On Sunday, I underwent training to work the polls for the No on Prop 8 effort, which will have me and others handing out pamphlets and offering quick information to voters as they head to the polls. I was feeling comfortable with this until this evening, when Jeannine and I headed out for our usual Monday restaurant dinner with her family, and saw, amidst a very cold and soggy evening here in Concord, a horde - literally dozens - of Yes on Prop 8 supporters crowding the streets, waving signs and jeering at passer-bys.
This is going to be ugly.
I know an awful lot of the Yes on 8 folks are actually out-of-staters. Most of the money funding Yes on 8 has come from non-Californian conservatives and religious groups, and more than one church has bussed their faithful to the Golden State. The presence of so many of these folks in my city does not fill me with dread: the fight on Prop 8 is tight, both sides are strongly-motivated, and while many Obama supporters are voting Yes on 8, his impending victory is more likely to suppress Republican turnout (certainly enough to offset those Democrats shunning the polls under the false assumption that their man has it in the bag) which make up the core support for Prop 8. Nor do I think this turnout of Yes on 8'rs on Concord's streets is troubling for the state on the whole: Concord is not nearly the paragon of liberalism that exists west of the Caldecott Tunnel, and for every hatemonger on my city's streets tonight there are many more lovemongers that will turn out tomorrow in San Francisco and Berkeley.
No, what is troubling is that these people are likely going to be my problem. The prevailing mood during my training session Sunday was that No on 8 would be focusing their efforts on getting out the vote in areas where they expect heavy support, California precints so blue they look black. Most folks are going to preach to the choir in the progressive heartlands beyond the Caldecott and in the limousine liberal suburbs in my county. I however will be in Concord - heavily Hispanic (and thus Catholic), utterly blue-collar, gloomily regressive Concord. There's always been a part of me that's hated this place, and I think I may hate it no more than I do tomorrow.
Those Yes on 8 bigots I saw tonight are likely to stay here, to work the same polling locations I will. Not only might they outnumber us, but, while my fellows seem well-organized and disciplined, these folks are very much a rabble, and will likely have little respect for common decency. I expect us to be manhandled, our pamphlets taken out of our hands, epithets screamed into our faces, and so on. This won't hurt the No on 8 effort, and might in fact turn some voters, having seen the hate blatantly up close, to vote against Prop 8. And I am not concerned for myself: I was raised by an ex-Marine who believed in corporal punishment and a law enforcement officer whose toughness garnered her the nickname "Sergeant" amongst her fellow feds. This will be a cakewalk compared to coming home to those folks with a report card marked up with D-minuses.
That said, I am worried about what will happen to my fellow No on 8'rs, who, from that training session, seem like a bunch of kind, emotionally-stable, well-raised and well-educated, plain-old-decent people who are absolutely unprepared to be screamed at for hours by a bunch of hate-filled rednecks. So yeah... it may end up getting ugly in my neck of the woods.
We'll see what happens...