A short story from election day
Election day was an early start. My alarm went off at 4:30. I am not usually very spritely in the morning but yesterday was one of the easiest days to get out of bed. I woke without that much nervousness, I, like other volunteers or fellows or field officers or regional field directors (etc…), knew exactly what I had to do and knew that if it went well at where I was based the chances of President Obama storming Richmond, thereby winning Virginia, increased by that tiny fraction of a percent. Increase this across Richmond, extrapolate across the state of Virginia and then multiply that across the battleground States across the US and you begin to see how Obama won, and won by the margin he did. Indeed, people will continue to come up with reasons upon reasons why Obama won (or for that matter Romney lost). I have no doubt it was because there were tens of thousands of people like me waking up at an awful hour on election day knowing exactly what I had to do. The ground organsation is the greatest in modern political history.
The morning flew by. I knew this by the speech I would give on the few occassions when I would train phonebankers (the majority of this was done by our Phonebank Captain Angelo who was superb). As part of the training, you aim to get volunteers to ask people who they are calling to ‘make a plan’. By making a plan studies have shown people are far more likely to vote. The morning flew by so quickly that before I knew it, I realised that people could only ‘make a plan’ for lunchtime and after work. Then, in what seemed like a blink of an eye, they could only make a plan by leaving the house and getting to the polls”.. well… NOW!”. The stream of people coming through the door at 408 E. Main Street was steady but never overwhelming (again to the great organisation that had been in prepared weeks, if not months before). It didn’t dawn on me the amount of people we had making calls until I had a minute to go upstairs and look around. Every seat or even clear bit of floorspace was taken by volunteers. The people making the calls were young, old, black, white, hispanic, rich, poor etc etc. It was as diverse a group as you could imagine. Many who I got to speak had incredible stories and inspiring reasons for why they decided to volunteer on election day.
As we entered the final few hours, the focus in the office shifted to get as many people knocking doors as possible. We needed to get as many people as we could to the polls. In that slightly quieter time I began to get nervous and realised what was at stake. At 6 I went to knock some final few doors and went to a local polling station to check everyone was ok. It was at 7 when I got, really, really nervous. We could no longer look at fivethirtyeight or Real Clear Politics. The votes were in the bank, the polls were closed. It was all over bar the shouting and all we could do was sit and wait. In those first few minutes, it didn’t look that good, especially in Virginia when the South-West, precincts which are more conservative, began to report.
For me, I began to relax and felt it was going to be our night when Pennsylvania was called early. If Romney was going to push Obama, I felt this was one of the states that was going to be called later at 1 or 2am. And, of course, we didn’t celebrate until Ohio was called. But at that point it wasn’t over for us. We all wanted one more result to come in. One more result for an amazing team, who worked incredibly hard (and who I was lucky enough to join for a few weeks). I have no idea what time Virginia was called, I could very easily Google this but I prefer not knowing. Our office, full of staff and volunteers, erupted. Tears were shed. Beer was drunk. Many, many hugs were given. The achievement in Richmond had been great which made the victory in Viriginia that bit sweeter.
The rest of the night is a blur, for obvious reasons, but when I got back into bed a full 24 hours after I got up. I realised just how lucky I was to be involved in the campaign.
A little piece of my heart will always be in Richmond, Virginia. This city and the people who I met reaffirmed my belief that you can achieve great things with a group of brilliant, smart, friendly and highly dedicated people.
Thank you to all.