The polls in Gardiner don't open for another half hour or so, and I probably won't be there when they open, because the early voters need to get to work and I have all day to vote, if I want. Today my precinct is voting not only for President and U.S. Representative, but also for an open Senate seat (Olympia Snowe is retiring), State Senate, State Representative, District Attorney, several bond issues, and a referendum to allow same-sex marriage (Question 1).
Most of these aren't going to be close decisions in Maine, and I hope Question 1 won't be, either. The leading state Republicans have all declined to take a position on the issue, which I consider a very good sign: the arguments against this basic civil right sound bigoted and misguided, rooted in a willful disregard of the principle of separating church and state. It never ceases to amaze me that the most vocal proponents of Constitutional absolutism have no trouble skating right over the Fourteenth Amendment:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.We ratified that amendment in 1868. It still took another 52 years to enact the Nineteenth Amendment, guaranteeing women's rights to vote, and another 45 years after that before the Voting Rights Act preempted state laws that effectively disenfranchised African-American voters throughout the South. Native Americans didn't have full voting rights across the country until 1968, when the Havasupai finally won the right to vote in Arizona and federal elections.
Although the media do their best to cover politics like a sporting event, the reality is that the business of self-government is tedious. It's hard, boring, detail-oriented work that requires balancing countless interests and egos, toward compromises that leave everyone feeling discriminated against. It's never a zero-sum game: sometimes it's more than the sum of its parts, but just as often it's less. It's inefficient and wasteful and frustrating.
It's also the price of freedom, and when it works there's absolutely nothing like it. Nothing, nothing feels as good as working together toward a common goal. It's why we play sports, it's why we form rock bands, it's why we put on plays and stage parades and organize flash mobs. We can't agree on everything, but we can agree on enough. We can agree that we're glad to be Americans, and we can all go vote today.