On November 2, 2004, at the moment John Kerry lost Florida, I was on a dark highway in northern Wisconsin, happy to be with Zach, and happy that he was driving. I was aware of the nearness of his arm to mine on the center console and the neat way he trimmed his fingernails. I was also aware of the blackness of the forest that surrounded us and the threat of deer crossing our path. As we drove, Zach entertained me by spotting them. He had seen six by the time I saw one: just a pair of silver eyes staring out from the dark woods. Years later, driving through a different forest in a different state, he showed me how to spot them, but there on that night in the north woods of Wisconsin, I was content for him to guide.
I was a city girl, after all. I’d moved to Wisconsin seven weeks before, though by election night it felt like it had been longer. I’d chosen Wisconsin strategically: It had 10 electoral votes and was the swingiest of swing states. I was idealistic, a new college graduate, a life-long Democrat. I began work — calling voters, knocking doors, distributing yard signs — the day I arrived in Green Bay.