|More on the Political Process
||[Nov. 6th, 2008|08:32 pm]
R Reid Myers
In 1996, I voted for Clinton's second term. I'd turned 18 a few weeks after election day in 1992 and so hadn't been able to support his first term. I had been more excited about him in 92 than I was in 96, but Clinton seemed like a no-brainer of a vote. I didn't bother even looking into Dole's positions.|
In 2000, I voted for Nader. I did not expect Nader to actually win, nor did I think he would actually be a good president. However, his positions were closer to mine than Gore's or Bush's, and I lived in a state that would (and did) easily go for Gore. (Maryland is heavily Democratic.) As I am now older and hopefully a little more sophisticated about politics, I see that who is president really matters a great deal, and that it's far more important to do the best I can with a Democratic candidate than it is to pursue a third-party agenda.
I was bitterly, bitterly disappointed by Bush's illegitimate claim to the white house. I did not feel culpable (if I'd lived in Florida or another swing state, I never would have voted for Nader) but I did feel angry. I vowed to get involved next time.
In 2004, I donated to the Howard Dean campaign, and I attended a Dean rally at UMD. I was inspired by Dean's message and wanted to be involved in his efforts. Then he gave that full-throated squawk after losing an early primary battle, and my respect for Dr. Dean fizzled. I decided to wait until somebody won the nomination before supporting another Democratic candidate. When Kerry won, I did give him some money, and I volunteered for him--but not that extensively. I was fine with Kerry, but I wasn't excited by him. I could tell things were not going to go his way on election night, and we left before Bush was called as winner of the election.
I was even more bitterly disappointed in 2004 for two reasons:
1. I'd personally invested in the process, instead of just casting a ballot. It's hard when you've been working with your neighbors and friends for something you care about and it fails.
2. I couldn't believe Bush was legitimately elected for a second term. Were the American people totally not paying attention? Plenty of Bush's scandals had already broken by 2004. It was like Nixon getting elected for a second term after the Watergate break-in, as far as I was concerned. I didn't understand Bush's appeal (still don't really) and I felt disconnected from my fellow citizens because of it.
In 2008, I was interested in Obama's campaign, but I didn't commit any financial, personal or emotional investment to his candidacy until close to when West Virginia held its primary. I was ok with Clinton but was much more interested in Obama. When Obama sewed up the nomination at long last, I wanted to get involved, but other things in my life seemed more important at that time (finishing radiation therapy, summer travel, then starting a new part-time job).
About 6 weeks ago, I realized a few essential things:
1. I had become so captivated by the idea of an Obama presidency that I wanted to feel like I owned his success if he won.
2. While he seemed to have more money than God in his campaign chest, his ability to win clearly hinged on raising enough to totally snow McCain on his own home turf of states like Virginia and Indiana.
3. I live very close to two swing states, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
4. While McCain had previously been one of my favorite Republicans, his pick of Palin went beyond "Maverick" and well into the category of "Idiotic." His campaign message was getting more hateful, and Palin's willingness to tolerate the rabid attitude of some of her supporters made me frightened of what might happen if McCain won and then passed away. I was unlikely to support McCain to begin with, but I actually started dreading the idea of a McCain presidency--and especially a Palin vice-presidency.
I donated to the Obama campaign, and I started driving to Virginia to volunteer for the Obama campaign whenever I had a day off. I worked out of the Winchester, VA office a few times, mostly calling those over age 60 (it was daytime so those were the only voters likely to be home) and addressing envelopes. I donated a return address rubber stamp to the Winchester office because we were having to hand-write the return addresses on our mailings and I thought that was silly.
When the weekend before the election arrived, we spent several hours on Sunday at the Obama office in Leesburg, VA, making phone calls and compiling canvasser packets. The office was completely mobbed. Everybody there was so nice and so committed, and almost all the volunteers had never before been involved in a campaign. When I reached a voter on the phone who planned to support Obama, I thanked them with all the sincerity I could muster. Every singer voter was so important in that state and I wanted them to know how much their votes for Obama mattered. I also called people who had already said they would support Obama to ask them to come volunteer for the campaign.
I returned to the Leesburg office on Monday, and E. took off Tuesday and spent the day in Loudoun County helping get out the vote. We went to the Loudoun County Democratic Party election watch party that night to watch results come in. (We don't have television and wanted network news rather than internet as our primary resource for results.)
I still can't believe that we did it. I am so glad I donated and that I got involved. I'm feeling so much pride and patriotism right now that I think tomorrow morning my hair might turn red, white and blue. Not only is Obama going to be our next president, I personally helped to put him there--with my vote, my money, my time, my energy, my passion. That's how this whole process is supposed to work.
I have been like a crack monkey hitting the reload button on sites like nytimes.com for months now, and I'm glad to move on now. Here's my next political goal:
I figure I have 8 years to figure out a way into the Obama white house. What do you think is my best approach? :)