Monday, November 19, 2012

This Is How You Win An Election

A lot has been written in the last two weeks about how the Obama campaign pulled off a strong re-election against some incredible odds (and odd people, too).  There’s been a lot of talk about messaging and getting donors lined up, getting the right surrogates out there, having good oppo research, and having an instant counter-strike force ready to take on whatever the Republicans threw out there… or gaffed up on the field.

All of that was important, but it really didn’t matter until the actual votes were cast, and that meant getting every voter that had the slightest inclination to vote for Barack Obama out to the polls, either early voting or on the actual day.  And that took dedication, organization, and just plain hard work.  Not everyone can do all of that, even those who want to.  For some, it’s the time that it takes, for others it’s the cost that cannot be absorbed.  So they found other ways that they could help win the election.

For instance, my parents.  They have been involved in a lot of campaigns in Northwest Ohio for many years, and you might recall that in 2004, my mom was a delegate to the Democratic convention in Boston.  In 2008 they opened their house to visiting campaign workers and volunteers, and this year they did it again.  Yesterday they shared their story with TPM.

I just read the great piece by the man from Idaho who went to Cleveland to canvass for Obama’s re-election. My husband and I were similarly blown away by the dedication to Democracy we saw in the volunteers we hosted. At our house (my husband and I are in our 80’s by the way) we have taken in workers like this man who arrive from all over the country.

We have given them beds and use of our laundry machines plus the occasional early morning glass of orange juice and a cup of coffee. Other volunteers provided home cooked meals at the downtown Toledo headquarters. We had as many as six sleeping in our guest rooms and in the hall between during the ‘08 election run-up. One young man was part of the legal team that advised the campaign staff and came from David Boies’ law firm in New York. He shared his personal life stories with us and we kept in touch for more than a year after he went to work in DC.This year we had at one time four women sharing our two guest rooms. One told her astonished husband she absolutely had to go to Ohio – this being the Thursday before the last weekend – and she lived in Seattle. She caught a plane to Detroit the next day, rented a car and arrived unannounced at headquarters. They placed her with us during which time she walked the streets to canvass in downtown Toledo, rising early and working deep into the evening, grabbing a bite at headquarters and collapsing in our bedroom after 10:00. Another woman came from the Jersey shore and once she found her house was OK put her shoulder to the wheel as well in Toledo doing anything that was needed including the demanding work walking the neighborhoods to get out the vote. Our guest who stayed the longest had taken unpaid leave from Congresswoman Maxine Waters’ office in DC four weeks before the election to work where she knew the need was most critical, Ohio. She was exhausted by the time the votes were all in. She had risen at dawn every morning, canvassed all day – eventually working as one of the team leaders placing volunteers where they were most needed – and she didn’t return until after 11:00 at night. The Tuesday of the voting she finally got to bed around 2:30 Wednesday. When she left two days later we hugged and exchanged addresses. I’ll never forget her or the stories these great women shared with us, some of them hilarious, some frustrating but a lifetime of memories for them and for the two of us.

Obama’s machine stayed dormant after the ‘08 election and then retooled and expanded to the vast organization you saw that blew away the competition. I see this happening again in Ohio. The name is a bit different now; it’s Organization For Ohio today, but it will be in place when needed for the off-term elections and beyond. The e-mails are already beginning. They know me and they’ll call on me again.

Needless to say, I am very proud of my parents.

6 barks and woofs on “This Is How You Win An Election

  1. A follow-up to this election story is the note I received today from the young lawyer we hosted during the fall of the ’08 election. He read TPM and recognized my description of him. He emailed Josh Marshall who confirmed my address and he’s written to give me an update to his life and to invite us to his April wedding! He says he’ll never forget us. My very own Facebook without all the extra friends you don’t need :). What a life-confirming experience.

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