I'm returning to campus from Campaign Semester for my first class this year, and a flood of memories of the Organizing for America campaign has come back to provoke some critical thinking and bittersweet emotions.
Only one week ago, it was Election Day - the day that everyone on the campaign has been painfully and anxiously anticipating. Whether you were a Field Organizer, who endured the strenuous nature of the campaign for months with seemingly no end in sight, or a full-time or part-time fellow, who agreed to remain as one of the most committed and unpaid minions to the very end, or a weekly/daily volunteer, who made time to ensure that no resident was ignored by the Obama for America campaign - November 6th was considered a HOLIDAY.
However, unlike most holidays, which guarantee rewards, such as gifts, presents, bountiful amounts of food, and good company, November 6th was equivalent to a political version of Judgment Day. Although we knew that we exerted a ginormous amount of effort to execute a cohesive, smooth, and succinct campaign, the result of those efforts would only be evident once the polls closed. In other words, November 6th could've been the entrance to the gateway of bliss and happiness, or the start of a 4-year long damnation.
During work hours, we constantly discussed the various permutations and combinations of electoral votes our President can attain to guarantee reelection. We obsessed over daily polls, political factoids, and other editorials related to the election. We told each other that our President would win, but of course - those predictions would only be either confirmed or denied upon the nightfall of November 6th. We were optimistic about our President gaining reelection, but we weren't confident.
As a result, we frequently tried to quantify our efforts - hence the obsession with immediate data entry post-Weekends of Action, GOTV, and other volunteer events - and predict what amount of that pool of contacted voters would be excited and guaranteed to vote for our President. In our minds, polls were fleeting and volatile, but two important statistics were self-evident:
1. Through the Obama for America multiple strategies and tactics, we can increase voter turnout in a turf by 20%.
2. Particularly, when a voter decides to sign a Commit-to-Vote card, the likelihood of voting increases by 5%.
These figures don't seem like they mean much, but considering what happened in 2000, when the presidential race involved Al Gore vs. George W. Bush, and Florida was a toss-up over a mere 537 votes - we knew how much of an impact that an increase in voter turnout by 5% and/or 20% in can make in a presidential race.
We couldn't bear the possibility of having an event like that repeat. We couldn't fathom losing, but we also didn't want the presidential election to boil down to a mere 537 votes - which is why we we made sure that it would never happen again, especially to our President.
To us, we fought for Barack Obama. We didn't merely "support" Barack Obama. We were armed in the fight against the bubble of backwards thinking as embodied in Governor Romney. We received a minor amount of backlash for doing so with such vigor and passion - but at the end of the day, courage and determination never faltered. We didn't care. To us, passion and vigor about our President was what each and every volunteer was all about. We believed in the effectiveness and productivity of the tactics, which is why we executed the same routine over and over – made hundreds of calls together each day, canvassed different wards and precincts on a day-to-day basis even if we just visited a few days ago, and hammered voters with such urgency. Some voters thought we were pestering them, but to us – these strategies were necessary to utilize in the line of civil service.
We continuously pounded doors because we knew Barack Obama stood for something larger than us. Not only did he represent America, but he embodied ideals that we cannot achieve on our own:
1. The guarantee of significant progress towards achieving comfort, independence, and financial sustainability for communities previously incapable of doing so.
2. The abundance of resources to graft opportunity and a welcoming nature where equity, equality, and success were nowhere to be found.
We soulfully believed in the message and agenda of Barack, and we couldn't wait to spread that belief and demonstrate our urgency for the continuation of progress as promised by Barack.
This soulful passion was particularly evident during Election Day. On Election Day morning, the volunteers and I did something we never did before. We held hands, initiated a prayer circle, and prayed for the reelection of our President. We respectfully requested for the grace of God to hover over us as we make our final request to voters to go to their polling location and vote for our President, to crown our President with courage and hope in this final battle, and to guard our President with several angels as he anxiously watches the polls churn before his eyes.
In the midst of the chaotic mess of Election Day, I understood that this was one of the most beautiful moments I've ever shared with a body of people other than my family. As I was led through a series of responsorial psalms and prayers for our President and for all the volunteers, I remember mentally flagging this moment as once-in-a-lifetime. That moment was the first time in my life where I realized how a small, close-knitted, and diverse group of people can create such a potent and unfaltering force, united by the desire to demonstrate an unparalleled and unrivaled amount of generosity, compassion, and consideration for the survival of the United States of America and the ideals upon which it was founded - and I was so honored to be granted the blessing to be a part of that group.
Throughout the day, I had flashbacks to that few minutes we shared to pray together as humble individuals who left the election to fate. I couldn't help but think about how pressing our request was, but spiritually modest at the same time. I savored that moment with such an intensity, and when President Obama's electoral votes exceeded the 270 mark, my mind swirled right back to that moment.
I was caught up in the past and the present as my team and I were at our team party waiting for the final results to crunch. As we anxiously watched the big screen with hundreds of other Obama supporters in a hotel at Center City in Philly, we saw that Obama was already almost tipping upon the 270 mark. With 259 electoral votes in President Obama's favor and 203 for Governor Romney, we were nervously awaiting for either at least 11 more electoral votes for our President or for Governor Romney to catch up with our President's amount of electoral votes. However, upon that fateful moment of a democratic victory in Ohio, when President Obama's electoral votes leaped from 259 to 274, time stopped. The division between past, present, and future was no longer distinct. I was in utter disbelief, the noise in the background faded out, and my eyes began to water as I saw the words: "President Obama has been reelected" marquee across the large projector screen.
I turned back to my team to witness their faces, and as I did so -
I reflected back to that moment where we prayed for the grace of God to bless our President during this fateful night. My mind toggled between that humbling vision, and the present vision laid before my very eyes - my teammates' expression upon the realization that our hard work paid off. All those long hours at the office and those non-stop days of establishing voter contact and engaging Obama supporters resulted in the making of history. We helped reelect the first black President, and we couldn't help but revel in it. Savor in it. Bathe in it, using our tears cried out of pure happiness and disbelief at the fact that we dedicated our lives for a significant amount of months to the achievement of the reelection of he President.
To us, that decisive moment no longer made us equate Election Day to Judgment Day. During that moment, where we shared a tight team hug to celebrate, we recognized that this fateful moment was more reminiscent of something so much happier than Judgment Day. This was the conquering of the final game of a sport called Politics, and we'll never forget that we were the key teammates of the champion team, called Organizing for America.