Monday, November 3, 2008

"Process Story"

I spent this afternoon alone.

It was an unseasonably mild day in my favorite season:  fall in the midwest.  The sky had patches of blue peeking through billowy clouds that reflected a shade of grey that only appears in the autumn.  I kicked through fallen yellow leaves, leaving very nicely designed and printed door-hangers on a list of houses in Dev's turf.  We've stopped trying to convince people to vote for us. Now, it's GOTV:  Get Out The Vote.  So we go to our people and make sure they remember to do it.  I spent the afternoon listening to '80s music on my iPhone, door-hanging, and checking names off the list.  It was a delightful walk, and helped ease me into a peaceful fatalism about tomorrow.

One of the names on my turf- no joke- was Luke Skywalker. The list said he was 54 years old, so he couldn't have been named for the movie character.  And this list when generated from the DNC's database of registered voters, so it couldn't be joke.  It turns out Mr. Skywalker is a local prosecutor.

So I guess the Force is with us.

I ended up with six extra door hangers, so, sadistically, I left them on doors of people with McCain-Palin signs in their yards.

30 minutes after I returned, one of them was on the phone with our office, demanding we come back and remove it, claiming that he didn't want to waste the time removing it, himself.  

He, of course, had spent much more time getting our number and calling us to complain than he would have spent throwing away the door hanger.

Last Wednesday, it was like someone flipped a switch and suddenly our strip mall office was awash in volunteers, calling and prepping materials.  Mid-afternoon that day, Cosmin arrived in his truck with a load of printed materials to include with our packets.  Over the course of two days we received multiple truckloads- tens of thousands of pieces of glossy, professionally-designed literature.  It's staggering.  Door hangers.  Brochures.  Flyers.  All reminding people to vote for Obama.  

The design of all of this "lit" reflects the color and graphical theme of all Obama campaign materials for the last year and a half, one more way in which the Obama campaign has been conducted like a high quality marketing campaign.  Our lit and merchandise has represented powerful branding in the way companies like Apple and Nike have a distinct, recognizable aesthetic that reflects style and quality.

On Friday, which was a very late night, a team of us worked with paper cutters, chopping up sheets of xeroxed flyers reminding people of the location of their polling place.  Hour after hour of lining up legal sized sheets on a paper cutter and then... whomp... whomp... whomp...  Then bundling them into precinct-size stacks.

The pure amount of paper we bundled and distributed in a six day stretch could have denuded the forest moon of Endor.  Packed and delivered like UPS trucks.

And this was just Canton, Michigan.

When GOTV kicked off Saturday morning, it was a rather orderly affair.  We nailed down our procedures the night before and were all over it.  It's amazing, because it's a bunch of young people and volunteers running the show here and no one has done this before.  Yet it functions like a powerful machine.  I am in awe.

We had a high "flake rate" on Saturday, a beautiful day that had both Michigan and Michigan State playing at noon.  Almost half of our scheduled volunteers did not show.  On Sunday, however, the room was again packed at our three canvass launch times, and by late afternoon we were out of packets to send out on the street.  After hours, we compiled packets for the next day.

I have spent much of the weekend running between offices in Inkster, Dearborn, Ann Arbor and Woodhaven as we scramble to re-allocate resources- money, materiel, and troops- to where they are most needed for this final push, all while prepping materials and greeting volunteers.  I have been playing a "utility man" role.

It is now Monday night, and I haven't spent a dollar on food since Friday lunch.  Part of the planning of mobilization of this operation was enlisting volunteers to bring in food, and we have had all manner of pizza, pasta, hot dogs, chili, Subway party subs, fresh fruit, vegetables, salads, sweets... it has been a nonstop buffet here keeping us fueled.

And it's a good thing, because I am worn out!  A 12 hour day has come to be a light one.  You would not know to watch us that we're polling 15 points ahead in Michigan.  People are focused and fighting.  There is an amazing common sense of purpose.  

We were having a discussion of poll numbers during a slow period, and I noted the composition of the group:  myself, Dev (Indian), Summer (a young African-American), Roscoe (a middle-aged African-American), Bianca (a young Romanian), Betty (a young Asian), Barry (a 40-something Jewish guy), as well as a middle-aged white couple that have been volunteering as long as I have been here.  When I see a diverse group like this, truly the American story, I am amazed at the gall of Republicans, a largely homogeneous crowd, who continue to attack Democrats as being less American than they.  When I look around the room I have been working in for weeks now, I see that Democrats don't just use "unity" as a flowery mantra.  They don't just preach it, they practice it.  Yet many Republicans view conservatism as the only true form of patriotism and once again validate those who see them not as uniters, but as dividers intent on conquering the country in the name of their ideology.

Tonight, insh'Allah, God willing, we are on the eve defeating the forces of divisiveness, of class warfare, and take the first step towards repairing the damage wrought by the ideological battles of the '60s fought decades past their relevance, and a Republican organization that has sold its soul to corporations and religious zealots and damaged the nation both inside and out.

Barack Obama is not messianic figure.  He will not be able to fix a broken system just with the power, however formidable, of his leadership.  But for the first time in years, Americans will be called upon to come together as one to solve gargantuan problems, and never in our history have we come up short when faced with daunting challenges.  If the intelligence, organization, discipline, strategy and vision of his campaign is any indication, we may soon have a leader capable of rallying people to a common cause.  And if the Fox News crowd can put down their swords and realize that we have many threats to the nation and liberalism is not one of them, you might really see something here.

Tomorrow is election day.   So I leave you with some Tom Friedman, from his column on Saturday...

So, bottom line:  Please do not vote for the candidate you most want to have a beer with (unless it's to get stone cold drunk so you don't have to think about this mess we're in).  Vote for the person you'd most like at your side when you ask your bank manager for an extension on your mortgage.

Vote for the candidate you think has the smarts, temperament and inspirational capacity to unify the country and steer our ship through what could be the rockiest shoals our generation has ever known.  Your kids will thank you.

1 comment:

Max said...

Liked the snapshot of Canton. In the Michigan heartland, where I volunteered, our election day crew looked far more like the GOP base--and some of us had been. Yet we too had the same common sense of purpose. And, in'shallah, that night the country agreed.