The Taste of Victory

“I can’t fucking believe it!” were the words of our illustrious First Selectman on the night of the second budget vote in April, 2008.

We were standing in the small 1970s era hallway that led to the Town Clerk’s office on the night of the vote.  Those of us who had spent the last two weeks eating, breathing and living the facts and figures and spreading the word about them all around town under the name of Monroe’s Organized Voters for Education.  There were just a small number of us, just seven, but we’d all worked hard.

We’d targeted family friendly neighborhoods, the ones where parents would be upset about cuts to their childrens’ schools, and blanketed them flyers about proposed cuts.  We’d gone over the voter lists from last year and identified “scared voters”, the ones who showed up after a few failed votes.  Then we’d all offered to take twenty or thirty people each and call them.  We’d gotten every possible email the seven of us knew and thrown them all into my mailing list software and send them out information about where to vote and what was at stake.  We’d advertised our website to everyone we knew as a place to find reliable information and encouraged everyone to spread the word about it.  And on voting day we’d all stood for hours in front of the polling places waving signs and reminding people to vote.

After the polls closed, we all headed to Town Hall to get the results.  I’d never done anything like this before, gotten involved in anything political.  I could feel the adrenalin, the rush, the push of working hard to make something happen.  I stood in the hallway as we all traded stories about who got sworn at while waving our signs or what kind of nasty emails I’d gotten in response to the thousands I’d sent out through the website.  “No matter what happens tonight, we can be proud of what we did for this vote,” said Mike, one of the parents who had been instrumental in organizing our band of volunteers.  We all nodded, trying to remember that passing a budget vote in our town on the second try hadn’t happened in something like twenty years.

It was an agonizing wait, but suddenly we heard the phones ringing from the four precincts of our small town in the Town Clerk’s office. One by one they were calling in with their on the spot, hand counted results.  We listened as the first one reported a hundred vote margin for NO, then as a second reported a 75 vote margin for YES, making the possibility of pulling this off suddenly seem possible.  More waiting as we heard the NO margin increase to 130, and we retreated into the hallway to console each other, not waiting to hear the last precinct come in.

“I can’t fucking believe it!” was the response of our First Selectman from inside the office.  The tone of his voice was not angry.  It was…joyous.  We rushed into the tiny office and saw smiles and stunned faces.

“Well, what is it?” I asked from the doorway.

“YES takes it by 64 votes.  You guys did it.  You swung the vote.”

We looked at each other in disbelief.  “Are you kidding?” asked the woman next to me, the one who had helped me put several hundred flyers on mailboxes yesterday.

“No, I’m not kidding.  This is unheard of.  It went down by over 900 votes last time. There’s never been this kind of swing from No to Yes in just one vote.  I am stunned.  I can’t fucking believe it!” he repeated.

The room erupted in cheers.  I sat down in the one lone chair in the hallway just outside the doorway to the office.  What an amazing thing, to be able to use all that we could do, each of us individually, and pull it all together to make a real difference.  It was over, and we had actually won.  The victory was amazingly sweet.

I stood up, gathered my composure and watched as my friends slowly spilled out of the office.  “Where can we find a drink in this town after 9pm?  It’s time to celebrate!” I said, a little too loudly.

No one seemed to mind.

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