Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Campaigning for Obama in Ohio

This time last year, I was told there was a chance that I could spend October 2012 campaigning for President Barack Obama. Obviously, I jumped at this opportunity and refused to let go. Which is how, last month, I found myself travelling 2,000 miles to the swing state of Ohio as part of a contingent from the Labour Party to help our sister Democrats. It was to be one the most demanding, exhausting, and ultimately thrilling weeks of my life.
First we flew to Detroit to stock up on Motown, before starting our road trip east. As soon as we arrived in Cleveland, we were taken to campaign headquarters to be briefed. Here we were told that our battleground was Cuyahoga, the most marginal county in the state. We were armed with clipboards, split into crack teams of door-knockers and given our marching orders. Ohio early voting starts a month before election day, and our job was to get this vote out. The next week passed in a blur of determined canvassing, leafleting and occasional running away from Republicans’ dogs.

We soon discovered that the most rewarding places to campaign were the predominantly poor and African-American neighbourhoods, where there was almost universal support for Obama. Many were practically disenfranchised from early voting by poor access to polling stations and being overlooked by the parties for fancy publicity campaigns. The most interesting part of the week was just speaking to people on the doorstep, talking about things like how the laws passed in Washington really affected their everyday lives; how grand rhetoric about the economy actually translated into wages in the bank and food on the table. Over the course of the week, we knocked on over 10,000 doors.

We were lucky enough to be in Ohio in an eventful week – the local Democrats threw a watch party for the broadcast of the second presidential debate, and on our last day we attended a rally headlined by Bruce Springsteen and Bill Clinton. Locals were particularly anxious about the second debate, after Obama’s flop in the first (there were many, many theories about this – from Obama being kept up the night before due to alien landings to Romney’s skiing experience helping him cope with Denver’s thinner air). Emotions at the rally ran high as Bruce, with Bill Clinton cheering from the side, covered Woody Guthrie’s ‘This Land Is Your Land’ to a stadium full of people singing along.
Finally, our convoy rolled on towards our final destination, Washington D.C. We said goodbye to our friends in the campaign headquarters before stocking up on everything Obama-related we could lay our hands on. In D.C. we spent the day touring Congress, the monuments and the tat shops, and in the evening we were lucky enough to have dinner with a few local Democratic senators. We finally waddled through customs with our suitcases bulging with badges, masks, and a few ‘Obama for America’ emblazoned frisbees, desperate for our first full night’s sleep in ten days.

Three weeks later, our group, though now far-flung across the UK, was reunited in sitting glued to our TV screens into the early hours. After a nail-biting night, watching Obama’s electoral college votes slowly mount, there was an eruption of several very loud celebrations as Cuyahoga County came through for Obama, and with it Ohio.

Bring on 2016.


No comments:

Post a Comment