Report From Ward 9, Precinct 3, Cambridge, 11:56 A.M.

by Martin Peretz | January 19, 2010

It was snowing. I entered the Haggerty School on Cushing Street in Cambridge just before noon. There were no directional signs to the gym as there ordinarily are on an election day. And there was no one pushing his or her candidate’s wares.

I checked in by address, went to the curtained little polling booth, filled in the box next to my candidate’s name, checked out by address, and put my ballot in what seemed to me to be one of those organ grinder’s contraptions. It had a moving number count which told me that I was the 504th voter of the day.

Which left some 1,700 registered voters who hadn’t yet cast their ballots. There was no line. But 23% is not a bad percentage. They’ll certainly reach 50% by bell time—perhaps more, perhaps much more.

What does this say about the totals at the end of the evening? Cambridge is a strange small city politically. It has its own foreign policy, and sometimes that has clashed with the law of the state and of the nation. Not quite as much as Berkeley, California or the tiny republics scattered around Vermont. But still.

It’s a rich town up Francis Avenue way, where Julia Child used to cook and eat and where John Kenneth Galbraith used to talk and talk. Then down Brattle Street, where bankers seem to have replaced the classics professors. “Skip” Gates, as everyone now knows, lives in a house adjoining Harvard Yard, and upper-middle class residents have traditionally fanned out west and to the river. Will these people come out to vote? I doubt it. After all, they’ve just returned from their Martin Luther King weekend ski breaks.

Middle class and lower-middle class Cambridge are the folk who make up the voting rolls, and I suppose graduate students. They usually cast their ballots for the Democrats. A lot of commentators say that, in this election, they won’t. I wonder about the 503 men and women of the local citizenry who preceded me at the polls. We’ll see tonight.

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