With six days to go, the outcome of the election now rests far less with Obama, McCain or their campaign operatives -- and much more with rank and file political activists.
Our success now depends entirely on our level of motivation and the skill of our execution. That in turn requires that we become obsessed by two thoughts every waking moment of the next six days:
1). The historic possibility that is almost within our grasp.
2). The personal anguish each of us will feel if we fail to hold the ring of victory tightly enough and is slips from our hands.
Last weekend I went to cast my ballot at an early vote location in my hometown of Evanston, Illinois. In my particular district no race is really hotly contested. Barack Obama will win Illinois by twenty points. My wife, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, will easily win reelection in our overwhelmingly Democratic district. The races for US Senate and State House and Senate contests in my area are not close.
No matter. There was a half hour line of voters eager to cast their early vote. Each one wanted to be part of this historic campaign -- to play their role in the national drama that has engaged the nation like no election campaign in my lifetime.
We see that same wave of voter engagement across America. If it continues -- if we help make sure it continues -- it could sweep out conservative politicians and also replace the conservative value frame that has defined the center of American politics for thirty five years.
Next year could mark the first time since the 1960s that progressives retake the offensive and begin once again to reshape the political and economic structures of our society to reflect the traditional progressive values that lie at the foundation of the story of America.
We can revive our economy with a "bottom up" economic agenda that allows all Americans to share in the growth that our exploding technological capacity can make possible.
We can launch a national crusade -- like Kennedy's program to land a man on the moon -- to convert our energy economy from dependence on increasingly scare hydro carbons to renewable, clean sources of power -- and save our planet from global climate change.
We can finally make quality educational opportunity available to every child -- and guarantee that everyone can get a higher education without being weighted down by a lifetime of debt.
We can reestablish America as a beacon of hope and progress and human rights in the world.
We can replace division with unity, fear with hope, cynicism with possibility. We can once again place America on the road to fulfill its historic mission of creating a truly democratic society that welcomes people of every religion, every ethnic group, every culture that wants to live in a country that celebrates diversity and is committed to proposition that we are all our brother's and sister's keepers.
And during the next six days, we should remember that it is no small thing that on January 20th, a man of African American descent could raise his hand to take the oath of office at the same Capitol where Abraham Lincoln called for the end of slavery just 7 generations ago.
He would take that oath just down the mall from the Lincoln Memorial where forty five years ago Martin Luther King called for an end to racial segregation and at the same time affirmed his belief in the dream "that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."
The election of Barack Obama would say an enormous amount about America. It would provide a signal to the world that America believes in the kind of open, tolerant society that the world as whole must become if we are to survive the ethnic and religious conflicts that have brought the misery and hopelessness that spawn hatred and terrorism.
It would make us all very proud.
But in the next six days we also must also visualize the anguish we would feel if we are not successful -- if we let this possibility slip through our fingers. It is entirely possible. Undecided voters may very well break for John McCain and Sarah Palin. The other side will not go quietly. They will continue to smear. They will attempt to suppress the vote. They will use every tool at their disposal.
Let's remember that we actually won the election in 2000. Yet because of their resourcefulness and tenacity, the right has held the White House for the last eight years.
Fundamentally we have to bring out such a wave of voters that this election will not be close enough to steal. And we have to remember that in any given swing state, just a few votes in each precinct could decide what direction our society -- and the entire world -- takes in the generation to come.
In 2000 my political consulting firm managed an excellent field program for a great candidate for Congress in South Florida. Our people did a great job. But in the end of the day, we lost by around 500 voters. They were the same 500 votes that cost Gore the presidency.
Had each of our Election Day volunteers simply recruited one more vote per precinct, the world would have been spared the nightmare of the Bush Presidency.
Next Tuesday, when your watch shows that the polls are due to close in 15 minutes -- and you are satisfied that you have worked your heart out all day -- don't stop. Go get one more voter. That voter -- multiplied by all of the precincts in that state -- could easily be the difference between a new progressive era and four more years of Bush-McCain-Conservative government.
And that is the attitude we all must have every waking minute of the next six days.
Remember the deep depression -- the emptiness you felt after the loss in 2004. It would be much worse this time.
Think how you would feel watching John McCain and Sarah Palin taking the oath of office on January 20.
The same year Martin Luther King made his "I Have a Dream Speech," John Kennedy gathered in the White House Situation Room with his closest advisers to confront the Cuban Missile Crisis. The decisions they made in that room could easily have lead to the nightmare of nuclear war.
I have often been glad that George Bush, Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld were not in that room. God knows what the outcome might have been.
For each of the next six days, think about John McCain and Sarah Palin in that room. Worse yet, think of Sarah Palin as commander in chief in that room.
We can almost taste the sweetness of the historic progressive victory that is possible next Tuesday. Now it is up to each and every one of us to take personal responsibility to grab that ring of victory and hold it firmly in our grasp - to refuse to let this historic opportunity slip away.
Time to empty the stands -- get onto the playing field. Stop just checking the poll results and go change them. For the next six days drop whatever else you are doing. Whatever it is, it's simply not as important. Put off the errands, the home projects, the project and work. Take vacation days.
Volunteer to knock on doors, make phone calls, protect the vote. Go talk to your neighbors, put up signs. Drag your friends and neighbors to the polls. Don't take no for an answer. This time friends don't let friends not vote.
Obsess about what it will feel like to win -- and how horrible it would be to lose. And let that obsession motivate you to make history -- to make this the six days that change the world.
Robert Creamer is a long-time organizer and political strategist, and the author of the recent book "Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win," available at www.amazon.com''
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