Getting Out the Vote

Tonight we had a big “get out the vote” rally at the Cavalier. The venue is a bar in downtown La Crosse attached to a 300-seat theatre. The stage which once hosted community theatre productions is now showcasing local and touring musicians.

The owner of the venue was gracious enough to host our event rent-free for two reasons: 1) He is a huge Bernie supporter. 2) It’s Monday night, and this event will draw a lot more people to the bar than the alternative event, which was “nothing.”

Some prominent local bands volunteered their time to perform, and we expected to draw a crowd. This would give us a chance to motivate people to vote, and to help them with finding their polling place and navigating the new voter suppression rules.

It was also a great gathering of local Bernie activists, many who I had only known as names in my email stream. So tonight I got to actually meet some of them for the first time.

Cathy is our main local organizer, who seems to have turned her entire life over to campaign work. We’ve known each other a long time, as we both show up every time there is a progressive issue to fight for or an event to plan. Cathy has also applied to be a delegate, and she has paid the dues that would entitle her to go.

She seems unenthusiastic about becoming a delegate herself while working hard to stoke my enthusiasm. Every reason I give to not go is shot down with a solution to the problem.

“It costs too much.” – “We can fundraise.”

“We’ll be in Philadelphia for the first time since we lived there, but will have no time to do Philadelphia stuff.” – “You can go a few days early and do Philadelphia stuff then.”

Cathy doesn’t want to go, but she doesn’t want me to not want to go.

I had volunteered to be emcee for this event, but I ended up sharing the job with a young guy named Mike. Mike seemed to have everything well under control as he introduced the first musical act. But when that guy finished, Mike gave him a nice extro, said a few words about the other acts scheduled, and then said, “that’s all I’ve got” and left the stage ten minutes before the next act would be ready.

So I got up to talk about the importance of early voting (a moot point tonight, as early voting ended last Friday). I explained the rules that would be in force due to Wisconsin’s new voter suppression law: what kind of ID is valid, how to do on-site registration, bring proof of address if your address doesn’t match the address on your ID, etc.

I raised the importance of another contest on the ballot: the Wisconsin Supreme Court race. If Joanne Kloppenburg does not beat Rebecca Bradley, we’ll end up with yet another Scott Walker crony on the court.

One woman in the crowd asked if she could talk about how to help with voter turnout tomorrow. I asked her name so I could introduce her, and she said, “Beth.”

Beth was one of those names that was prominent in my email stream. Her house has been ground zero for phone-banking, door-knocking and other elements of the local campaign ground game. I’m glad I finally got to meet her.

Best of all, she loves Tugg, the band preparing to play next. She filled up the remaining time and got to introduce them much more enthusiastically than I could have.


When I saw Mike later, he thanked me for rescuing him and filling time. He is now aware that to kill time is an important element of the emcee skill set.

The last introduction I got to do tonight was the closest I’ll ever get to introducing Bernie himself. There’s a guy in the Vernon County Bernie crowd who puts on a blue suit and combs his hair the right way and ends up looking like Bernie Sanders. I introduced him as “Vernie Sanders,” and he did a bit of schtick lifted from Bernie’s stump speeches until the next band was ready.

In the end, we had a bit smaller crowd than we had hoped for. Maybe it was because college basketball’s national championship game was tonight. Maybe it was because it’s Monday. At any rate, it was enough of a crowd to be lively, and it was a great get-together and morale booster for those who had spent weeks working toward tomorrow’s primary.

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