This has been quite the campaign season for me. It has actually been more of an enormous awakening. My husband will tell anybody who will listen that eight years ago I couldn't tell you the difference between a liberal and a conservative. For most of my life politics and world events did not interest me. I live in Florida and started paying attention when there were nightly reports in 2005 on my local news about the Terri Schiavo case. I don't know why that was the event the piqued my interest, but it did. I became more and more curious and started searching the Internet, and that's when I first found myself at Daily Kos. Next it was the outing of Valerie Plame, and the next thing I knew I was visiting Daily Kos regularly. There were times over the years that I wasn't around, but for the most part I would check in periodically or regularly depending on what was going on in the world to read what was being written here.
I can't tell you exactly what happened to me this summer, but I started writing diaries frequently, and to my surprise many of you put them on the Recommended List. A lot of my diaries were premised on what I had seen on The Rachel Maddow Show, which I now watch every night. I learned so much watching Rachel and reading news online. The more I learned the more I wanted to share it here, and the more I wrote ... sometimes several diaries a day. I reached a point in September when I began to question whether or not I should continue to spend my time writing diaries, or if I should get out and actually volunteer. The decision was finally made for me when a friend in Alabama posted something on his Facebook page in the early morning hours of October 11. I was so angered that I knew, as a resident of the swing state of Florida, that I could do more by volunteering. I opened the Obama app I had already downloaded to my phone and found out that there was a training session at my local Organizing for America (OFA) office that evening. I signed up to attend and I went!
Before the meeting started, I watched a young man (a college student) making phone calls on the auto-dialer and I immediately knew that was the place I could do the most good. I know I have a great phone personality, and as someone who spends my days sitting for hours on end in front of my computer working on my website, I also knew I had the stamina to sit for hours on end, making calls. At the training, the young team leaders Kerry and Bart explained that the most important thing in this campaign was to get the voters to the polls. It doesn't matter who produced the greatest ad, or had the best debate performance. What mattered most was who got their voters to the polls. Hearing that, I knew that I had made the best possible decision to use my time to help in that effort.
The next day, a Friday, I showed back up at the office and started making calls. That first night I made more calls and had more conversations than any one else in the state. At the end of the evening I received a round of applause. I was hooked. I showed up every day and made calls until my husband and I came down with the flu, but even that did not deter me from my mission. By that time I was proficient enough with what I was doing, and had a log-in to the website that I was able to continue making calls from home. My fear was that if I went into the office, I might infect all those hard working young people with whatever bug I had picked up. I only missed one day, a Thursday, making calls when I just couldn't get out of bed. I felt so guilty about missing that day that the following Saturday I sat in front of the computer for a solid six hours and made 377 calls and had 124 conversations.
All totaled, I probably made about 4,000 calls and had between 1200 and 1500 conversations with voters. What a wonderful experience! I talked to so many people who told me how much they loved President Obama and how they and their entire household were going to vote for him. I had so many memorable conversations. On the final Saturday of Early Voting I called one voter, but another answered. She assured me that the person I had called would vote and would vote for President Obama. She then added that she herself had stood in line for six hours that day in order to vote for our president. I thanked her profusely for standing in line for so many hours, and she said "You don't have to thank me. I did it for myself."
Her comment made me think about my motivations for volunteering. Quite frankly, I didn't think I could say the same thing. My husband and I were never blessed with children. We have a very comfortable lifestyle. If Mitt Romney had been elected, our lives would not change in any measurable way. I could have stuck my head back in the sand, and never have known the difference. But, I couldn't sit by and not volunteer to help. It just felt good to do it. It made me happy to know that I was contributing and that I was making a difference. This is where I have to say that I clash with Ayn Rand's ideas about selfishness and altruism. Years ago when I was in my twenties, I read The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. I know that Ayn Rand promoted the idea that selfishness was a virtue and altruism was not. But here's what I think: altruism is a form of selfishness. When I do something for others, expecting nothing in return, it makes me feel good. I like that feeling and so I do things to create that feeling as often as I physically or financially am able to. So, just like that woman, I really do have to say, "I did it for myself."
I spent Election Day afternoon and evening at the OFA office and visiting polling locations delivering water to voters still standing in line. Yesterday, I returned to my life and I finally started clearing out my email accounts after not even looking at them for a week. To my amazement, I opened an email from Daily Kos that had been sent on Sunday.
Dear hungrycoyote,Wow! Thank you, Anonymous Benefactor, whoever you are. Thank you. You made my day! I am especially looking forward to using the Image Library and not having to use a third-party site to upload my images when writing future diaries.
Congratulations! An anonymous benefactor has purchased you a one year gift subscription to Daily Kos.
From: An anonymous benefactor
Message from An anonymous benefactor: For your GOTV - just saw you share your call numbers.
Thank you too to all of you who have been reading my diaries these past few months and encouraging me to continue to write. This election may be over, but I'm still Fired Up! I'm still Ready to Go! In 2014 I will not wait so long to get involved. Next up, Rick Scott! The man made so many of my fellow Floridians stand in line for hours in order to exercise their right to vote. This was inexcusable. Just wait Rick Scott until you're up for reelection in 2014 when you're going to get a personal taste of people powered grassroots organization.