Sunday, November 09, 2008

The Obama victory - from the inside looking out

Barack Obama may well be the President elect of the United States of America, but a quick Google search shows that in the online world, we're talking about the importance of this event on a global scale.

Maybe it's because we're all running scared? Maybe it's because at this time in world history it's no longer fun to have a clown in the White House, a good 'ol boy who can't grasp third grade linguistics. This shit has hit the world economics fan, the globe is combusting and no one seems to have a hand on the steering wheel.

To use a line from the Aussie 80s flick 'Going Down', 'This is a dog eat dog world and from where I'm standing, there's not enough dog to go around.'

We need a WORLD leader and maybe Barack Obama is that man? Someone who can cut through all the crap and actually inspire people to bring about real change in the world? As bitter and cynical about world politics as I am, I could use a fix of that right now.

And that brings me to the main event of this post - the thoughts and reasonings of a man who worked as a volunteer on the Obama campaign. What the hell drove Scott Barman, a coin collecting 40-something guy from Washington DC to say, 'You know what, this Obama character looks the real deal and I'm gonna help him to get elected as the next President of the USA'. What indeed, read on...

Next stop, 'HOPE' - Scott Barman

Where did we go right? What made us do it? What happened after eight years of a president whose popularity is the lowest since the 1970s, what made a country with years of racial and cultural divides elect someone other than a white man as president?


We hope that this man with a funny name and does not look like the presidents on the dollar bills will be as cool and calm under fire as he showed during this grueling campaign to lead the United States back from our last eight years.

It is that hope and watching him deflect the attacks against him that prompted me, a middle-aged white guy born in New York living in the Washington, DC-area to support this man.

I have always been a political junkie. Aside from reading as many newspapers as I could acquire, I would watch the Sunday morning talk shows as religiously as some watch entertainment television. But up until now, I had not become involved in the election process. I had never donated money to a campaign. Sure, I attended city and county council meetings, I wrote to legislators, and signed petitions. I also volunteer to help cancer-related charities in their lobbying efforts to ensure funding for related healthcare and research. But I never worked with a campaign.

After having knee surgery on an arthritic knee, I was contacted by a phone bank worker in the Obama for President office in Bethesda, Maryland. Since I had donated money, I was on "the list." The woman was very nice to me and asked if I could help with my time. Since I am still recovering from my surgery, she suggested that I come into the office and call others. I agreed.

My first day on this job was the Saturday after the second debate. I was brought to a computer, logged in to a secure website, handed a script, and started calling. I personalized the script a bit, added more of my personality, made it sound more exciting, and I called other Obama supporters.

I never asked for money. I asked for help. I asked if they would join groups of people who would knock on doors in Northern Virginia, just over the border, to gain additional support. That was important since Virginia is a battleground state and the more votes the better the chance that Obama could win the electoral votes from a traditional Republican state.

If the person at the other end of the phone was physically challenged or were afraid to do the canvassing, they could volunteer to call others, like I was doing. With very limited exceptions, the people I spoke with that day were excited to hear from me. Even though I signed up only one person, it was infectious. So I volunteered again.

As the election approached, the script changed and the calling region widened. First, I was calling people in Northern Virginia asking if they could canvas in other parts of the state. I made arrangements for dozens of people to meet other Obama supporters in targeted areas of Virginia so they could knock on doors to spread the word. Then it was other states. I called quite a few people in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Iowa, and Florida asking for support.

I missed the final weekend of calling to pick up a new puppy (see, but on Monday, the calls were to all over the country reminding people to vote. No more volunteering was necessary. We just wanted to remind people to vote. After the previous two election and the dirty tricks by the Republican Party, the only way to combat that was to win decisively.

Most of us were confidently nervous. Confidence came from the polls showing Obama winning. Nervous because we remember the polls showing John Kerry winning before the 2004 election and what happened in 2000.

But the trends in the polls were in Obama's favor and all we could do was let the process continue.

I attended a private election party on the big night. We watched as the results were being announced. Results were announced slowly. As the polls closed in each state, both candidates were "holding serve", winning the states they expected to win. Then came Indiana, analyzing the county-by-county count and showing how Obama was doing well.

Pennsylvania went to Obama, which was expected, but it was announced that Virginia was leaning to Obama. So was Florida, which was not expected. Then it was very close in North Carolina--too close to call.

The Rust Belt states of Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota were called for Obama and the excitement started to build. With Pennsylvania and Ohio going to Obama, McCain had to run the table. We were optimistic but still nervous.

Obama captured New Mexico and Colorado during the ten o'clock hour.
Indiana was trending to Obama. Virginia and North Carolina was too close to call. Florida is... well... Florida as it was announced there were problems in the southeastern part of the state.

It was 11 PM, the polls closed on the west coast. California, Oregon, and Washington represent 73 electoral votes. With 270 needed to win, Obama was projected to already have over 200 at the top of the hour. But it wasn't over until the electoral counter eclipsed 270 votes.

The announcement came: "NBC News projects that Barack Obama will be the next president of the United States."

As the picture on the television switched to Grant Park in Chicago, the scene of violent protests during the 1968 Democratic National Convention, it was a sea of jubilation.

Ten minutes later, the Commonwealth of Virginia was called for Obama.
For those of us who worked the phones and those who went door-to-door campaigning, it was a satisfying victory.

Our party broke up at 11:30. While we wanted to celebrate, it was time for sleep so we could return to our jobs in the morning.

It was a great experience. I do not know if I would do it again, but I thought it was necessary for this candidate and for this election.

President-elect Barack Obama will be inaugurated on January 20, 2009.
I cannot wait!

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