I am not an early voter -- I like the rituals of Election Day.
When I was a kid, my mother would take me to vote at McCarty Park in our neighborhood in West Allis. She would let me pull the big lever to close the drapes behind us, and then point out the levers I should pull beside the names. Then I'd pull the big red lever back again. The drapes would open and the votes would click in a solid, final sort of way. We did not worry if our ballot had been read by a computer. We did not worry if we had colored in the lines just right. We did not worry about hanging chads. The old voting machines had solidity and certainty that seemed fitting to the most solemn sacrament of democracy.
And still today, while I miss the old machines, I like to go to the polling place and chat with the poll workers and fill out the ballot and hear the electronic beep that says my vote has been recorded. I like to stop and pick up some cupcakes at the Blessed Sacrament bake sale.
Later in the day, I always go to Food-O-Rama at Temple Beth El, where the only real choice I have to make is between the kosher hot dog and the corned beef sandwich. (It's not really a choice. I always get the corned beef just like I always vote for the Democrats, but it's nice to know you could change your mind some day.)
Two years ago, I ran into Russ Feingold at the temple. I wished him well, but I could tell he knew where the election was headed. His staff members with him had tears in their eyes, even at lunch-time on Election Day. They knew.
And as a former politician myself, I know what it is to lose an election. So, let's stop and have a kind thought about everyone -- Democrats, Republicans, third partiers and independents -- who put their names on the ballot. Running for office is more personal than any other endeavor. It's your name on the line. People vote for you or against you. When you lose it's a personal kind of rejection that cannot be escaped. There's nothing to hide behind.
Barack Obama and Mitt Romney each campaigned themselves out of voice. They had bags under their eyes. They gave it their all. I know who I want to be the next president and senator and congressman and on and on down the ballot.
But on this day -- at the end of the race -- let's show some respect and some appreciation for everyone who offered to serve, whether we voted for them or not, whether we liked them or not.
Politics is a tough business. Let's be gentle in victory and magnanimous in defeat. This campaign, especially, created some gaping wounds. Let's start healing them today.