Saturday, October 20, 2012

13 Hours

Home at 2:30Am, up by 7am. Surely I've joined a campaign.

My host family is just fantastic. I've only spent about three house total with them, but they're caring and delightful. Both retired, she a nurse, he a nuclear engineer, they're always buzzing with energy. Fascinated by what we're doing on the ground and curious about my life, they are the perfect hosts for campaign housing. I keep thinking in my head how I'd love to host someone for a campaign, but in New York I can't imagine why I'd ever have to. Also, unless I was sleeping with the person, my studio isn't necessarily condusive to such long term stays.

Today is Dry Run 1. Testing out the systems for GOTV and reporting to make sure all is working like a well organized and well oiled machine 17 days from now.

Pennsylvania is different than most swing states in that there is NO early voting and getting an absentee ballot is not simple. So, it boils down to having 13 hours on election day to motivate, mobilize, and win.

And that's exactly what we intend to do.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Why We're Here

            In my Voter Corps Fellow training today, we all had to share reasons why we joined the campaign.  They were all moving.

1.     Unemployed master-degreed woman, Chicago native.  “If the President wins, then I win.”
2.     25-year-old woman with a pre-existing condition.  “I’m 26 next year and so longer will I be on my mother’s insurance plan – if Romney overturns the ACA, then I’ll never get insurance again.” 
3.     A New Yorker who was a bit lazy in 2008 because of his love for Hillary.  But the President has done great things, including stating that he believes in marriage equality.  
4.     A Floridian since 3-years old, he moved to PA to help his sisters with their children.  However, if Romney gets elected, his entire family is moving back to their native Germany.  
5.     A middle aged attorney who was living in London for 9/11 and the drumbeat to the Iraq war.  He realized the only way he could change things, even after marching with millions in the countries that later followed the US into Iraq, was to help elect people who wouldn’t do that.  Obama was ALWAYS opposed to the war in Iraq.

That’s just a start.  It was emotional and pretty remarkable. 

            Pittsburgh is interesting.  This office is on Smallman Street in the Strip District.  There are tons of lofts and warehouses down the block.  Grand in their brick and limestone, carved granite and leaded glass windows, there are few sidewalks because it's all loading docks.  Some have been converted into nightclubs, others to local farmers-like markets; some are still active for warehousing and manufacturing.  There’s also Marty’s Market where I got a grilled BBQ tempeh sandwich.  It was heaven.  

Day One: Observations

            The train station was nothing to brag about in Pittsburgh.  People park their cars facing either direction no matter what side of the street they park on here.  Also, it is very hilly; bridges of all styles, sizes, and colors lunge across the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio Rivers. 

Campaign HQ in Pittsburgh is great.  It’s a massive former bar/restaurant that we’ve all floors of.  The old bar is storage for signs, paint, literature, and all things Obama.  Booths double as cubicles for field officers.  And the kitchen remains a kitchen for the endless number of volunteers streaming through the doors to make calls, report numbers, drop off food, or just say hello. 

Today the work begins.  I’ve a three hour training this afternoon and then off to my field office in Monroeville.  My host family is amazing.  Upon arriving at 11:30 last night, they offered food.  When I said I was fine, they quickly insisted on having a beer – I had a few with both of them.  Upon further conversation, it was discovered their son lives five doors west of me on the very same Striver’s Row block in Harlem.

It is such a small and wonderful world.  

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Taking Another Step Forward

            I’m on a train, going somewhere.  Nearly four years ago, when the United States elected Barack Obama, I partied in streets of Harlem, reveling in the wonder of a hard fought victory.  The thing was, then, the general election was easier than the primary.  I was a huge Hillary fan and remain one today.  John McCain in many ways handed us the election, but America was hungry to take a step forward.  And so we did. 

            Today, as I ride the Pennsylvanian west to Pittsburgh, with Amish farmers plowing fields alongside derelict steel factories, I think we’re yearning for another step.  So I’m on my way to ensure not just victory for the President here in PA, but to make sure we take another step forward as a nation.

            My fear is that if people see the race going towards Obama, voters will say, “Oh, he’s going to win so I don’t have to vote for him again.”  This is terrifying, as there are also many down ticket races that are critical to the future of this country. 

            Now I’m a party guy, both in terms of politics and socializing. Looking at the map though, there’s going to be some changes: It’s likely we’ll have a new Independent from Maine in the Senate; there’s a tough fight going on in Montana to keep a farmer and fighter in his Senate seat; and even in my home state of Connecticut, a wrestling giant has spent exorbitantly and refaced herself to make her lies and indecency more appealing to an otherwise deep blue state.  Which is why the President at the top of the ticket still matters.  And people need to turn out. 

Other Senate and House races in South Dakota and Virginia, New Mexico and Missouri will be fueled by the large push from the Obama campaign, with hopes of giving the President some coat tails again. We all know the tails won’t be as big as they were in 2008 – a time when 59 Democrats were elected to the Senate, then got 60 when the late Arlen Spector change his party because the Republican party left him.  This will not happen, but we need to hold on, and making sure people turn out to vote is part of that strategy.

I won’t bore you with this crap.  Other blogs and talking heads do that already.  So here’s the deal: I’ll be directing a field office/GOTV operation in Monroeville, one of Pittsburgh’s most populous suburbs.  If you know PA, we win by ensuring big turn out in Philly and Pittsburgh and buttressing that vote with a solid win in the suburbs of those cities.  Scranton’s native Joe will certainly be a boost in the northeastern corner of the state, too.  Now we know the numbers look good here; so good, that after GOP leaders in Ohio begged the Romney camp to step up their game there, Romney pulled staff from PA and sent them to OH.  Which is fine.  The President doesn’t have a path to victory without Pennsylvania, and while not the swing state it was in 2008 and 2004, it is a must win.

So I’ll be knocking on doors, talking to people, hoping they’ll see that this election presents a clear choice to voters: that of an intrusive and hypocritical ticket, one that seeks to go back to the failed policies of the past and throw away for vouchers all we were guaranteed for generations as Americans.  Or the other guy, who is fighting for the middle class.  Who saved the auto industry because it wasn’t just about them, but about the millions of jobs that support that industry.  My dad would have likely lost his job if not for the bailout.  My mom’s business could have closed if not for the stimulus and auto bail out.  And then there’s standing up for women’s rights and healthcare; being bullish and astute on the myriad issues of foreign policy; chipping away at what is the No Child Left Behind Act; putting (a paltry) $8 billion towards rail and high speed rail investment.  All these things were small steps, which fueled the bigger one of putting us on a more competitive edge with the rest of the rapidly changing and developing world.

I see it as simple: I’m supporting someone who supports me.  Who sees me as equal, both as a working class person, and for the first time ever, as a Gay American, worthy of the same rights as every other individual.  That part probably won’t be a big selling point in PA, but it matters at heart, and it’s part of the reason I’m hitting the trail.

Stay tuned for dispatches from the field.  I’m hoping to get some audio up here, too.

Now let’s keep going. 

On to Victory.