Whatever the polls show going into Election Day, we won’t know the results until late that night. In recent years that’s always been true; but it will be even more true this time, for two reasons.
- First is that it’s hard to know how much the polls may be skewed by people saying they will vote for Obama, because in their heads they know they should; but not voting for him because, well .. . you know.
- My hope is that as people get to know Obama over the 50 days ahead, this factor, however large or small it currently is, will diminish as they increasingly come to see him as so many of us already do: the warm, wise, steady, exceptionally talented American success story – and loving dad – that he is.
- Second is that it’s hard to know just how powerful the Democratic under-the-radar grass roots effort will prove to be.The polls can’t weight heavily as “likely voters” millions who’ve never voted before, or millions of “sporadic” voters. But this time they might turn out. (To encourage them in your neighborhood, sign up for the Neighbor to Neighbor program.)
- We’ll just have to see.
So today I offer two items, one touching on each of these unknowables:
WHY WE MAY WIN COLORADO
There are lots of reasons, but this one – another field report from Alex, my pediatrician pal who took six weeks out to organize for Obama – puts it in very human terms:
I have been home in Los Angeles for 24 hours. I finished my Obama Organizing Fellowship, and wanted to send out one last reflection on my time working on Obama’s Campaign for Change in South Eastern Colorado.
I am going to miss the friends I made. I enjoyed my colleagues on the campaign; we worked side-by-side almost 100 hours a week. But I also developed a few deep friendships with community members. The Obama Campaign’s mantra is “respect, empower, include.” At first I thought this was a little weird to hear staffers refer to this, but I now get it. The Campaign focuses on building relationships with people in the community and empowering them. As an organizer I spent most of my time sitting down in coffee shops, in living rooms, and on front porches talking with people. I would explain why I decided to forgo my first job after Residency and work for free for 6 weeks on The Campaign. At the end of our “one on one,” I would do the “hard ask.” I would explain that it’s not enough for the two of us to agree that our country needs change. I would ask that they host a house meeting and invite everyone they know so we can recruit more volunteers. If they didn’t want to do this, then I would invite them to attend a training session to learn to register people to vote or to help with phone calls. I saw this as advocating for that person in the same way I advocate for my patients. I also try to empower my patients to take control of their children’s lives. Pediatricians practice community organizing daily.
The focus on relationship building works. I left CO having made a few close friendships with locals. Theresa is a 55 year old Latina woman who is hard drinking, chain smoking, and has a loving family. She is an ex-Army vet and ex-medic. At the foot of her driveway is a sign that reads “I am Latina and I vote.” She is Catholic and pro-life, but disagrees with Bush/ McCain’s foreign policy, economic policy, and basically the whole Republican domestic agenda. Her house is decorated with crosses (she explained to me, “I am Mexican, after all”). After visiting her on my last day in CO, she handed me a two-foot faux stone cross and said, “I have no idea what religion you are, but you gave me the power to become politically active and I just wanted to give you something that is special to me.” She gave me her favorite cross.
Another volunteer I recruited became very active in The Campaign. I spoke to her almost every day because she volunteered a few hours of work a day. Every few days, she would tell me that on reflection, she could not believe that she had become so politically active. I trained her to teach voter registration to her neighbors and she led regular training sessions out of her living room. She is a special-ed teacher, in her 40’s, living in Rocky Ford, a town of a few hundred people. But now she is also a community leader for Obama in Southern Colorado and vital to our winning in her county.
☞ Multiply this story hundreds or thousands of times in every state, and you get a sense of what might be possible. If you’d like to inspire your neighbors to get involved, I repeat: sign up.
HOW RACISM WORKS
This letter to the editor recently appeared in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:
What if John McCain were a former president of the Harvard Law Review? What if Barack Obama finished fifth from the bottom of his graduating class?
What if McCain were still married to the first woman he said “I do” to? What if Obama were the candidate who left his first wife after she no longer measured up to his standards?
What if Michelle Obama were a wife who not only became addicted to painkillers, but acquired them illegally through her charitable organization?
What if Cindy McCain graduated from Harvard? What if Obama were a member of the “Keating 5”?
What if McCain were a charismatic, eloquent speaker?
If these questions reflected reality, do you really believe the election numbers would be as close as they are?
This is what racism does. It covers up, rationalizes and minimizes positive qualities in one candidate and emphasizes negative qualities in another when there is a color difference.
— Kelvin LaFond, Fort Worth
☞ And to a certain extent, it likely always will. But how much? And how much, specifically, on November 4? We’ll just have to see.
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