I’m With Her



If my grandmother were alive, today would have been her 97th birthday.

She’s been on my mind a lot the last few weeks, and not just because I always think of her in October. Whenever we draw close to election day, I remember her.

In 2004, when John Kerry was the D on the top of the ticket, I had election day Grandma duty. She was essentially wheelchair bound, and she had never been able to drive. So I had the job (and, I realize now, the privilege) of taking her to vote.

I remember pushing her awkwardly through the doors of the school where she voted. She had something to say about everyone and everything, because she always did, and she was making me laugh, like she always did.

As we waited, she reminded me repeatedly how she would be voting. I swear I can still hear her voice, with her Jersey City accent and her Baltimore hon –

“Make sure to put me down for the Ds! I always vote D. Those other guys – sheesh! To hell with them, hon.”

She was a low-rider in her wheelchair and disabled enough that she couldn’t stand at the voting machine. When we reached the booth, I had to actually cast her vote for her.

It’s a tremendous responsibility to place another person’s vote, and I knew it. In fact, I think I was more aware of it than she was. As I went through the ballot, I kept asking her, name by name, to tell me who she wanted me to select. She gave me a few specifics, but after a while she got cantankerous – “Does it have a D? Just vote for the D.” She yelled and waved a fist at me when we got to the school board section and I said she’d have to pick a name. (We left that one blank.)

After the final D was checked and her vote was cast, she and I headed back to her assisted living home. Her “I voted” sticker took pride of place on her chest – because she was proud. Really proud. I was with her partly because she refused to vote by absentee ballot. She wanted to be there, even if it meant she was directing someone else to push the buttons for her. And she wanted to spend the rest of the afternoon bragging about it to her friends.

My grandmother wasn’t well-educated. She didn’t approach elections as an intellectual. Her loyalty to the Democratic party wasn’t based in an extensive understanding of economic or social policy. Instead, it was based in her own experiences – of who came through for working class families like hers during the depression (FDR was her gold standard) and who, as far as she was concerned, continued to come through for the little guy over the decades. Grandma was solidly middle class for most of her life, but I don’t think she ever stopped seeing herself as a poor Italian girl with eight siblings from a run-down part of Jersey City.

When I took my her to vote all those years ago, Hillary was barely four years out of the White House – and grandma and I both wanted to see “those other guys” move out too. As luck had it, we lost, and they got a second term. Grandma didn’t live to vote for another president.

Hillary is back, fighting for the White House, and I wish more than almost anything that my grandmother could be here to vote for her. She’d have done it with pride, her “I’m With Her” sticker only slightly less important than her “I voted” sticker.

I also wish I could hear what she’d have to say about Hillary’s opponent – though I have a pretty good idea what it would be.

“This Trump character? Christ. What a shot in the ass.”










15 Things I’d Rather Be Doing This Election Season

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but this election and the way it’s playing out in the media is turning into a shitshow.

So far in this election cycle, we have covered these issues: the size of Donald Trump’s “hands”, the way Carly Fiorina looks, Ben Carson’s pride in almost killing a friend. We’ve seen Ted Cruz cook bacon on a machine gun and audition for the Simpsons. A 15-year-old punked America by showing up as candidate “Deez Nuts” on a national poll.

And that was just during the primaries.

Now that we are in the general election campaign season, the bias in how each candidate is portrayed and the dearth of substantive dialogue on the issues that matter is astounding.

The candidate whose statements Politifact – an independent, Pulizter-prize-winning fact-checker – rated as half-true or better 72% of the time is being hounded by the narrative that she is a liar. The candidate whose statements are rated half-true or better only 30% of the time is seen as the truth teller.

This morning I did a Google news search and these were the top five results: an article with a lead line suggesting that Hillary is a liar for not disclosing her pneumonia diagnosis, followed by four more related to her health, how it affects her candidacy, and the boost it’s giving Trump in the polls.

Noticeably missing were any articles covering immigration, foreign policy, domestic policy, social policy, or any duty or function relevant to the job of being the president of the most powerful country in the world.

I lost my will to soldier on in following this election when I reached the fourth article of today’s search, which led with this: “Donald Trump is on course to become US President as voters’ fears over Hillary Clinton’s health grow, new opinion poll show.”

Maybe things will change as we get closer to election day.

In the meantime, here are 15 things I’d rather be doing than following the election:

  1. Watch a Caillou marathon
  2. Hang out in the bathroom with my child who requires an audience to poop
  3. Stick my hands in room-temperature standing dishwater
  4. Help my 8-year-old with her homework
  5. Initiate small talk with a stranger in an elevator
  6. Comb lice out of hair
  7. Negotiate a fight over which daughter had the privilege of being hit more times during a pillow fight.
  8. Did I mention third grade homework? That needs to be here twice.
  9. Take a road trip with whiny children in the backseat and my traffic-weaving, exit-speeding husband at the steering wheel
  10. Listen to my daughters assault me with reasons why the other one started it
  11. Listen to my husband chew
  12. Endure a full sales pitch from a telemarketer
  13. Talk to a door-to-door Mormon missionary
  14. Drive through a WalMart parking lot at 2 pm on a Saturday
  15. Watch a Caillou marathon, while combing lice out the hair of a pooping child and listening to the other one whine about homework

The sad thing is – I know I won’t be able to resist that primal urge to know what is going on, even if it’s coverage of an election starring a xenophobic, misogynistic, lying, bullying reality TV host with a significant chance of becoming our next president.