This is a running diary of catching a bus trip with 61 other Houstonians and heading directly to a battleground state to help turn it blue and help the Obama campaign make history.
Don't ask me how I came to this decision -- it was purely spontaneous. However, I find myself in Dayton, Ohio this morning readying for the first day of blockwalking. The numbers aren't there for Texas, so I just grabbed a few shirts, my travel kit and literally jumped in the car and headed to the bus taking us to Dayton. It was a rather long trip -- 26 hours on the road. But we can all say we played a part in history instead of sitting on the sidelines watching.
Day One: The Cavalry Rides
Coincidentally enough, I sat next to another Foster coming up: Mark Foster just happened to plop next to me ... a thirtyish African American from North Houston who brought his nephews, Delavince and Jarrett Foster-Gibson, ages 18 and 14 respectively. We were the most common surname on the bus, oddly enough. Fosters are committed people, apparently.
We arrived to find a well-organized and fired up staff in Dayton's downtown HQ. During our training period, we ended up suspending it briefly as we were all part of a nationwide conference call with Barack Obama -- the first one I've been part of! After the call, we divided up into various teams dispatched to numerous local volunteers who housed us. Our hosts were on the city's northern suburbs, and our staging location was in the near north side. Tuyen Nguyen was our driver designate, and I was navigator (being the map-oriented one of the bunch).
It's been a wonderful few hours in Dayton, much more modern city downtown than what I'd pictured. Our hosts for me and my blockwalk partner Tuyen are wonderful: Craig & Cindy M. I'll write more as I get chance, but these will obviously be very short blogs with quick thoughts as I'm in the midst of this critical task. For now ... it's battle time!
"Spontaneity is the quality of being able to do something just because you feel like it at the moment, of trusting your instincts, of taking yourself by surprise and snatching from the clutches of your well-organized routine, a bit of unscheduled plea" — Anon.
Day Two: O-H ... I-O!
"I said, A, O, Where'd you go, Ohio?" — My City Was Gone, The Pretenders
Our day one (officially) was full! We blockwalked until the sun went down -- with a brief respite of phonebanking in between and at the end of the day.
We began by making the drive to what would be our staging location: Canaan Community Center on Dayton's near northwest side. We met with our location organizers, Tucker Hutchinson, Leslie Keough, and Tim from Hampshire, UK!
Tim actually came over on his own dime to devote his time to electing a president in America! That was impressive, and actually depressing at the same time. We rarely concern ourselves with elections outside of the U.S, much less being volunteers on their campaigns. We have a tough enough time getting our own out to vote, much less volunteer, even more rarely involving ourselves as heavily as Tim. Yet here he was organizing us on our own elections there in Dayton!
Tim and another Brit, Bill Turner from London, were also reminders of how interwoven our global community has become. Our elections do affect them (and unfortunately were not beneficial effects these past eight years). They were as incented as we were for change of direction. Very telling.
During our break period back at our coordination location, we got a chance to visit with Mayor Adrian Fenty of Washington DC. He took a brief tour of the troops in action at the operations centers across the city. I got a nice chat with him, explained how I ended up being up in Dayton from Houston, and the mayor asked to grab a photo of myself and Michael Berger, the organizer for our part of Dayton and other suburbs north and west.
And shortly thereafter I dropped my digital camera and broke the lens! Seriously (the only down side of the day). However, the camera was still operable, so I broke out the cracked glass and kept going. Resourceful like a Cherokee!
The blockwalking went well for us all, with few incidents of any kind. Fortuitously enough on our first trip out, we sought to park in front of a house with an Obama sign on Dayton's near north side (near Triangle Park). Almost immediately the homeowner, Landon Crowell, came out to ask who we were and what we were doing (apparently something everyone in that section of town does). When we explained we were there to knock doors for Obama, he obliged us with use of his driveway and even brought me a bottle of water as I was blockwalking further down his street. As it turns out, Crowell was husband of Jolene, the neighborhood's Obama precinct organizer! We saw them later in the evening when they went to volunteer at Canaan.
We had great weather the entire time: cool, dry, crisp ... perfect for lots of walking!
Even later in the evening when they sent us further north, we had few if any problems. My blockwalking partner, Tuyen Nguyen, had a run in with a jealous spouse at a rather lively apartment complex. While she was explaining to a man sitting in his car in front of the apartment about the vote, the wife came out and wasn't too happy (I was across the parking lot). Apparently all the apartments we hit in that area of Harrison off of Riverside and Shoup Mill were notorious with locals from Dayton. Nevertheless, all turned out well even if Tuyen was a little unnerved.
Another neighborhood a bit north of the apartments, tucked away in a hollow, was a quintessential "Joe The Plumber" neighborhood. Over a third of the yards had McCain / Palin signs, and I got a couple of responses that were straight out of the FOX News talking points playbook.
Later, Tuyen and I teamed with Mike Faivor from Austin and hit another nearby apartment complex in the evening that was quite a bit more dicey. Both Mike and I encountered apartments with doors kicked in, I saw a couple burned out units and numerous ones with windows broken out. From the street, the apartments were deceptively normal looking (better than many from the street view in Houston, even!) But wandering through the complex, noting the unused pools and the tennis court which had caved in under one corner and was in disrepair, you could tell it was a once attractive complex that was in its last throes. Disrepair and vacancy were all it represented now.
At sunset a man residing there chatted with us from his balcony, curious about what we were doing there. After we answered and talked briefly, he cautioned us to "be careful" as it "isn't a safe place to be." His concern was kind, but it did confirm to us what we were thinking we were seeing.
It's time to cut this off for now -- blockwalking for the final day awaits! More later ....
"I went back to Ohio,
But my pretty countryside
Had been paved down the middle
By a government that had no pride.
The farms of Ohio
Had been replaced by shopping malls,
And Muzak filled the air...." — My City Was Gone, The Pretenders
Day Three: Turning Red Ohio To Blue
"I pledge allegiance to the flag,
Being all I could ever believe with a toe tag." — Turn The White House Black, George Clinton et. al.
As Tuyen and I were staying with the family the furthest out from town, we had to start our day a little earlier in order to pick up the five teammates in our van staying with Miss Gladys. We arrived a little earlier than they were ready and I was struck by the Americana styled beautiful morning on Miss Gladys’ front porch: hazy sunrise on a crisp morning, with curving, gently rolling streets lined with neat homes with no fences – giving a rural or country club feel to it.
Monday’s task was purely hanging door hangers, and we ended up back at the same precinct we’d canvassed the day before, with the same lively apartments on Northcrest & Norris courts off of Shoup Mill Rd, and the other apartments off of Frederick Pike and the Foxton fourplexes. Right off the bat that morning, I smashed my left toe badly. I’m not sure I’ll ever know if it’s broken or not (probably not), but it certainly was extremely painful, swollen and colorful! The morning walk went quickly, and after a brief rest, I ended up pairing with Delavince and Mark Foster and Jennifer on a nearby pair of precincts on the northside. My group of homes actually had a set of streets squirreled away with many large homes on sizable hills – not the best thing for sore toes.
After that, it was a quick lunch back at Canaan and pairing up with Tuyen again, along with LaQuinta Eldridge and LaTeah Jackson, back to our dicey apartment complex on Riverside near Shoup Mill again. I got a different area of the complex this go-round, and immediately discovered they have jerry-rigged stair repairs with varying step heights. And as Murphy’s Law would have it, I smashed the same left big toe on that first odd stairwell – twice! – while going upstairs. If I was hoping to easily walk off the pain, that brought that dream back to earth. But we couldn’t stop, so I put on the walkman full blast and kept walking.
The more I walked that complex though, the more angry I became. Angry at the apartment owners for creating such a hazardous place to live for its residents. Angry at the economy for creating the lack of opportunities and subsequent blight. Many of the apartments I’d attempted to door knock the day before were empty. When I walked by the back of them, where the sliding glass doors were, it was clear they were not only vacant, but occasionally being used by non-residents for some reason.
One startling image: a 20-ish black man in what was clearly a vacant apartment saw me walk by and suddenly sprinted up the stairs and out the front door, while right next door was a young mother blankly watching TV with her young preschool-aged daughter in braids dancing around the apartment, both of them oblivious to what was occurring in the apartment just on the other side of their wall! Having seen a number of burned out and trashed apartments in this complex, it made me shudder in fear for them.
As the resident said the night before, and as was repeated a number of times in this and other apartments in the vicinity, this wasn’t the safest place to be. But while I’d found friendliness and no real sense of alarm at other complexes, this one was much different. You could feel the desperation and fear. This was one place in Dayton that sincerely needs Change.
Tuyen and I hit another precinct on the north side with another resident of Dayton whose name I didn’t get. As we drove back in to Canaan, she commented about Dayton’s blight, and the large number of boarded up, abandoned homes – something that was pretty common on the north side. But she pointed out something I’d also noted: it was hard to tell what was "the Hood" and what was middle class. The homes on the inner north side were all large and at least working- or middle-class in appearance. Even the homes further out in Meadowdale gave no clue from the street that they were anything but typical working-class tract homes with a few needing a little attention. Only the infrequent burned-out home and the occasional up-close view of doors that had marks of being pried or attempted kicked burglarized were the clues. Unlike what I was used to growing up, where ghettos were obvious, Dayton had a California-like quality where "the Hood" was hidden until you got a close-up view.
After returning at dark, Tuyen and I caught up with the Fosters and Jennifer again and thought about dropping them off and heading downtown for data entry work until Christi caught us. Apparently, one or two of the precincts in the southwest quadrant. She commandeered all of us (to Jennifer’s chagrin) and we all drove down to the staging location at Germantown near Gettysburg at around 7:30PM. They sent us to a new neighborhood in College Hill Park to distribute door hangers to two precinct turfs in the dark. Did I mention that Dayton isn’t real big on streetlights?
Finding our way around unfamiliar territory in the dark was memorable. As we had a double-sided back seat doors on our passenger van, we left those open and drove the entire route, making stops at intervals on each street. Delavince (or D.) was full of that 14-year old energy and a great asset, playing paratrooper by hopping out of the doors on the stop to get a bit extra momentum! Even Jennifer, with back problems and all, picked up energy as we continued on the route and was rivaling D in energy! Christi and Tuyen were also running up and down the blocks as well (as I was designated driver), even though Tuyen had leg cramping. Mark had knee problems and was also hobbling a bit, but still pushing through. We had a sizable route, with a couple of busy streets to drop hangers on, but we, the walking-wounded brigade, finished it all and made it back to staging area a few minutes before 10PM.
Tuyen and I were notified and trained on working the Red Team: line managers and houdinis. Line Managers were those charged with ensuring polls opened on time and with keeping an eye out for any voter intimidation or denials, as well as keeping all the folks in line to vote there, and ensuring they wouldn’t become tired and just walk away. Houdinis were folks who were to wait for the list of voters were to be posted, compare them to the list of unconfirmed voters, and call in a list of those who had voted. They were initially only for Dayton locals, but there were fears that some volunteers wouldn’t show – so Tuyen and I (being drivers and adept at finding our way around Dayton) were tasked with possibly standing in for the doubled tasks of Line Manager and Houdini.
The only catch: we would have to show up at Canaan by 5:30 AM.
So we ended up stopping to eat with Jennifer and the Fosters, dropping them off, and grabbing a 4 hour nap for the night. Election day awaited, and it was hard to get to sleep even with the physical exhaustion.
"We really must be going there's no time to delay
We have to leave our message because we can't stay
It really is important so remember take care
Please keep on moving 'cause there's nobody there." — Keep Moving, Madness
Election Day: VICTORY! And Change ....
"I woke up this morning, feeling brand new
‘Cause the dreams that I've been dreaming has finally come true....
We are the ones we’ve been waiting for." — It’s A New Day, Will.I.Am and Pres. Elect Barack Obama
E-Day. This was the moment we’d been waiting for throughout the past four years. We needed change in the worst way for some time, but only recently had it finally worked its way up the food chain to affect even the corporations that Washington dotes upon. Now that their bottom line has been impacted, it finally dawned on the American media: we’re in a disastrous, one-sided economy. Change was needed desperately.
4:45 came way too early for me, and I was kicking my butt for not falling asleep right away. But Tuyen and I made it to the staging location on time and sat in as our Red Team captain, Dayton’s former mayor Clay Dixon and Larkin from Montana gave us our marching orders. As it turned out, our location managed to get enough folks in to cover the two positions – Line Manager and Houdini – at each of our precincts for Canaan’s territory, and I gave our volunteer coordinator Tim a high-five.
As a result, Tuyen and I were sent out to the Trotwood office to work the Line Management at a location that was going to have their assigned Line Managers come in an hour after polls opened. We made the trip and immediately noticed it was even colder than in town. After a short visit at the Trotwood Obama office, we drove back to our assignment at the Trotwood Library.
The first thing we noticed was it was colder out in Trotwood than it was in Dayton – low 40’s. And being a typical Houstonian, I wasn’t dressed for Ohio in my vest and short sleeve top. The adrenaline flow kept me from really registering the cold as I normally would.
The next thing we surmised was that the line was about a 45 minute wait due to three of the ten computer voter machines being inoperable. Yet everyone in line was affable and determined, with the only one leaving the line vowing to return after she took her daughters to school. We spent the first hour of the day as the sun rose in Western Ohio, chatting with the voters, and I (with my button festooned vest and Obama "Vote Today" cards) kept the folks happy and in line.
About 45 minutes into our task, one of the couples who’d finished voting took pity on me and returned with a jacket! Sometimes having the handout mementos pays off! After our assigned Line Manager and Houdini arrived, Tuyen and I headed back to Dayton and down to Canaan for the next assignment. And immediately upon arrival, I stepped wrong on a curb and bent back my toe – the sore toe, of course. More pain for election day – perfect!
We learned all line manager teams had arrived, so we weren’t needed for those assignments, we would instead switch to Blue Team and canvass door-to-door to ensure everyone had voted. But before going out (political junkie as I’ve become) I had to hear the first news reports coming in. They weren’t good omens: Wake County NC (home to Sen. Elizabeth Dole’s opponent, democrat Kay Hagan) had problems throughout the county with none of the ballots being able to be read ... and in Florida, nine trash bags full of voter registrations were found tossed on the side of a highway.
The ditched registration / voter suppression issue touched a nerve with me. Two days earlier on Northcrest, Shannon Bledsoe had noted that she had registered at apartment she shared with her boyfriend, had not voted, but was not on my list of unknown voters. She was curious why she wasn’t on the list. I’d urged her to vote early and demand a provisional ballot, gave her the name of the law (the Help Americans Vote Act, or HAVA) that mandated officials allow her to do so, and then gave her the 866-OUR-VOTE phone number and instructed her to get in touch with whomever collected her registration and challenge her provisional to ensure it was counted.
Shannon wasn’t sure who registered her, but she believed it may have been ACORN. It was illegal for ACORN to toss away any registration collected even if suspicious (voter suppression), so they flagged it. It must be equally illegal for authorities in any state to summarily toss all such registrations without verification for the same voter suppression reasons. After hearing of Florida, adrenaline was back and my toe pain disappeared. I needed to move!
"It was a creed written into the documents that would declare the destiny of a nation. Yes We Can.
It was whispered by slaves and abolitionists as they blazed a trail for freedom. Yes We Can." — It’s A New Day, Will.I.Am and Pres. Elect Barack Obama
Tuyen and I, and teammates LaQuinta Eldridge and LaTeah Jackson hit the road to familiar environs – those same dangerously neglected apartments on Riverside near Shoup Mill! I began wondering if they kept giving these to us because no one else would walk them. As Tuyen correctly noted, these were exactly the people that needed to get out and vote, and needed change – and she was right!
At one point, I encountered an 81-year old man in a neighborhood adjacent to the apartments – Mr. Brock – who told me he was not going to vote because he couldn’t stand in line for any length of time. Per his report, when he called election officials to see if he could have a seat while he waited for his vote, he was told there would be no chairs at the precinct locations. Incredible!
Again I had to invoke HAVA, and instructed him that he should demand a chair – the pollworkers would have chairs, and they could easily be ousted from one of their chairs for a period of time (they sit most of the day anyway!) They should offer him a spot in the line, and call him when his spot reached the front of the line. They couldn’t disallow a voter because of their physical disability.
After walking away, I caught myself second-guessing whether I’d just offered Texas voter law or HAVA, so I had to call former mayor Dixon (Red Team Captain) and verify, then gave him Mr. Brock’s phone number and the voting location for his precinct. Hizzoner confirmed what I’d noted, and was going to make the calls and take care of the situation! Problem-solving on the run? Yes we can!
Both LaTeah and LaQuinta ended up twisting ankles and we had to leave them behind at Canaan. So Tuyen and I took on our next precinct. Again we were at the Northcrest and Norris apartments, as well as Foxton. The residents, overwhelmingly African-American and all economically challenged, knew us well by then. We were like mini-celebs, high-fiving kids, chatting with others like we were old neighbors and enlisting others to volunteer. Once again on Norris, I had no less than three other residences, some of whom noted they were not on my list, had not voted yet (indicating they should’ve been listed), and reporting they had just registered a month earlier. Again, I had to do the HAVA instructions about provisional ballots, calling 866-OUR-VOTE and challenging to make sure they had votes that counted.
Whether this was input operator error or registrations that were simply disallowed because of incidental suspicion unrelated to these voters’ apps, it was burning me up by the minute. Now I began worrying about how widespread this was, and what impact it would have on election results. We need a state ID-voter registration law federally. Make it uniform and eliminate the confusion, arbitrary decision-making and typo-related disallowances. It will also encourage all to have state identifications (which should be a no-brainer anyway).
Over the course of the day, Tuyen and I tackled eight precinct turfs in total. In Meadowdale, I was a bit unnerved by having two African American residents – one eighteen, one nineteen – answer the door and (when I encouraged them to make sure and vote), responded with apathy and blank stares. They were registered, they could vote for their first time in a historic election ... and it seemed not to matter to them! For me, that renewed the urgency and helped me put the left foot pain out of mind again. My confidence wasn’t failing, but the worry was ramping up a bit now.
Another of our precincts we drove had us paired up with a longtime resident of that neighborhood off of Main and W. Nottingham. She helped us for that period and gave insight into the neighborhood – but I still had to navigate while driving. At one point she even noted I knew her neighborhood better than she did. After those three days, I feel like an old hand at northwest Dayton and Harrison Township.
Tuyen and I took our last precinct to canvass at 6PM. It was already dark, but thankfully it was one I’d door-hanged on the day before. We finished that up and made it back to Canaan at 7PM, only a half hour before polls closed. There wasn’t anything to do but stand around and eat more chips, candy, cold pizza or cold chicken – something we’d had in abundance over the last few days. As we were too keyed up to eat, Tuyen and I began helping tear down and hauling out the remaining door hangers, flyers, signs, etc. I collected a few of the posters and push cards for mementos, as well as a couple Obama Phone Bank Team buttons, as well as a Obama Comfort Manager button (which I would leave with our kind hostess, Cyndee Montgomery).
Once we broke everything down, we began saying our goodbyes, taking photos and exchanging contacts with those not going to the campaign’s election night party. Our team: Mike from Austin, and the Houston folks, Laran, LaTeah and LaQuinta, Tobi Myers, Tuyen and I departed Canaan Community Center for the last time and made the short drive downtown.
Conveniently, our party location was the city’s hottest club a half block away from the downtown Obama headquarters. As fate would have it, it was also Dayton’s drag bar – though the nicest one I’ve ever seen, quite impressive! A tranny-girl Obama delegate with predominantly straight Dems, celebrating the election in a drag club ... ironic, yet fitting! One of the local Dayton volunteers who canvassed and arrived downtown with, Laran piqued my tranny radar as well. I didn’t want to ask, but I also noticed she was staring at my button-laden vest and noticing my Tranny Triangle button. In fact, there was an even taller girl in the club who may well have been as well ... or maybe I was the only T girl there.
It didn’t matter though. This night was for the entire nation, whomever and wherever we were. We anticipated a nation that was no longer ruled by exclusionism. This would be a party where everyone is invited!
"Hello, Chicago. If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.... It's the answer that led those who've been told for so long by so many to be cynical and fearful and doubtful about what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day." — Pres. Elect, Barack Obama
As the results began initially trickling in, the club got louder and the crowd got ‘crowder’. There were banks of TV screens everywhere in the club – a perfect venue for election night! As folks came over and introduced themselves, all we had to do was mention Houston. We were oblivious to the notoriety we enjoyed throughout Dayton until then. Everyone had heard of the bus from Houston, even the folks in town from other states! We got to regale them with the story of our 26 hour bus ride up. We were sorta like Dayton’s cavalry, riding to the rescue! Now it was only a matter of seeing the results of what we’d just finished.
There were three or four eastern zone states that I watched for as the results came in. McCain would not capture any of the Kerry states at all, including Pennsylvania (the numbers weren’t there for them). So it would be either Virginia, Florida or Ohio that would elect Obama. The obvious northeastern states were the first declarations for Obama. Then crucial Pennsylvania came in blue – there was no way for the rest of the state to overcome the populous Philly region. That left only the one of the other three to come in (knowing also that New Mexico and Nevada were likely to come in blue as well). We watched the numbers come in early, with McCain leading in Virginia ... but then the northern counties came in. Obama was winning Virginia – end game for McCain.
While I was upstairs exploring the club’s vacant second floor, I heard a roar outside and discovered what it was – Ohio was called for Obama! McCain would not win without a major upset out west. Then came the second blast from the crowd when they showed the counties that went blue. Dayton and Montgomery County were the lone blue county in a sea of southwestern Ohio red. We’d not only won the state, but our collective efforts won this crucial county – one shrouded in controversy during the secretive ballot count in 2004. We kicked butt!
While mingling through the party, we also got a chance to meet others assigned to the other three city quadrants and around the rest of the county. I met a mom and daughter team who flew in from Northampton, MA to work the weekend, and we immediately hit it off. A short time later I met a team of folks flown in from Sonoma County, CA who did likewise. Later I met a couple guys who’d flown in from New York City to help out. We’d all come the opposite ends of the country – east, west and south – and ended up in heartland’s Ohio. We were all from non-battleground states, working to win a critical battleground state. Unlike their states though, Texas’ situation was quite the opposite as we’d have no victories for our party back home. There was some guilt I felt in not staying home and fighting, though I couldn’t single-handedly overcome those numbers the red-meat folks generate. In circumspect, we did good, though.
One of the California volunteers noted that when her team was getting assignments, her local team lead kept turning down a number of northern and northwestern precincts as "they were too dangerous." She let me know that they had heard about "the bus from Houston coming up" and her team lead had instructed them to assign those precincts to us, confirming what we were suspecting. Ultimately, that was probably best. We were undaunted with wherever they sent us, whether it was Joe The Plumber-land, or blighted urban enclaves, we were there to get the job done. And Yes We Did! Not only that, we were notorious in our "dangerous" precinct turfs! Danger-be-damned, we were on a mission from Gahd!
Obama racked up 207 electoral votes rather quickly, but then .. the McCain states in the south starting coming in – from fifty-something to 125 in the central zone states. Then everything hung up, nothing moved ... although Florida was leaning Obama, Virginia was in the win column and North Carolina and Indiana were not looking red. McCain’s aides issued a statement saying they didn’t see any path to victory. Shortly before the west coast polls closed, John McCain came on to deliver a concession speech. After the initial hush, the club’s crowd heard McCain’s crowd boo him when he spoke about supporting Obama as our new president. Afterwards, there was nothing but club crowd noise, and I never heard what McCain said or registered how his crowd responded.
Once the western states closed and the exit polls reported, the roar in the club was deafening. Obama captured the entire bank of west coast states, hands down, and about the same time, New Mexico finally declared Obama as well. Game over, we had our 44th president! Watching the reactions on TV was amazing. Shots of Keshumu, Kenya where Obama’s family lived showed the entire village dancing through the street. Shots of Harlem and Atlanta’s Morehouse College showed election night crowds in jubilant celebration and a number of African Americans collapsing in uncontrollable tears of joy. I then looked over to see a mirror image, LaQuinta from our team was leaned over the pool table, broken down in tears as well.
"But above all, I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to. It belongs to you." — Pres. Elect, Barack Obama
Seeing how it affected LaQuinta was one of the most touching images, along with Jesse Jackson standing in the crowd with tears streaming down his face (especially poignant considering his own controversy during the Obama campaign). Watching Oprah, enrapt in Obama’s speech with teary eyes, leaning on the shoulder of a stranger in front of her. Even watching Mike from Austin, a 50-something white accountant, wiping tears from his eyes, and looking back at the TV screen images of cities around the country, and around the globe, people enthralled with the election results and riveted by the acceptance speech in London and Paris.
It wasn’t just America, but the entire world waiting for the pall of the past eight years to clear away, for the fear and the hatred to crumble into dust, for the unease and hardship to evaporate, and for the ugly America to disappear, replaced by what we used to be and always knew we were – a respectable and respectful nation of promise, of goodwill, of justice and of hope. And with this election, we once and for all signaled to the world that our promise of opportunity for all wasn’t mere sloganeering, but was truly something America stood for.
"Living in America - eye to eye, station to station
Living in America - hand to hand, across the nation
Living in America - got to have a celebration." — Living In America, James Brown
It happened right before our eyes. All the years of the barrier of "not being people like us" and "never being good enough" were disintegrated as easily as when Barack Obama walked through that curtain and took the stage, delivering what was truly a presidential speech. In fact, it may well go down as one of the greatest presidential speeches of all time. This was a moment for the ages. Yes we can have egalité!
Veni, Vidi, Vici – we came, we saw, and we conquered Montgomery County for the Democrats. We met new friends on the bus and all across the country from our common cause. Yet while watching celebrations and partying ourselves, in the back of my mind I couldn’t shake the thought that we were 1,000 miles from home, giddy from victory, and left our local races down the ballot to falter. There is new hope across the country and even across the world, but I fear hope will visit Texas last. We are the dead end.
We left Ohio early the next morning, precious little sleep, groggy and hung over from the night before, on the bus back to our partisan war zone where we’ll still face hate, disenfranchisement, inequality and voicelessness. And it’s time for me to hit the job trail and hope it won’t be a long drought before working again. Houston isn’t the best part of the country to be a transgendered job-seeker.
But we worked hard, we succeeded and now we and Ohio can be proud of our accomplishment, and the country and the world can celebrate. Driving through Kentucky that crisp morning, even the trees seemed to be celebrating in bright red and gold.
"I gotta keep moving
With the white lines on the highway,
Watchin' every mile go by –
The silos and the by-ways." — Gotta Keep Moving, Kellie Pickler