I moved from Hyde Park to Pilsen in September, but my change of address form was not processed by the Board of Elections, so I woke up at 6:30 this morning to hoof it down to the United Church of Christ at 53rd and Blackstone and cast my vote. I took 90/94 to the Garfield exit, and as I drove east on Garfield to the heart of Obamaland through some of most deprived neighborhoods in the city, (like always) I couldn’t help but think of The Wire, in particular a scene from the third season. Baltimore Homicide Detective Jimmy McNulty admits to a politico he’s dating that he didn’t vote in the 2000 or 2004 election, but that from his point of view (that is, ON THE STREETS!) who’s in the White House has no effect on decades of poverty and neglect – unless the Air Force decides to carpet-bomb West Baltimore.
But Hyde Park is a different story. You see Obama’s name and visage down here more than in any other part of the city, and not just on posters or bumper stickers. Gift shops, dollar stores, beauty supply stores, and even Walgreens carry a wide array of Obama merchandise. Particularly popular are Tall-T’s, which depict Obama in gold, Obama in tableau with MLK and Malcom X, Obama and his calls for change, etc… – my personal favorite is a simple graphic of a hundred dollar bill in the center of the shirt, with Ben Franklin’s portrait replaced by Obama.
In contrast to Whet’s experience in Noble Square, the line at United Church of Christ extends to the door when I arrive around 7:30, and quickly reaches outside. Everyone is still a bit sleepy. The crowd, reflecting that particular Hyde Park mix of racial diversity and quiet erudition, nurse their cups of coffee while they leaf through copies of the Atlantic, the New Yorker, and the Economist. Pamphlets from the 4th Ward Democratic organization are placed towards the bottom of the stack of papers received at the polling station. The woman poring over the voter rolls misses almost every single person’s name. One fellow voter remarks that he’s never seen polling stations this packed – he recalls once when maybe four or five people stood in front of him in line. After two hours in several different lines, I finally finish filling out my ballot. Now, off to canvass Indiana.