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Reflection on the Obama campaign

November 11, 2008

My good friend Jenny Hubbell had this as her away message on GMail: Rosa sat so that Martin could walk.  Martin walked so that Barack could run.  Barack ran so that our children can fly.

I thought it was “cute.” I only put ‘cute’ in quotation marks so I don’t feel so emasculated saying it.

But anyway, a full week following Election Day, I feel like I can write down my thoughts. I wanted to do it sooner, but simply put, I was exhausted.

As many of you know, I had been interning with the campaign for the last two and a half months. Sometimes, I would work 20 hours a week. Other times, I would work more than 40 hours a week. In the final four days, I worked 20 hours a day.

I know I am only 23, but I don’t think there will ever be a bigger ground game than Barack Obama had this year. Usually, it is difficult to get to every house to let them know that election day is approaching. That was simply not the case this year in Nevada. On Nov. 4, when I knocked on someone’s door (and I knocked on a good number), I started out with an apology because I knew that someone from the Obama campaign had been there before. In fact, for most of these people, we knocked on their door three times in the final four days. And that doesn’t even begin to address the number of times we called them and knocked on their doors during the early vote period Nevada had in October.

I felt pretty good about Nevada going “blue” very early in the day. It just seemed inevitable. When grabbing a quick bite to eat that Tuesday, I passed a few African Americans and every single one was wearing some kind of shirt or some kind of ‘gear’ that showed the world she or he supported Obama. These were not volunteers (as far as I know). They were just supporters. You could almost feel their pride just by being near them.

Sure enough, Nevada — which was considered a toss-up less than two weeks before the election — went into the Obama column and it wasn’t even close. Fivethirtyeight.com, an electoral prediction web site, named Nevada as the biggest surprise state in that it went much more for Obama than it expected. Obama won the state by a comfortable 12%.

I couldn’t help but notice the remarkable difference of support he had here compared to the last state I resided in, Oklahoma. The Sooner State gave Sen. Obama less support (with only 34% of the state’s vote) than nearly any other state in the union — including even Sen. McCain’s home state of Arizona (46% for Obama) and  Gov. Palin’s home state of Alaska (36% for Obama). Only Utah had less support for him, giving him 33% of its vote.

Although I proudly and diligently campaigned for Obama, I think a logical case could’ve been made to vote for McCain so I certainly don’t judge anyone for it. That said, I was ecstatic that Obama won.

But those emotions didn’t come immediately in those early hours on Tuesday. In fact, it took me a while. Even as the early state returns came in, with Obama winning Pennsylvania and Ohio, I was paranoid as if somehow he would lose California. But sure enough, he won handily. It wasn’t until I saw Jesse Jackson crying on national TV that I truly felt moved. Granted, Jackson has said some regrettable things, but it still was a profound moment that has shown how far this country has come.

jackson1That was the first major moment that it hit me. The second major moment was when I entered the Rio, where the after party was. First off, the casino was packed for a Tuesday night. With the tough economic times, Vegas has been a little sluggish lately. But the Rio was hopping, with hundreds of people in the casino just chanting Barack’s name. Now, let’s face, the Democratic party is a, uh, welcoming party. And Vegas is a city of freaks, no offense to my lovable neighbors. So try to imagine what the Rio looked like that night. Every misfit in the world was celebrating.

As I made the long walk from the casino to the convention center, I must have looked more important than I am (I was wearing a nice long sleeve collared shirt, and for this crowd like I mentioned, I probably looked like gold) or maybe I have just forgotten the hundreds of volunteers I have interacted with who recognize me, but people kept stopping me as I walked to the party to thank me.

It was slightly uncomfortable (knowing what minuscule role I played), yet gratifying for the hundreds of hours I’ve invested. Over the last 2+ months, I have recruited hundreds of volunteers, knocked on thousands of doors, and called tens of thousands of people to try to get them to vote for Barack. Those numbers are not inflated. And I am just one man. Just an intern, at that. And there were tons of people who easily did more work than I did. That’s why I don’t think we’ll ever see another campaign like this one.

Inside the convention center, the mood was joyous and people were still a little bit stunned. I remember looking around, just seeing all these people crying happily, and trying to put into perspective the history I was witnessing.

I am glad I was part of this historic movement. But as Obama said in his first speech as president-elect, and as millions and millions of people will hold him to, this is just the beginning. Expectations are high, and the pressure is intense. Obama needs to get to work. But I have faith.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. November 13, 2008 4:03 am

    I’ve felt pretty disconnected from all of the election stuff being all the way across the pond in a country where it was considered a given that Obama would win. I’d heard about the massive celebrations and the huge voter turnouts, but it’s nice to read a story about the details.

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