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Saturday, November 1, 2008

Grassroots, pizza, and the fear of clip-on ties

Just a few more hours until the election is in the history books — and it looks like people are still busy on both sides of the metaphorical aisle, at least in Stevens Point, Wisconsin.

The GOP headquarters seemed busy when I drove past it after dark Saturday night — I couldn't see inside from the road, but it was really lit up and there were cars out front, so I assume it was active there. So was the Democratic headquarters, which I got a closer look at while waiting for my pizza at the place across the street (note to travelers: when downtown, don't miss Bill's Pizza Shop). At about 7 p.m. the place was very busy with people "phone-banking" and moving a variety of promotional items. (I even saw "Authors for Obama" buttons on the giveaway table, which struck me as taking target-marketing to a rather odd extreme. I mean, how many professions do you have to go through to get to that one? That's a lotta buttons...)

Anyway, they told me I'd just missed Jill Biden, the Senator's wife, earlier in the day. That reminded me that I'd promised to post a clearer version of my interview with Joe Biden that I'd conducted as a college student nearly two decades ago. Through the miracle of OCR scanning, here 'tis — and amazingly, Blogger let me accurately backdate the post.

I cringe a bit at the style — I was still in J-school, and worse, I was editing myself. I churned out a lot of copy before I became managing editor; the Sunday that I wrote these three articles, I also had to lay out a front page and coordinate the rest of the issue. The two pieces from the interview itself are pretty much a laundry list of everything I'd researched to ask about, and the transitions are non-existent. Being a Soviet Studies guy, I threw in questions about Mikhail Gorbachev. And divestment from South Africa was a big campus issue at the University of Tennessee during my time on the paper, so I got questions in there on that, as well.

(I'll leave it to others to grade his prognostication skills. He was correct that Anthony Kennedy would turn out to be the swing vote on abortion, and that Bush 41 wouldn't get a balanced budget amendment through — though nobody else did, either. There was an attempt at a line-item veto, although that was struck down.)

Going back to my glance at the grassroots, I remembered that my first presidential election I could vote in was that one back in 1988 (coincidentally, the other time Biden ran). But while I was interested in politics then, I was never active — and I never really have been. I never ran for anything at all in school (apart from President of the Dungeons & Dragons Club, which the parents group crushed) and I never campaigned for anyone. I liked the behind-the scenes stuff, but I was only ever interested in watching the game, reporting on it — and, as a grad student, analyzing it. Probably, it was the nascent storyteller in me: I've never acted in any plays, either, for some of the same reasons. (And I hated wearing a tie! How many people have been kept from public life, for fear of being caught with a clip-on...)

Anyway, three days to go. I don't know what the heck they'll talk about on TV after this. Do they still play football?
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