Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’12 – Victory

 
 

As Obama’s victory fades into memory, Francis McNamara recounts his final days on the campaign trail

 

So it was an incredible week. The Obama campaign began our ‘Get Out The Vote’ (GOTV) operation on Friday November 2nd. We had been planning it for over a month. GOTV required us to contact every single voter who we had previously recorded as a supporter. All the work we had done over the previous last few months meeting and registering voters led up to this operation. We aimed to speak to every single Obama supporter we knew existed and ensure that they made it to the polling station.

It began on Friday at 4pm; I sat in on a conference call between our team, the St Paul and the Duluth (Minnesota’s large cities) teams. We discussed our various strengths and congratulated ourselves on all that we had achieved. Then we started cheering “Fired up, ready to go!” over and over again and I raced out to canvass the priority precincts. If I discovered that someone was not home I would hang a card on the doorknob advocating voting Democrat and detailing the local polling station.

After it became dark, I returned to the office, linked my barackobama.com account to my mobile phone and phone bank until late at night. I canvassed and phone banked throughout the day over the following weekend. With each passing day, everyone became more and more anxious and stressed as a result of a lack of sleep.

Then Tuesday, election day, the day that had been hanging over us for months, arrived and we went into hyper drive. The campaign office was a torrent of activity with hundreds of canvassers racing in and out. In the afternoon, I was selected to go dorm storming with U.S Congressman Keith Ellison. This involves entering student on campus housing, knocking on every single dorm room and urging them to vote. It was very productive and I had a lot of fun chatting with and getting to know Congressman Ellison.

Once I got back to the office I phone banked up until 8pm when Minnesota polling closed. But I wasn’t done! We switched to Iowa phone numbers and continued for another hour. I did not enjoy phone banking late at night on election day. I felt guilty for bothering so many people, most of whom had already voted. One woman told that I was her seventh call today and another sighed sadly: “I just want you people to leave me alone.”

I thought about the 2012 election, and how many negative ads Americans have been bombarded with over the past few weeks. For me, that was the moment in the campaign I least enjoyed. I felt like I was bullying people into voting. The 2012 campaign was the most overbearing, most negative, and most expensive campaign in history and perhaps a line was crossed. More than $2 billion has been spent and has caused many Americans to be disappointed in both candidates.

As I finished calling people in Iowa, one of the campaigners ran through the room shouting “The President won Wisconsin”. While I cheered along with everyone else, voting had only ceased in Wisconsin 40 minutes prior and I thought that he was guilty of counting his chickens.

We finished phone banking at 9pm and I became glued to HuffingtonPost.com watching the state-by-state polling percentages come in. I would discuss the analysis with my friends and people around me would shout “Stop, I can’t handle hearing it!”

As my friends and I piled into our car to head home and to the campaign party we were full of energy. We couldn’t stop talking about how happy we were that the campaign was finally over and how much we were looking forward to getting our lives back.

The Minnesota Democratic Campaign Party was a lot of fun. Everyone in the Democratic Party came from all over the state and packed into a hotel ballroom. There were huge video screens set up all around the room and we watched the results live. Every time a pro-democratic result would come in the entire room would erupt into cheering. The screen showed the result: “Colorado legalises Marijuana” and then everyone erupted into cheers. Bemused, I thought to myself that this isn’t relevant to us at all. Colorado had also legalised same-sex marriage earlier and my friend quoted Leviticus: “If a man lays with another man, he must be stoned”

Then, shortly before midnight, Mitt Romney delivered his concession speech to the nation. Everyone listened in silence and I thought that he appeared about as sad and utterly defeated as a man can be.

Then, around midnight, President Obama addressed the nation. His speech that night was the best speech he’d given all year. The entire room was so relieved, emotional, and tired that halfway through we began to cry. We were so proud of the part that we each played in delivering a profoundly good and optimistic man four more years in the White House.
The rest of the evening was a whirl of bright balloons, lifelong friendships declared and photographs taken.

We slowly returned home tired and happy in the feeling of a job well done.

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