Lori Jewett is an OffTheBus grassroots correspondent. Each week she contributes a campaign journal documenting her life out on the trail.
The word is, that in these last days of the campaign, complacency could well lead to our doom. The poll numbers imply that we can't lose, but we all know full well that numbers can lie and hey, it ain't over 'til it's over, right? So, we volunteers are feeling the pressure. This is no time to lose momentum, no time to sit back and put our feet up . . .no time to, um, have surgery and be out of commission for a few days?
Well, unfortunately, with age comes not only wisdom, but cataracts and other mechanical failures. Age may very well have it's advantages, but needing surgical repairs to one's parts to keep them in working order just isn't one of them. So this week, as I spent a several days with one eye dilated to the size of a dinner plate, I couldn't help but feel guilty. Here we are, in the last days of the campaign, and I'm taking time off? How will the campaign continue without me? How will Barack Obama manage to pull this off? How will we go on?
It turns out that while every volunteer is important, the Obama ground effort has managed without me just fine, thank you. Interestingly, this week taught me that the many of us who have officially volunteered, are just one part of this massive, bottom-up effort to bring change to America. I have seen for myself the commitment, the enthusiasm and the sheer exuberance of the average Obama supporter and what it can do.
During one of my recent phone calls to likely, but perhaps undecided, voters I spoke with a woman who answered my initial questions as to whom she might vote for on November 4th in an odd, and somewhat cagey, manner. I said, "Is there someone there whom you don't feel comfortable speaking in front of?" "You're really good," she replied. I laughed and we continued to talk as she expressed her commitment to vote for Obama in code. Despite her husband's disapproval, this woman was going to cast her vote her way. And, while she wasn't willing to openly challenge her conservative spouse, I've found many others who are.
Walking through my neighborhood, I noticed one home with a McCain/Palin sign, an "Another Family for McCain" sign and, yes, an Obama/Biden sign, all in the same front yard. There's at least one voter in that house who's willing to speak up for his or herself and for change. (When I went to snap a picture, I noticed that another Obama sign had shown up . . . I guess that "Another Family for McCain" sign is wishful thinking on somebody's part).
I've heard similar stories from other volunteers who have been asked to supply an Obama yard sign so that the Obama supporter in the house could counteract the McCain supporter in their midst. More and more people are willing to go against the grain of family or neighborhood. The voter apathy of recent elections seems to have been replaced with voter assertiveness. People are willing to not only cast their own vote for change, but to stand up and speak out for change. Let the battle of the yard signs begin!
My favorite example of the efforts of average voters to get out the vote for Obama is a woman from my own neighborhood. I'd never met her before, but while I was home recovering from my surgery, she knocked on the door. She wanted to know where I had gotten my Obama sign and where she could get one. "There are way too many McCain signs in our neighborhood" she said. "I want to make sure Obama is better represented." She then spoke with me for about twenty minutes, excitedly telling me how she had printed out a stack of literature about Barack Obama and his positions on the issues so that she could convince her daughter and son-in-law that Obama is the best, or in her words, "the only rational" choice. She also has taken every opportunity to replace the misconceptions of her friends and family with facts and to research and share with them the answers to any questions they may have about either candidate.
My neighbor spoke with the knowledge and the fervor of a campaign staffer. I suggested that she stop by the local campaign office to get a sign and to maybe volunteer as well. She told me that she felt bad that she hadn't signed up to do something sooner, but I assured her that, from what she had just told me, she was already doing an amazing job for the Obama campaign.
While my personal efforts on behalf of the Obama campaign haven't been what I would have liked over the past week, I have found that there really is a chorus of voices continuing on with or without mine. And, even though I wasn't able to physically get to the voters for much of this week, it seemed that somehow, as if by magic, some of the voters came to me. This week has taught me that whether we are official volunteers, paid campaign staffers or just neighbors talking to neighbors, we can all do our part, in our own time, in our own way. While I know that my official volunteer efforts can and have made a difference, I grow more confident each day that, with or without them, real change is coming. And whether I'm pounding the pavement, making phone calls, stuffing envelopes or just sitting in my home talking to a neighbor about the man who should be, and likely will be, our next president, I know that I am making a difference. We all are.
But just to be sure, I think it's time to get back to those phones . . .
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