I think I’ve finally ridden out the wave of emotion that I’ve been riding since last weekend (which crested Tuesday night) enough to finally put thoughts on paper.
I’m still reeling from Tuesday’s election. Not just because we are now looking at President-elect Barack Obama (who I’ve supported from the beginning), or because Democrats picked up major gains across the board, but also because this election saw record numbers of voters turnout to use their voices to shape the direction of our country, including high numbers of youth and minority voters. Although I was very happy to see my party do well, I’m (almost) as excited to see so many people engaged in the process. Very cool!
Some of my highlights from the last week:
I spent most of Saturday & Sunday before the election camped out at my neighborhood Obama office making phone calls to connect with neighbors, and then training new volunteers how to do the same. We had huge turnout of volunteers to phone bank and campaign on Sunday–burning through all of our call lists (twice) in less than 8 hours! My favorite moment of the day came when one of the new volunteers told us about one of her calls. It turns out the voter that she was trying to reach died during the week before; according to a family member who answered the phone, due to early voting, he had cast his ballot for Obama before he died.
Tuesday, I worked the polls all day to support Obama campaign Get Out the Vote efforts. Because of early voting and vote-by-mail, the polling place I was at was pretty slow all day, and had no major issues come up, so my job was kind of boring, but a couple of highlights:
1) As first time voters put their ballots in the collection box, the head Election Judge would lead her staff in a round of applause.
2) At one point pretty late in the afternoon 2 women from a local shelter came in to vote. It turned out that they were at the wrong polling place. Several of us were standing outside when they came out and were tripping over ourselves to help them–offering rides, clear directions to the place they were actually looking for, etc. They had made a major effort just to get there and we didn’t want to see them leave without voting. As we were clambering to make sure they actually made it to their polling place, one of them turned to us, her hands on her hips and stated firmly “we have a car and we are going to the other polling place. We are NOT voting with a provisional ballot–our vote is going to COUNT!” We gave them directions and they hurried off.
3) After the polling places closed and I had checked back in with my local office, I headed downtown to a party thrown by the local Democratic Party. I have never seen such excitement (and relief) in one place. When MSNBC finally called the race for Obama, the crowd went nuts–I think the 4000 people there were actually louder than the 75K in Invesco Field during the DNC. Everywhere you looked, you saw people with huge smiles and tears. My phone finally died around midnight…battery drained from phone calls, voicemails and text messages. Outside cars were honking and people were celebrating into the night. Watching reports since, I’ve been amazed at how many similar celebrations happened all around the world.
I happily celebrated with friends and strangers, but the election results didn’t really hit me until I was quietly at home, reading election coverage at one of my favorite blogs and I ran across a post entitled “This is really happening”. I stared at the screen, as the meaning of those words sank in, and burst into relieved and joyful tears.
Since Tuesday, I’ve been browsing the news and websites, slowly absorbing some of the election coverage I missed on Tuesday. Two of my favorite posts are linked below.
Yesterday I was at home sick–the change in weather, spending lots of time in close quarters with lots of other people, and exhaustion finally hit and I needed a day of rest. I was reading my email late last night and ran across this message from one of my student interns: “Ps- you should be proud to hear that I voted yesterday b/c of you 🙂 Hows about Obama for a revolution ey?” Two months ago, this student wasn’t registered to vote, had no interest in the process, and when I asked her why she wasn’t registered, her response was “I’d have no idea who to vote for. I don’t know anything about the candidates, or the issues. Why would I vote?” Aside from being a bit appalled that she felt that way, I was also really disappointed, wondering if that was how much of the “youth vote” felt. I sent her a list of candidate websites (from both sides) and a link to Rock the Vote. I told her I’d walk her through the registration process if she needed help, and tried to explain why it was important that she use her voice. I got her to register, but had no idea if she would actually turn out to vote. As the election got closer, I sent her (and my other students) links to the multiple YouTube “Don’t Vote” videos and reminders to vote, hoping that they would resonate. To say I’m proud of her is an understatement.
I know this post is really long, but finally, I want to thank everyone who worked on this election, and specifically on the Obama-Biden campaign…from attending rallies, to calling voters, to canvassing neighborhoods, to talking to others about why you were voting for your candidate of choice, to recruiting others to volunteer, to voting. And I especially want to thank my friends (old and new) who gave up their everyday lives to work full time for the Obama campaign–often leaving friends and family to move to new cities full of strangers, sleeping on couches and in spare rooms, putting in long days for not enough (if any) pay and keeping other staff and volunteers motivated. For not giving up, or even taking days off, even when you were exhausted. For offering credit for victories to others long before accepting any yourselves. This election was a momentous, community effort and required the work of many, but without you, none of us volunteers would have shown up.