Page 13 Cartoons

Dispatches from the Obama campaign

August 28, 2008

Decelerating off the highway, a perfect blue August sky reflecting in the rear view mirror of my car, I caught the second half of a blurred sign that read, “Population: 3,863.” I turned down the blaring music to pay more attention to where I was going. Not that there were a lot of ways I could get lost: the town had two main streets that intersected in a modest downtown area along the riverfront. A minute later I was pulling up to an old building with large glass windows and a yard sign taped to the front door. I had just arrived at Obama headquarters in Louisiana, Missouri.

Unfamiliar with this midwestern Mecca? You’re probably not the only one, but you don’t know what you’re missing. It’s a beautiful little town along the Mississippi River, with B&Bs, BBQ joints, and trains that rumble by in the night. It’s also where I’ll be living for the next 90 days leading up to the presidential election.

As a field organizer for the Obama campaign, I’ve been assigned to the community in order to help build a grassroots network of campaign activists. Neighbors talking to neighbors, coworkers to coworkers, friends to friends—it’s all about people working together to engage in the democratic process. This is the sort of civic involvement that makes America great, by producing a “government of the people, for the people, by the people,” to quote a great American document.

Filled with idealistic fervor and convinced I would spark a movement, I began to call people from lists I was given. I was shot down so many times, I just stopped counting. When I wasn’t trying to recruit volunteers, I was killing the spiders that had infested my office by the dozen. The air conditioning refused to work, and the ceiling fans did little but stir the room’s stifling hot air. I had not a single volunteer to show after a long first day on the job. Activists didn’t start coming out of the woodwork to help win Missouri for Obama, and and Scarlett Johansson didn’t begin an impromptu chorus of “Yes We Can” on the town’s sidewalk. I began to wonder what I’d gotten myself into.

Doubting thoughts crept into my head. I should be hugging friends outside of Leo’s, or lamenting the ungodly cost of books from the campus bookstore, or partying it up the first weekend of school. Instead, I was sitting in rural Missouri in an empty office with a bunch of spiders as my only company.

With deepening gloom, I had continued to call people, hoping I’d strike gold and find a volunteer. The next day passed uneventfully. I paced the room, talking eagerly to whoever picked up their telephone. Occasionally, pedestrians would slow down or stop when they saw that someone was walking around inside the office, but they’d soon move on again, and my hopes for a walk-in volunteer would dissipate into the sweltering August air.

Eventually, two volunteers agreed to make calls at a phone bank the next week, a guy actually walked in to the office to see if he could help me get more office furniture, and a lady wanted to know if I could meet with the local Democratic Club. Stunned by the willingness of others to step forward and help when needed, I felt things suddenly didn’t look so bad. We weren’t setting up anything major yet, but the seeds for future activism were there. The spiders had crawled back into some crevice away from my reach. The August sky was looking a brighter blue.

Read More

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments