exams on Ellis Island. Monday, of course, it had been aberrantly hot (at one point my car thermometer displayed 101 degrees while the car was actually moving, not after being parked in a hot lot; I kid you not!) and Tuesday was shaping up to be unseasonably warm again. As we walked home, it struck me that if Superstorm Sandy bore the distinct imprimatur of climate change and therefore (according to some analysts) threatened to tip the scales in favor of President Obama, the fact that here in Southern California the end of daylight saving time was met with 95-plus-degree heat might clinch the deal. Not that there's a whole lot of suspense in California around the presidential race. We don't know who will win the national election, but we're pretty sure who will win here (hence the rather dull scene at the polls?)
On the other hand, maybe Roseanne will really turn this thing around.
Follow Alexandra Le Tellier on Twitter @alexletellier