TWO DAYS ON THE GROUND WITH THE OBAMA CAMPAIGN:
Like many Obama supporters, I have been receiving emails with information, requests for support etc., for many months. Living in Alabama, where McCain has more support than any other southern state, the outcome is fairly certain, so other than a few dollars I felt my contributions were limited. Then, last week I got an email asking if I could come to Florida, and seeing that I live less than an hour from Pensacola I answered in the affirmative. A national person called me and asked if it would be possible for me to go to Destin, a high-end resort town about 2.5 hours to the east, as they really needed some more people there. Going to Pensacola is easy but Destin would require over night, packing, and of course the expense of spending a night or two away. But, I thought, how many times have I told my grown children that, "democracy is not a spectator sport"- and therefore maybe I should get off by butt and do something besides talk. So I did. The following is a short replay of my two days.
I got to the campaign headquarters and it looked just like I would expect a Democratic "job sight"- to look like. An older vacant real estate office, maybe 25 years old, basic all the way, no frills at all. The young man in charge was a 26-year-old Iraq veteran, tired looking, nursing a broken tooth that obviously was in need of a root canal. The rest, mostly women in their 50's and 60's, made me feel right at home, gave me a phone and voter list and said today was the last day for early voting, and start calling. After 130 calls, the poll was soon closing, so I started collating my calls. Just about what you would have guessed, working from a list of supposedly Democrats, and independents. In that were some wrong numbers, some McCain supporters, some already voted, some that did not want to talk. In the end, my Obama supporters were probably 3 to 1. I guess it was around 7 that the conference call from Barack came through. I was told that there were 20,000 people on the call, which I guess in my case in a room of maybe 20, there were at least 400,000 people listening. Quite a ground game it seemed to me.
The next day started out at 9:00 with me following Justin to the Fort Walton campaign office. Once again, looked very Democratic, a step down from the other office, and more young and more black. This office----use that term loosely, outside restroom and all----was on a busy intersection, and we began our day putting out signs on the edge of the street. I was told that the day before, a protester was standing across the street holding a sign that read "Obama a baby killer. When he opened the office, we saw two McCain signs on the floor and Justin commented that "they should not have done that"-. Seems the owner of the bait and tackle shop in the other part of the building was a McCain supporter and was displaying his signs on his part of the property. Justin immediately returned the signs to the owner apologizing and "Bubba"- dressed in overalls graciously acknowledged the return. Bubba was certainly close in age to me and we shook hands and talked a bit. I was struck by his remarks that one thing was for sure, this campaign had gotten lots of new voters involved, and that was a good thing. I thought, good thinking Bubba and I bet you and I could enjoy a day of fishing together, and is not that something we need in today's politics.
Mary, a black Air Force sergeant was my canvas buddy for the day and off we went, complete with Amiriah (I'm told princess in Arabic) her 2 yr. Old. A bonus I had not expected. This was the poor part of town. Our first stop was a housing project that had just about emptied out, as people were being moved away. A mixed area, but one thing in common was everyone was poor. Young white kids that looked like you might not want to meet on a dark street at night. Young black kids that seem a bit nicer but not many McCain supporters here. And probably not a lot that were voting at all. I have grumbled about how much we have lost in the market, but these people were more concerned about the next meal and I realized once again, it is the economy stupid and these are the ones that get kicked first and hardest. I know Barack Obama saw many of these people in his community organizing days and somehow, I don't think he will be able to forget them. I know I cannot. But there was the occasional person that had already voted and the ones that said they were going to vote and in this neighborhood, there were not many McCain signs.
That afternoon I rode with Aaron, a retired Air Force officer who had also taught government and politics. Nice to be with someone my age and mindset. We went to the other end of the spectrum, in that on the water, the price of homes is quickly in the millions. Lots more McCain signs here but also some Obama ones as well. All and all, I would say a split between the two candidates.
P.S. Justin got his root canal Sat. night