It’s been a weird, unsettling sort of day here in South Florida.
Yesterday, Mitt Romney capped off a weekend’s worth of visits to our fair state, and President Obama will be returning here as well in the next few days. Florida is, without a doubt, one of the most crucial of the battleground states in this election. Along with Ohio, its importance is difficult to overstate.
We who support the president in Florida have been working hard – much harder, it seems, than in 2008. Selling Barack Obama as an alternative to John McCain, Sarah Palin and the party of George W. Bush was not too hard to do. Though there were certainly pockets of resistance, chiefly among the more conservative good-old-boy types, it was surprising how many people were so disgusted by Bush that they were ready to run -not walk – to the ballot box and pull the lever for anyone who opposed his policies.
This year, when you talk to folks, you do sense a palpable difference in the way they receive our pro-Obama efforts. It’s not about him, or even about Romney, for a lot of these people. For lack of a better word, many voters here are just afraid. They feel like they have believed in things that didn’t come through for them the way they’d hoped, and they aren’t sure if they have it in them to believe again this time around. They feel like they’re less clear about what their choice should be. No matter who we choose, some of them have said to me, it just won’t matter. They cite the current deadlocked state of our hyper-partisan congress, and the Citizens United decision, and the many other changes that have brought our legislative progress and our democratic process to a standstill in recent years. They just don’t see how the mood or the tone in Washington can shift enough to get anything useful done, and they think that will be the case no matter who ends up in the White House.
Of course, I am doing my best to explain that this election DOES matter, and that it matters an awful damn lot. I hope my fellow volunteers and I have managed to get through to enough people, but it’s much tougher to know how we’re doing this time around, and that makes me really nervous as we reach the endgame of this race. Last time, the excitement for Obama was clear to see around here, and it shone as bright as the Florida sun. This time, there are far more clouds on the horizon. It’s tough not to notice them. I’m a glass half full kind of person – always have been – but I also see things as they are. I’m no Pollyanna. I know this is a tough race, and I know it’s insanely close here, and I just do not know which way Florida will go on November 6th. That’s eating me up in a way that I can’t even describe.
Tomorrow is the deadline for voter registration here in Florida, and today was the last day I would be out with my clipboard, trying to scramble up a few stragglers before the time ran out. I did OK, got a few folks on the rolls and assisted a few more with absentee ballot and early voting info, but it was a bit stormy and there weren’t too many shoppers coming by my spot today.
After my shift ended, I carefully put my clipboard and all my paperwork into a jumbo Ziploc bag, to keep them dry. I walked back to my car in the rain, getting wet myself but not really caring – I just wanted to get back to the OFA office with my stuff, and turn it in, and go home knowing that I did what I could today. I just hope, with every fiber of my being, that what I’ve done – that what we’re ALL doing – will be enough.