It was August 29th, the day after an inspiring speech by Barack Obama at the DNC. McCain announced Sarah Palin as his running mate. As the hype for Palin reached a fever pitch, I started feeling pretty much what the Repubs wanted me to feel—apathetic, hopeless, and helpless. It was like Sarah-fucking-mania on the airwaves and the internets for weeks. Only recently has the media been able to recover from the shock of this announcement and moved beyond the “Look! Shiny!” or rather “Look! Young, female, evangelical!” reporting. As I write this, I received an email from a friend linking to the New York Times article about how Palin did indeed abuse her power as governor of Alaska. Oh my God, how did this woman become governor of a state?
I've never been one to side with the Dems whole heartedly. I usually vote for independent, third party candidates. I'm still under 30, so I've voted in a total of two presidential elections, one congressional, one gubernatorial, and a few local races. I felt pretty passionate about the 2000 election when Ralph Nader was running for the Green Party. That was the first time in my life that I felt like my actions could make a difference on a national scale. After I graduated from college two years later, I applied for a job as the Membership Director at The Massachusetts Green Party. It was my first job interview as a graduate, adult, mature, passionate, political person. I was so excited. I was the perfect candidate. I nailed the interview and got the job.
The Green Party was my ideal political party—environmental justice, feminism, human rights—these were all party platforms. How could you go wrong working full-time for those ideals? I won't get into the details of exactly how they did go wrong trying to get young, idealistic activists to work full-time for those ideals. I'll put it this way, as Membership Director, it was my sole responsibility to raise enough funds to pay myself. That's right, I was making phone calls and getting people to join the party so I could pay for gas to get there every day, pay my rent, and eat. There was no salary put aside for this position, it was up to said director to raise their own salary. Brilliant.
Thirty days after the first day of my first job, I packed my car with all my office belongings, turned to the only other person working as staff for the Mass Greens and said, “I just can't do this, it's unhealthy, I don't know how you've lasted four years on this job.” I drove away and into another non-profit hell job which almost forever tarnished the idea of a) non-profits and b) canvassing door-to-door in my mind forever. Consequently, my co-worker at The Green Party had an epiphany after I quit that maybe borrowing money from her roommates to pay rent and buy groceries because her job didn't always pay her was a shitty way to live. She resigned soon after. This was my introduction to independent, grassroots politics. Needless to say, it kind of turned me off.
When I moved to Virginia six months ago, it was in the back of my mind that for the first time in my life I'd be living in a heavily conservative and possible swing state. Would my vote even count? Turns out it probably will. The illustrated poll maps of the US have been, for months, showing Virginia as neutral grey or yellow, not the definite red or blue. Pollster.com is even shading Florida and Colorado a light blue to suggest they're leaning heavily Democratic. A friend in Texas believes Obama will win, not by a sliver, like the last two elections (wait, did Bush even really win?), but by a landslide. Sarah Palin has consistently made an ass of herself on national television and beyond. Saturday Night Live has had it easy with Palin, pulling direct quotes from her speeches for their scripts.
After the Palin VP pick bombshell hit, I knew I had to do something. I had to break out of my early activist trauma over making phone calls and canvassing door-to-door. This was too important not to get involved directly and in person. We found out, by a miracle of God, Jesus, the Holy Ghost and all them, that there was an Obama office in the small town next to ours. It went from a little volunteer space to a full-blown county headquarters with two Obama staffers in a few weeks. We stopped by to see if it was some kind of a sick, conservative joke. Turns out it was real.
Obama staffers pulled my fiance and me in for phone calling and data entry. Data entry, I could handle that. The phone calling turned out to be really easy and actually kind of fun. We weren't convincing undecided voters to give money or vote a certain way, we just asked them who they were leaning towards and what they were concerned about. I was shocked that 90% of the people I called were voting for or leaning heavily toward Obama. Not one person hung up on me or refused to answer. This wasn't so bad. I was ready for the next step, door-to-door canvassing.
It was a beautiful, sunny Sunday afternoon. We pulled up to a little house in a rural neighborhood, knocked on the door, and asked for either the mom, dad, or daughter/son who were all listed as undecided voters. We had their names right there on paper, so I felt more prepared than just cold canvassing. They usually answered that they'd be voting for Obama or they were still unsure but now that we're talking about it, leaning towards Obama. Now that we were talking about it? All it took to swing your decision for president was to have my fiance and me come to your door and ask what you were concerned about? In many cases, yup.
After a couple hours of conquering my fear of talking to my neighbors about the election, I felt empowered and engaged. I went home and wrote a letter to the editor of all my local newspapers. I kept it short but strong. Virginians in Page County were concerned about the economy and jobs. They were beyond skeptical of the dudes who have been in charge for eight years and they were willing to vote for a black man from Hawaii to get this country out of the crapper. Virginia literally can not afford a McCain-Palin administration.
The letter got printed in two papers this week. Though that seems like a small feat, it was huge for me. The past two weeks have reminded me that one person, civically engaged and working collectively, can have an impact. The last eight years had all but beaten that out of me. But the absolute fear of having an administration that is run by people who oppose all forms of basic women's health care and education, people who have voted to make victims of rape pay for their rape kits, people who can't say in public why they support insurance for Viagra but not birth control pills won. No fucking way will I let those kind of people have power without a fight. I'm hoping that come November 4th, this shared fear will be translated into action and votes at polling places all over the US, Virginia, Page County and my little village of Rileyville.
I have been inspired by the following independent media (too many to list but...):
Full-time Obama volunteer Jacob Perkins updates us on the campaign in VA and the database Vote Builder.
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Dick Clark gives us a lesson in economics and why neither of the two candidates is actually the candidate for change.
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