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Bart Motes Headshot

Report from the Field: Florida

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Miami Gardens, FL--

2pm--My "running partner" Melisa (an out of state volunteer from Seattle) and I pick up a woman in a wheelchair for early voting. Earlier in the day, I was knocking on doors and asking them if they wanted a ride to the polls. Volunteers and staff are fanning out across the state in the largest get out the vote (GOTV) effort in history.

The Obama plan: not to simply win Florida but to crush Republican ambitions in the state for a decade. Because Florida starts early voting fourteen days before election day, organization's incremental advantage is multiplied tremendously.

Merge organization to unprecedented enthusiasm for the most compelling candidate in a generation: a Reagan with analytical heft, a Clinton without the odor of scandal, and you have the real Perfect Storm that Howard Dean and Joe Trippi tried and failed to grasp four years ago in Iowa.

5pm--The woman, who is confined to the wheelchair as the result of a stroke suffered sixteen months ago, is still in line, and her spirits are high. As are those of the roughly three hundred people who were in line at 3pm when early voting was scheduled to end. They've earned the right to vote, as long as it takes.

I cannot help exclaiming "you guys inspire me." A middle aged woman in the predominately black crowd doesn't miss a beat. "Honey, we've been waiting a long time." She's not talking about the four hours that she's spent in line.

7pm--I get a text message from a volunteer informing me that they are now inside and preparing to vote. I return to the early voting site twenty minutes later to find the lady in the wheelchair ready to go. She insists on lifting herself out of the chair and gingerly moving the leg rendered useless by the stroke into the van.

I'm moved by her passion to exercise the franchise. I wish everyone who couldn't be bothered to even register could see her courage in the face of adversity. I vow to remember her whenever I feel like complaining about a long day or a poor turn of events.

Then she unknowingly tries to move me to tears by telling me that I am splendid and doing great things by giving people rides. I demur and say truthfully that she inspires me by her courage and persistence.

If that woman can struggle to make it to the polls, can we balk at giving up some of our time to knock on doors, to call people, to offer rides, or to offer housing to out of state volunteers?

If you live in Florida, or another swing state, know that thousands of out of state volunteers are streaming to your state. They need a place to stay. Call your local Obama office to offer them a bed or a couch. I slept on a floor in New Hampshire with a lovely couple, Terry and Caroline Wiggin, for a week. Obama volunteers are not picky. But they are the coolest people around. You could make a friend for life.

If you live in a battleground state, your local Obama office needs your help to canvass or to make phone calls or to do data entry. Canvassing, or door knocking, is the most in demand. Volunteer to do this and you will make your local field organizer happier than if you try to talk their ear off about the latest Gallup poll or the latest McCain outrage. It's only two weeks. If you're worried about missing your tv shows, I advise you to catch up on after the election.

Think about how much better you'll feel surfing Huffington Post and reading triumphant posts instead of reading depressing ones about "How did it all go wrong for Obama?" I don't know about you, but 4 years of guilt and anger is more than I can take. Call it enlightened self-interest.

So here's the quick summary: I've never met a Christian conservative who grumbled about the heat and sun of knocking on doors to win an election. Never yet met a conservative who doesn't understand that phone banking is the way elections are won. But why do liberals sit on the sidelines? Do we like losing? Do we enjoy feeling complacent for a few weeks and then sad for four years?

You owe it to yourself and everyone you bitched to about the utter catastrophe of the last eight years to get out there and make a contribution to the campaign. They need you.

One thing I've learned about organizers on the Obama campaign: they make nothing--less than minimum wage. But they are the most patriotic, idealistic people you will ever meet. They shame us into action as much as the lady in the wheelchair.

There is a song that has the lyrics: "if this don't move your booty, your booty must be dead." Well, if this post doesn't move you to action, your heart must be dead. Or I'm just not that great of a writer.

Please help. And tell 'em Bart sent you. Thanks.