I voted. And it didn’t really matter to anyone but me.

Posted on
Nov 8, 2012
Posted in: Random Musings

It is nearly midnight, the day after the U.S. elections.

The results were not, in my opinion at least, very shocking. Nate Silver correctly predicted how each state would vote – even the swing states. The rest went as they always did: much of the middle and the south were red; the entire left coast went blue, as did the Northeast.

Sometimes, life in this big, industrious land-of-opportunity can be quite predictable. It leaves you few suprises. And you find yourself feeling just a little bit like a caricature.

We are presently in the wee town of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. I have no photos yet, but it is lovely. We arrived just before a nor’easter; outside my hotel room window, the wind is whipping through empty streets, and snow is falling.

Earlier, as I drove Rand’s colleagues through the winding roads of the city center, past brick buildings and tiny shops with signs out front lettered in gold, someone noted that the northeast looked exactly as they had imagined.

Indeed, New England does not disappoint. It delivers on the promises made to us in movies and on TV.  There are lighthouses and fishing boats, cobblestone streets and old churches with tall, white steeples. There are foggy harbors and chilly winds, and warm cafes selling lobster rolls.

There are people here who sound just like the Kennedys. Hell, there are people here who are the Kennedys.

And there is something that, as a Pacific Northwesterner – is unfamiliar to me. It’s a kind of formality – a sort of strange regality – that hangs in the air. As crazy as it sounds, I think this part of the country feels this way because it’s older. It’s established and proper. I’ve seen men wearing dinner jackets.

My beloved hometown, by comparison, feels a bit like the long-haired, guitar-playing stoner. Which reminds me – yesterday in addition to going for Obama, Washington state also voted to legalize marijuana.

Cover of Wednesday’s Boston Globe. Apparently “2d” is an acceptable abbreviation for “second” and not a typo.

I’m sure you’re thinking that’s no big deal – lots of states have legalized medical marijuana, right? And you’d be absolutely right. But I’m not talking about medical marijuana. No. Last night, my home state voted to legalize recreational marijuana.

Oh, and gay marriage, too. Apparently the liberal little neighborhood in which we live became a dance party.

It makes me wonder; does our damp little corner of America, with its mild winters and scores of hipsters dancing in the streets, meet our tourists’ expectations, just as New Hampshire met ours? Do they see us walking down the street in our plaid shirts, warming our hands on our coffee cups, occasionally pushing our rain-streaked glasses further up on our noses? Do they hear us prattling on about local, sustainable, organicly-grown food as though there is no other topic on the planet more interesting?

And when they undoubtedly catch us living up to all those cliches, are they not at all suprised?

I know we’re complex – every single one of us. I know we aren’t all walking cliches. No one can predict our actions – we can’t even predict how we’re going to behave. When I was a teenager, I certainly couldn’t have imagined that I’d pick the lifelong running mate that I did.

His poll ratings ARE impressive.

But once every four years, the vast majority of us tend to live up to our stereotypes. Most of us fall into one box or the other, and even if we don’t, the people around us do. Our street or our neighborhood will go one way or the other. And if I’m to be really honest, I have to acknowledge that all the pains I take to get our absentee ballots in before our next trip doesn’t make a lick of difference.

That one ballot I put in the mail doesn’t change the outcome of things. It won’t make or break an election, and never has. Things do not come down to one vote. Not in my town. Not anywhere, really.

But I still keep doing it. Because it makes me feel like I’m a part of everything. It makes me feel like I’m  part of the joy, or part of the disappoint, or even part of the indifference.

It makes me feel like I’m out on the street, dancing with my neighbors*, even when I’m on the other side of the country.

*Or I might just be yelling at them to keep it down. But you get my point.

Leave a Comment

  • Mark

    Why does “His poll ratings ARE impressive” sound innocently and accidentally dirty…. 🙂 Awesome post as always. Hugs from California where we apparently love our taxes and want even more of them…sigh….

  • KillarneyT

    I am so excited that you are in Portsmouth, NH! That’s my neck of the woods (I work right down the street). Can’t wait to read the forthcoming posts! BTW, Ri Ra Irish Pub is a fun place to eat at night…

  • It was surreal watching the election coverage from Shanghai. We mailed in our ballots weeks ago and missed seeing all the political ads, so it never felt very real. And then I’m watching CNN here at noon and it’s 11pm election night there and instead of staying up late to find out the results I am enjoying a leisurely lunch. Again, surreal. And extremely proud to be an American, even a stereotyped one.

  • I really enjoyed this post because I was getting tired of all the preachy people on facebook talking about how we all need to vote and every vote matters. I like voting, but I’m a lot more pessimistic about it. I’m a super liberal northeasterner transplanted to one of those uber-conservative southern states. With that grand tradition of the electoral college still in place, my vote literally doesn’t make a difference.

    Also, love your take on New Englanders. I’m actually surprised you haven’t run into any plaid-wearing, coffee-toting, organic-loving people in Portsmouth yet.

  • Abby

    Oooh, Geraldine! Ye of little faith! Did you not watch Florida this year? Imagine if those deciding few votes hadn’t shown up to the polls, because they assumed it wouldn’t matter…

    PS Portsmouth is the best. Breaking New Grounds coffee and THE FRIENDLY TOAST (get something with whipped cream. just. do. it.) Flatbread Pizza. Lobster. Oh, the deliciousness!

    Born and Raised NH Girl

    • Yes! And a Moe’s, just for good measure.

  • Portsmouth is a little like a Kennedy and a Seattleite had a love child who smokes clove cigarettes. 😀 I’m so glad you like my hometown.

  • I tried to have my absentee ballot sent in the mail but it never showed up :(… great post by the way! It’s true that one vote doesn’t change the election, but it does matter in its own small way.

  • Rana

    Your vote might not matter for presidential races but it sure as hell does matter for state and local matters, especially on ballot measures. And often, the local elections are the ones that will most effect you. Think about property transfer taxes or library funding measures, those things often come down to just thousands of people. Gay marriage ballot measures are a really good example of this. They are often extremely close votes and you voting yes or no makes an absolutely huge difference in people’s lives.

  • People died for the right to vote, so we vote. If we don’t vote, we can’t complain about the outcome.of the election. And yes, in presidential elections, if we live in a deep blue or a deep red state, it might feel as though it doesn’t matter if we vote, but I was feeling slightly nauseous there when it looked like Obama might win the electoral college, but not the popular vote, so thanks for voting anyway. I think the GOP might have shot itself in the foot in states like mine, Pennsylvania, where the Republican governor,legislature and election head tried to use legislation to suppress Democratic votes. There was a backlash, and Democratic voter turnout was higher than in 2008! First time votees were applauded at the polls. I worked as an attorney poll watcher. I was assigned to a Philadelphia electoral ward where a diverse collection of neighbors of different races, religions and ethnicities greeted eachother warmly and voted http://www.boomeresque.com/election-day-in-the-usa-what-could-go-wrong/

  • Kate A.

    I left my Rhode Island home for Pennsylvania recently. I really miss that New England feel — that one you can’t quite put your finger on — but reminds you of history and makes you feel proud at the same time. Lovely post. Enjoy the ‘lobstah’ (new England equivalent of lobster)!

  • Awesome post. Funny enough, we’re living in CT right now but we’re registered Washington voters (husband is military). This was our very first time voting and we were more excited about the marijuana and gay marriage amendments than the presidential election, for the very reasons that you stated. We just felt like our vote had a bigger impact at the state level than at the national level. Glad you guys are enjoying New England!

  • I love your expression “lifelong running mate.” So poetic and apropos!

  • Kim

    But your vote DOES matter because if you stopped, and other people stopped, then things could get ugly. But I know what you mean about feeling that voting unites us- it does. Makes me a little weepy even.

  • Rachel

    I have a dear friend from Tacoma Washington, and we met 10 years ago when he came out to Washington DC for college. I grew up on the East Coast and always used to puzzle over his very distinctly different-from-us style. Even now, a decade later still living in DC, his clothes are the same. He always wears an open flannel with a quirky t-shirt underneath, maybe an obscure band shirt or a clever joke or maybe just a superman logo.

    Then last year I flew into Sea-Tac for the first time. When I was getting my bags I realized that EVERYONE WAS DRESSED EXACTLY LIKE HIM. It was a delightful moment, suddenly I had found his context. I walked around Seattle and yes, it met my “East Coastiner” expectations exactly. So did the Tacoma pine trees with Rainier in the distance. The first Starbucks kinda disappointed, but Pike’s Place was way more fun than expected.

    That same friend is planning a January trip to visit me in my new Hawaii home. I wonder if I should warn him not to pack any flannels.

  • Jennifer Daly

    In our local paper today was a story of a man who tied another candidate in a city council race. The vote was something like 657 – 657. The kicker? The man’s wife didn’t make it to the polling place to vote. She had worked all day and her husband told her not to kill herself getting to the polling place by 6 since he was sure one vote wouldn’t matter.

    On the other hand, I live in a state that votes red ever presidential election. I still get in line to make sure my little blue vote is heard. It counts to me! And heck, what if the one year I don’t bother ends up being the year things might have changed?!

    Thanks as always for the fun and funny post Geraldine.

  • Colleen

    I lived in Littleton, NH for eight years. It was nothing like the New England I imagined. Of course, I was seventeen when I moved there, so I basically pictured Salem, MA from images I’d seen in ‘Hocus, Pocus.’ But I seriously miss those snowstorms, and listening to the wind blow and watching the flurries fall. I voted this year, and I was seriously overjoyed to have my vote count for something.

  • Megan

    I love your blog so much and was excited to hear you were in Milwaukee…but still no Mil-town post 🙁 hope it’s going up soon, i can’t wait to her what you thought of the city!!

  • I LOVED this blog post but have to disagree with the premise – one of my friends in a local race lost by 11 votes. Every vote does matter!

  • You are right on, again! New England is just the way we all imagine it. And similarly, so is the Northwest. In fact, when I first visited Seattle last fall, all of the cliches started flooding to mind about life in your part of the country. Mind you, I usually don’t think of any area or any area in stereotypes. However, actually walking the streets of Seattle, I gotta tell ya that I now know the inspiration for them.

    Thanks for sending me the leads on places to eat in your fine city. I am sad to report that I did not get to investigate them this time ’round. My business trip ended up being busier than I expected and took us out of the city every day.

    Cheers and Aloha!

  • S

    Love Portsmouth! You should make your way down to Newburyport and Plum Island, MA. (Only about half an hour on 95 S.) There’s a fabulous little inn on the beach to stay at on the island.

  • In my handful of sojourns to the Northwest it has, indeed, lived up to my Northwesterly expectations. Boise was a city full of Yakima boxes; Portland resided somewhere comfortably to the left of Wellstone, and a little more laid back than a corpse; Utah was beautiful…and borderline scary; the Oregon ocean was cold and wandering the coast felt like stepping into The Goonies. I had the same impression of the Northeast when I visited Boston as Sandy hit – for a Midwesterner it always feels very surreal to walk through my grade-school history books. Great post.

  • yes, yes, voting is important. But the truly crucial question is, did everyone obey the 10 commandments of road trip? No inappropriate winds were broken?

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