In our last installment of Fun with Volunteering, we told about taking a bus ride to Philadelphia. Last night and this morning, on the eve and the early hours of Election Day, we went to Obama for America-New York headquarters on Eighth Avenue in Manhattan to man the phones to get out the vote in Ohio.
[ See Levees Not War for illustrated version, including beautiful Swedish-American volunteers! ]
In a Big Room High Above Eighth Avenue . . .
Last night and this morning, on the eve and the early hours of Election Day, we went to Obama for America–New York headquarters on Eighth Avenue in Manhattan to man the phones to get out the vote in Ohio. (Getting to OFA HQ via LIRR this morning, one week after Hurricane Sandy was its own act of, shall we say, determined commitment to the cause.)
The spacious rooms were well attended by eager volunteers young, old, in between, and even canine. Many callers were volunteering for the first time, and we hope they’ll be back for other campaigns and for legislative initiatives between now and 2014. The Affordable Care Act, for example, likely would never have squeaked through the House and Senate if not for month after month of determined, repeated phone banking to urge voters to press their members of Congress to back health care reform. The same is true of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform bill.
Earlier in this election year there was talk of an “enthusiasm gap,” a diminished sense of passion among Obama’s supporters compared to the excitement of 2008, and that was probably true, but as Election Day has come closer the gap has evaporated and the enthusiasm has grown. We volunteered for both campaigns, 2008 and 2012, going door to door and working phone banks, and the numbers may have diminished a bit from four years ago—what incumbent president’s wouldn’t?—but we can attest that in numbers of volunteers, their seriousness and dedication to democracy and making the United States a better country for all, and demographic variety, President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have a very strong and energetic base of volunteers indeed. “Fired up, ready to go.”
Sorry to Pester, Ohio, But We Really Need You
Many of the calls last night went unanswered. Not surprising: They must be tired of hearing from us, and avoiding robocalls. Still we’re cheerful and optimistic when a live person answers. Hello, I’m a volunteer for Obama for America, just checking to see whether you’ve managed to vote yet, or if you’re planning to vote tomorrow? And may I ask if President Obama can count on your support? Wonderful, thank you. Most people on our list said Yes, I’ll be voting, and yes, for President Obama. Some preferred not to say whom they’re voting for. That’s fine. Thanks for your time. Good luck.
A volunteer organizer named Brent was on the phone with a man in Ohio who did not, could not believe that Brent was really an unpaid volunteer for Obama-Biden. No assurance would persuade him otherwise. This man also would not believe that in late 2008 and early 2009 the Obama administration had helped save the auto industry from bankruptcy and thereby preserved 1 in 8 jobs in Ohio, some 800,000 jobs. (In late 2008, when no private, commercial banks would loan money to General Motors and Chrysler when they were about to go bankrupt, the incoming Obama administration arranged a government-backed rescue; it was not technically a “bailout” because the money was repaid, with interest. In November 2008, Mitt Romney wrote an op-ed in the New York Times titled “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.”
As we listened to this conversation in near disbelief, a volunteer at our table said that one-third of registered Republican voters in Ohio believe that Mitt Romney deserves more credit than the president for the killing of Osama bin Laden. Can this possibly be true? Maybe not one-third, but according to Public Policy Polling 1 in 6 Ohio Republicans (15%) believe this.
Most other calls were closer to what we recognize as reality. Many Ohio voters we spoke with had not had terribly long waits in line, though they were in smaller towns; we did not get through to many voters in the Big Three cities of Cleveland, Cincinnati, or Columbus. We felt kind of bad for the poor beleaguered Ohioans, pestered for months by incessant TV commercials and robocalls and cheerful volunteer callers like ourselves. We wish the good people of Ohio peace and quiet, but first we wish them an incontestable Democratic majority on the presidential and congressional levels.