Archive for the ‘Decision 2008’ Category

Many of you have read about my conversations with my mother regarding Barack Obama and the state of our country here and here. In particular I have spoken about how it pains me to hear my mother, a Thai woman once married to a white American man, talk about her doubts about Barack Obama because of the color of his skin. While it pains me to hear her words, I applaud her for her honesty. We can’t get beyond where we are now without honestly reflecting on our prejudices.

In the days before the election, I thought that I was gaining ground with her. I thought that I may be able to convince her to vote for Barack Obama to “give it a try” as I said. If she wasn’t satisfied she could vote for someone else in 2012. She admitted to me that she could not vote for John McCain given the last 8 years of Republican rule, and so I naively thought that the step to vote for Obama would not be that big of one. I thought to myself that if I couldn’t get my mother, an intelligent woman greatly disillusioned with the Republicans, to vote for Obama, what hope did I have that anyone would vote for him? In the end, she didn’t vote for President at all.

After four days of knocking on doors for the Obama campaign in Colorado, I was in the ballroom of the Sheraton hotel on election night along with thousands of people as we all heard the election declared for Obama. At that moment, I still had hope that my mother had voted for Obama and I briefly contemplated giving her a call in my happiness. The noise in the room prevented me from doing so.

The next day I flew back to Seattle and I called my mother as soon as I got back. I was elated after my hard week of working for the campaign. When I got her on the phone, her voice was bitter. “You may think that this person will solve all your problems, but you are wrong. And it doesn’t matter that everyone likes him in the rest of the world. The world loved Kennedy, but in America he was not well liked.” The conversation was not what I expected.

This past week, these wounds have been reopened. I spoke to my dad who was bemoaning the stimulus package talking about how this was debt I would be paying for the rest of my life. Don’t I know it, I thought.  But I told him that he and every Republican lacked any credibility whatsoever in this argument. The Republicans were responsible for needlessly increasing the debt which he somehow never cared about before, and they themselves were responsible for the removal of the regulations that would have prevented a collapse in the financial industry that resulted in the need for a bailout in the first place. My mom has been making comments about how Democrats love to spend. That’s what they are all about, she says.

It struck me this morning as I woke up, that even they cannot ruin this day for me. I am sure they must be completely flabbergasted at the spectacle that is this inauguration. This inauguration is surely unprecedented in its national importance not just in my life but in theirs. The crowds, how can they be this big, they may be thinking. I suppose when your confidence and respect for your country has been systematically chipped away at for the last eight years, you will be elated at the possibility of restoring its image. And this is the thing that the Republicans seem not to understand. People want Obama to succeed. People want to hope that there is something better around the corner. Any obstruction the Republicans create will be taken badly. It’s a difficult position that they are in though I can’t feel sorry for them considering it is one of their own creation.

It’s a changing of the guards. We are weary of bitterness and division. We want to hope. We want to have something to believe in. We want Obama to succeed. I don’t know what the next four years will bring. Despite my hope, I am a realist and I know that there is the potential for Obama to fail in my estimation. I worry about my job and my life and what this recession will bring. Nonetheless I hope for the best, and I have faith in the man who will lead our country in the next four years.

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True, I’m not that old but this has never happened in my lifetime.

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It wasn’t too long ago that just the sight of a Gore/Lieberman bumper sticker would sting me instantly with sadness. Why, why I thought haven’t these people removed that sticker. Well now there is no excuse. From the Minneapolis Star Tribune via the Seattle Times:

Q: The election is over. How do I remove a bumper sticker without damaging my car?

A: Try using a blow dryer to soften the adhesive, then pull off the sticker. A petroleum-based solvent such as Goo-Gone, available at many discount and hardware stores, also may work. After saturating the stickers with the solvent, wait a couple of minutes for the adhesive to soften. Then use a plastic spoon or ice scraper to remove the stickers. Another suggestion is to saturate the area or remaining sticker with any oil — baby oil, vegetable oil — to remove the residue. Remove the remaining oil spot with a standard carwash.

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Another great one from David Horsey.

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A great interview on Salon.

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While sitting at my Obama booth on election day I was visited by the group the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy. I hope I got that name right. The ISFED observes elections around the world. The group consisted of a Dane, Swede, American and Georgian Ambassador Lasha Zhvania.

Amb. Zhvania was the only one of the group to talk to me. He seemed curious as to what my role was. When I told him I was a volunteer and I coordinated rides to and from the polls, he seemed satisfied. He was smoking while he was talking to me and he handed me his card. It’s impressive. At the top it says Parliament of Georgia and his title is Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. You can view his wikipedia page here.

I’ll admit he was a little hard to read. He was very serious, so much so that I felt a need to perhaps rile him up a bit in a friendly way. I told him that it was an interesting flip to have observers for the American elections. Of course, anyone who reads this blog knows that I skeptical of both the 2000 and 2004 elections. Perhaps I was trying to get him back for his assumption that I didn’t know that Georgia was a country when he introduced himself. He started to say that he was not from the state in America when I said “oh yes, I know, home of Stalin.” He laughed. I think he was having a hard time reading me as well.

I asked him how the election was going based on his observations. He said that the provisional ballots were at a slightly high percentage. They were at 15%. I asked him what a good percentage would be and he said 5%. The whole group had finished their cigarettes by then and so they went away. It was an interesting part of the day.

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The Set Up

After canvassing for three days we had a list of people who needed rides to and from the polls. I and a few other people came up with a dispatch operation where we would bring everyone to the same polling place to make the drops and the pickups so that they would run more smoothly. When our lead coordinator got wind of the idea, she asked me if I could be a “runner” since I was going to already be stationed at the polling location. She put my name and number on a flow chart sheet with “runner” next to it. Not two minutes later, a person came up and told me that they heard I was a runner and asked if I recruit and send volunteers to a staging area three blocks from the polls. Then another person came up to me and said they too heard I was runner. Five minutes later a volunteer came up to me and said “so I hear your the lead polling coordinator.” I was moving up the ladder quite quickly.

I was stationed at Fletcher Elementary School 100 feet away from the polls per law. I had a table and Barack Obama swag along with some informative flyers about other polling locations. The most common query I got was that a person was at the wrong location and they needed to know the correct place to go. For that I would have to call someone at our office in order to look up the information. There were lots of other volunteers with me. Some from the Obama group and some not. I won’t dwell on it, but it was extremely chaotic. Lots of emotionally charged, sleep-deprived, well-meaning volunteers can be a bit much. What you really need is one reallly calm person to give answers.

Voter Demographic

The neighborhood where Fletcher Elementary is located is in a lower income neighborhood. Many people who live in the area work multiple jobs. Canvassing, I would notice an equally high percentage of African Americans and Hispanics with a small minority of Caucasians. As it turned out it was not a demographic that favored John McCain. While canvassing I ran in to a few McCain supporters but I only saw one at the polls — at least so far as I could tell.

I made a point to ask voters “how it went” as they were exiting. There were a lot of provisional ballots which we believed was due to bad training of the poll worker who looks up a person’s name on the rolls. Apparently this person would send people straight to the provisional line without troubleshooting. Of course this is hearsay since I wasn’t inside the polls to confirm.

Many of the African Americans I talked to were first time voters and there were children everywhere. They wanted stickers and posters and signs — basically anything Obama. I told a group of three kids that they could pull some of the yard signs out of the ground and take those home if they wanted. They screamed and ran directly to the signs to pull them out. Not ten minutes later another kid came by and after a couple of minutes of small talk got to the point that he heard I had yard signs. By that time I was out of swag so I asked the office to send some more over. At the end of the night a SUV pulled up and a woman told me she’d heard I had signs. They were a hit.

There is something quite special about the enthusiasm of the voters that day. I really need to say this. Barack Obama is greatly indebted to the Hispanic voters of Colorado. I don’t mean to diminish the African American support Obama receives. That of course is great but it is well known. I did not know how much support he had from Hispanics. They were proud to vote Obama. They were proud to vote Democrat in fact. One man came up to me and pointed to the Obama sign. You a democrat, he asked. Yes I said. Do you have a list of everyone I should vote for, he asked. For the initiatives I directed him to a volunteer from Vote Colorado who had a flyer, but I told him if he wanted to vote for candidates that were Democrat to check the box next to Democrat on each person’s name. He said “yes that’s all I want. Only Democrats.” Karl Rove, you have your work cut out for you.

I actually saw people whose doors I had knocked on in previous days. I made a point to tell them that I was glad they made it out. Maybe they would have come anyway even if I hadn’t knocked on their doors but it felt great thinking that I made have been responsible for a vote.


I read today some speculation that one of Obama and Pelosi’s top priorities is to pass legislation favoring unions. Here’s what I have to say to that. Obama is greatly indebted to unions also. I have never in my life seen people work so hard for a political organization. We volunteers would knock on maybe 100 doors a day. The union folk: 400. They are machines with clear objectives and systems to accomplish those objectives. I may not be pro-union on everything, but there is no doubt in my mind that unions protect workers rights and more importantly they force employers to provide health insurance to their employees — something that would not happen in some jobs without unions. I guess what I’m saying is that unions are a good thing and we shouldn’t begrudge unions from benefiting from an Obama administration. They deserve it.

We closed up shop at 7:00pm and within two hours Colorado was called for Obama. I’m glad it’s over.

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