Thursday, November 6, 2008
Yes WE Did.
Good morning America!
It's been a grueling but exhilirating couple of months and the last two weeks have been exhausting. I've been volunteering at the Obama campaign office in my small Virginia town, going down there every night after work and all weekend...basically any time I was not at my job or in classes. Last week in the runup to the election, I took vacation time so that I could be there full-time. I ended up being given the job of organizing all of the volunteers that were coming in to help, assigning them to tasks, sending canvassers to satellite staging locations, monitoring which turfs were covered, delegating other prep tasks (literature sorting, data entering, etc.) to small teams. It was stressful but exciting, and I'm still recovering from 10+ days of sixteen hour days on my feet.
There was truly something wonderful about the community coming together to elect this very special candidate. It's hard for me to articulate the spirit of hope and positive energy that surrounded us. I think of the elderly woman who would make her way to our office with the help of a cane and feed paper into the shredder. The high school students who can't vote but who would make phone calls, enter data, or help tally up the numbers from the day's activities. The blue collar family who is struggling to make ends meet on less than 25k a year, who were denied food stamps for the third time last week because they are "not poor enough" but who spent hours each day going out to knock on doors and talk to voters. The quiet young black veteran who showed up to help and after we learned about his IT expertise gained in the Army, immediately set to work troubleshooting some of our computer and networking issues. The local volunteers who were the heart and soul of the office and the out of town volunteers who came down from D.C., Maryland and even New York to help provide assistance in the last Get Out the Vote push. People from every race, social class and creed coming together and working hard in what is really grueling, unglamourous work.
In the end, we were able to turn our city blue even if the surrounding county still went red (although we shaved off over 10 points from their margins which in itself is pretty amazing). It's not an easy area to be a Democrat. We had plenty of rude people walking by our storefront windows and yelling nasty things. The night before E-day, the car of one volunteer was side-swiped by someone yelling "Obama sucks". I couldn't tell you how many people came in to get a new yard sign because the ones they had kept getting stolen. I answered the phone and got yelled out by people telling me that they "weren't votin' for no goddammed Democrat". Other offices around the state suffered worse in the ways of vandalism and threats. My own parents sent me horrific email forwards about Obama being the "anti-christ" and other fear-mongering nonsense. Clearly change scares some people. But overall, I am very heartened by the willingness of so many people to come together and reject the divisive politics of the past.
Tuesday night as I sat in the embrace of my boyfriend, surrounded by a sea of tired, happy people, I wept tears of joy. Not only because my future children will grow up in a world where a man that looks like them can be president. But also because I have seen firsthand what can happen when individuals organize and work for the betterment of the whole community. I have made friends that I expect to keep for a lifetime and have met people in my area that I would never otherwise have known. It's been an amazing journey and it's only the beginning.
In closing, I just have to share one of the many grassroots contributions during this election. It's a zydeco band from Louisiana, my mom's homestate and a place I have lived. Not only is the music joyful and infectious but I just love seeing the mix of regular folks. (and as a speaker of french, I get a kick out of the Cajun french). :-)