Deb's Big Backyard

  Deb's Big Backyard

Getting on the Bus


By Deb Quantock McCarey


What a difference four years make. In 2008, I jumped in early to help elect Barack Obama. I put signs in my front yard, and I hosted a call party in my home.

I also spent time phone banking in Oak Park and Chicago. And I convinced my husband Kevin to drive to Indianapolis to knock on doors for our candidate. On Election Day, I "manned" the Austin el stop to "get out the vote," thanking folks who did it.

All of it was thrilling.

Now, four years later, and with our middle-class family battered and bruised by the economic downturn, like so many of us, I've been in a holding pattern, waiting for my malaise to pass.

In mid-October it did, when I got on the Democratic Party of Oak Park's bus to Dubuque, Iowa to get out the vote in 2012.

On that bus trip, in the seats surrounding me were 55 other local Dems. Some were loyal politicos from Oak Park. Others were newbie volunteers from the surrounding suburbs, including the West Side of Chicago.

It was a sea of diversity, a melting pot of people interested in standing up for issues and a country they hold dear to their heart.

Mid-morning, while on the bus, we volunteers from Illinois were using cellphones to call potential volunteers in Wisconsin to get out that vote. For those who did it, that was time well spent.

In Dubuque, in teams of three, we spread out into the bluffs of a town on the Mississippi River where bald eagles nest. For about four hours, we knocked on doors in working class neighborhoods to register Iowans on the spot to vote, encourage them to vote early by mail or, on Election Day, to get to their favorite polling place.

With detailed address logs, we meandered up and down those hilly streets. When face-to-face with a Iowan voter, the simple act of telling them why a person like me from Oak Park would commit to a 12-hour day to tell them why they should re-elect Barack Obama was empowering.

Personally, I was on their stoop to talk about the potential rejuvenation of jobs, why I thought Obamacare should continue, and my concerns about the appointment of right-leaning supreme court justices should Romney be elected. Education is another core issue for me, as is the de-funding of Head Start.

The next day, when I called my 92-year-old mother, a staunch Republican, and member of the Christian right, she wanted to know how it went, and this time she listened. As a senior citizen, she is concerned about the state of Medicare and Social Security.

Did I sway her vote? Absolutely not. But this time, the senior citizen who religiously tunes in to Fox News, didn't tune me out.

At stake for me, a visually-disabled, under-employed, middle-age working mom with one kid in college and another one in search of a job, is absolutely everything. So I got back on the bus (literally and proverbially) two weekends in a row. It is not only my right, it is a privilege.

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