Wednesday, November 5, 2008

We Did It! - Now back to work!

I have been involved in the Obama campaign since April of this year. The euphoria we felt winning a long and hard fought primary was only a respite from the longer slog that was ahead. For the run up to the presidency I worked in my area (Norther Orange County) as a data manager for the Obama campaign. Our immediate director Craig Perrin was focused and results oriented to say the least. I spent the last 3 weeks of the campaign making sure the canvas packet data made it into the National Democratic Party voting system. This system along with the primary use of represented real innovation in campaigning in that real time information about voters and volunteers was reported to Chicago and Democratic Headquarters every night. The canvasers had packets of names and knew if the voter was undecided and needed persuasion or just need to be reminded to get out and vote. This made a huge difference. Using this system volunteers could access calling lists and scripts and key the results in real time after each phone call. It was unprecedented organization. Even so it had its interesting moments leading up to election day.

Election Weekend Sign Scuffle

Hillsborough (where I live) is an area in transition. You have alot of Democrats moving into a conservative area bringing their emphasis on organic food markets and concerns about walkability and want to patronize locally grown produce, locally owned restaurants and stores (the Small and Slow movements). When we made a large signs that said "Hillsborough is Obama Country" and posted it on the highway just north of town and on the main street here, they caused quite a stir. The one on the main street caused an accident from gawkers and the one on the highway just made a group of motorists angry. I got a call from Craig Perrin asking what the law was for the signage in Town and I looked it up and drove out to the site. A policeman and a man in Army fatigues were there clearly discussing not only how are sign did not meet the ordinance, but that they did not like it personally. Neutral law enforcement - ummm, not so much. The man in military uniform goes on to argue that we are "brainwashing people" with our sign telling them what to think. We respond that its a first ammendment right to say what you think, we'll make our sign compliant and still say the same thing. The officer and the man in uniform both went on to complain that they fought in uniform so "people like us" could "do that" (pointing). Thanks very much but it is indeed our right and people have been fighting for this right for generations up generations in peaceful and not so peaceful ways. We modified our sign. But overnight the McCain people put up two larger signs that combined were almost twice as large as the Obama signs had ever been. We called the code enforcement but they were still up for an entire day before they were modified.

Election Day

6:30 AM I am up and headed to the polls to be a greeter in the pouring rain. I get there and there is a sparse turnout early. The biggest problems are the rain. The the Republican table across the walkway from us had a nice tent and some interesting characters working there (to say the least - one of them a odd Palinesque woman with an amazingly alarming smile). We finally get a nice awning about 8:00 am. So soaking wet we put this thing up so the our materials and people will stay dry. Poor voters - every one that comes up is approached by someone Dem or Repub. So gentleness is the way to go. Remember that you are a greeter not an accoster.

9:00 AM Door hangers. The amazing computer system knows when you've voted and how you did. So we also know who has not. That's what this effort is about. One of the ways the Obama campaign could win (so I was told) in North Carolina is to turn out 20% more vote in the Triangle and Obama takes the state. So off we go to do door hangers and get the last voters out to the polls. We had done such a good job in early voting that 40% of North Carolina had voted early. My precinct here in Hillsborough - 74% of us had voted by election day! So packets and maps from the computer system and in the car and off you go. At this point the packets are as thin as they have ever been due to the fact that we had hit so many of them so well for early voting. The last holdouts required driving between houses not strolling from house to house.

1:00 PM Lunch break in Carrboro.

2:00 PM Back to Obama HQ in Northern Orange. Still doing door hangers and carrying packets, volunteers coming and going furiously. With an apparent non-entry of packet data the only way to generate new lists of people who had not voted was to read the voting list from the polls (legally obtainable at 3 points during the day) and manually update the packets by reading the names of those who had voted in an area and finding them in the packets, crossing their names off and sending the packets back out. So a large group sat at a table while names were read from the voting rolls and marked off the walk packets. These packets went back out again.

4:30 PM The word comes that the emphasis is on Durham now (Orange county went 72% for Obama in the final tally!) so everyone here is supposed to go to Durham. I stay behind with a data manager from the state Obama organization and do paperwork hand tallying votes from the actual voting record.

6:15 PM Brain fried, very tired (I woke up at 5:00 AM I was so wired about today) I go home, watch returns and very satsifiedly go to bed after it is made clear Obama has won. I was genuinely moved upon hearing this it made me a bit choked up having waited so long.

This is the sea change I think. The majority the Obama voters in NC were under 60. The majority of the Republican voters are over 60. The youth movement is finally here. The movement my generation had hoped it was. My generation has been watching and hoping and taking it on the chin a bit. Clinton was our moment, but he helped lose the future for us in his ill-fated second term. This is a new day its not politics as usual, its not lip-service its plain, solid real-service time. The community networks that Obama inspired (never make fun of a community organizer)hopefully will live on so that the American people, the stakeholders, can have a voice.


ann marie said...

And good work there. I watched the numbers all evening and cheered in flickr like crazy all evening, and when the results came in I was in so thrilled, revived, with a sense of disbelief and amazement - if this can happen, anything can. His speech was so moving, awesome, inspired and inspiring. I'm so very glad for global balance, he'll be holding some kind of balance of power now and it's in the right hands. I'm starting to think Kennedy pales in comparison and that is something. It really is a new day in a strong sense of the word.

Jeff Hart said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeff Hart said...

regarding the quote "The officer and the man in uniform both went on to complain that they fought in uniform so "people like us" could "do that" (pointing)"

yet another set of under informed public servants. they would have fit in well with bush's justice department. i hope you elaborated with him that the right of free speech does not derive from one's military service. it's from a thing call the constitution to which he swore an oath twice (his job and his military duty) to uphold. it's that kind of thinking that the founders wished to avoid (a police state and power hungry military), knowing that the power derives from the people, not the military. it's also why the commander in chief is a civilian, not a military official. sigh. we still have a ways to go with curbing power hungry people, on down to the local law enforcement level.

oh, and good job holden! proud of you, bud