Election 2018: Riding a Roller Coaster of Love with America

Let me make sure I don’t bury the “lede” here.

Blue won.

The pundits keep yammering about the Senate and the rock star candidates that didn’t do as well as we’d hoped. And of course Trump…well, you know he claimed victory. He had to. He’s…Trump.

But we won. Trump’s checked. Mission accomplished. Well done, America.

Swear to God, Just when I think I want off of this ride, something amazing happens. That’s that “roller coaster of love” thing.

Let me explain it this way. I spent Election Day as a poll clerk at a rural fire station just outside of Tucson.

Actually, it’s a rural area rapidly becoming more suburban around the edges. But it will always be kinda red around the neck.

They used to call it “Dogpatch.” There’s even an old steakhouse, possibly the best in town, called “Lil Abners.”

That’s because for decades a whole lot of it was an odd assortment of doublewides and other prefab housing. Front and backyards strewn with auto parts, and sometimes the actual rusted out autos they came from. Along with an assortment of old washers, fridges…you get the idea.

Over the past five years or so, dozens of subdivisions have started crowding in on Dogpatch and the famous dude ranches that ringed it. The spectacularly scenic K Bar, one of my favorites, was bought out by Pulte Homes recently.

And so ends the pristine, picturesque desertscape the ranch preserved for so long. Broke my heart.

But the original inhabitants are resisting gentrification better than I expected. And I love it. I love them, too.

They defy description. I mean, just when you think you’ve got ’em pegged, they go damned near Antifa on you. I’m not kidding. They’re so “Don’t Tread On Me” independent that you never know whose side they’re on.

And they were out in force on Election Day. Some wearing tee shirts that proclaimed, “Family, Faith, Friends, Flag, Firearms.” Some spattered in motor oil or clay red earth, rushing in to vote during their lunch hours. Some with one on the hip, one in a stroller and one “in the oven.”

They stood out like sore thumbs among the newbies on the block dressed in more “premium outlet mall” attire. We have one of the biggest snob malls in the U.S. nearby now. So the McMansion owners can nibble Godiva chocolate while strolling from Michael Kors to Coach.

It was truly a mixed bag, I must say.

But what I saw, when I got a chance to look up from my poll list — easy job, except during the rushes — was America on a mission.

They brought sample ballots, proposition and candidate booklets and even newspaper articles along so they could get this vote just right. And they stood at the booths or sat at the tables for a good long time. Concentrating.

Now and then there were lines of people waiting their turns, mostly patiently. We had only two serious hot heads. And they were angry about a change of polling place that did, in truth, seem rather arbitrary and inconvenient.

The veteran poll workers among us were stupefied, though. They’d worked that spot before and had 36 people, tops. More poll workers than voters, some years. Which is why they told us first timers to bring “something to do” for the whole 14 hours.

Yesterday, we had almost 300 voters and almost no down time the whole time. Lots of nervous but openly excited young folks among them, too, I’m happy to say.

And here’s the thing. I could feel something really interesting was going on. I really could. America was making a thoughtful statement about the last two years. And was about to slap both parties upside the head.

And the statement was:

“We’re worried about Trump and his minions, but we’re not too enamored of you Democrats yet, either. So don’t get too excited, snowflakes.”

So we voted our hearts and minds. We put a muzzle on 45, to let him know we’re were nobody’s fools. But we stiff armed the lefties, too. Gave ’em the House but took back some Senate seats, to keep them in check.

And we didn’t go all in with Cool (Beto) and the Gang — doesn’t mean we never will. The races were close in Florida, Georgia and Texas. So they might holla at us lefties later.

Want proof?

After one near miss awhile back, one of my favorite women friends, Victoria Steele, won a state Senate seat by a landslide here in purplish Southern AZ — shout out to yet another strong sistah who stepped up. I couldn’t be prouder.

But right now, overall, America’s kinda got everybody “neutralized” to give us time to make up our minds. So nobody can get too far out of line.

Check mate, y’all. And I’m not mad at it, me.

Cause this, too, is America. Playing referee. Settling down to take a good long look for the next two years, before they pick another prez.

We didn’t swing too far Left. But we stopped the fascist flow.

I feel safer and happier today than I have in a long time. Guardedly, but it beats the way I’ve felt for the past two years.

There is a remarkable collective wisdom, still, in this country. I wasn’t so sure for a while, but yesterday, I looked it in the eye over and over and over again over those 14 hours.

And it never got old.

Award-winning former features reporter for the Chicago Sun Times and Arizona Daily Star, HuffPo contributor and author.

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