lessons from America

The final day’s campaigning

It’s very hard to get a grasp of the mood here in Cincinnati, just before polls open.   The TV is still streaming plenty of attack ads from both sides and particularly for the local congressional races.  There’s a McCain ad about Obama and his preacher – that seems to be McCain’s closing argument here in Ohio. 

I handed out Issue 8 (electoral reform for city council elections) flyers to the queues of mainly young people coming for a ‘reminder to vote’ rally at Xavier University.  It was a hip-hop event with appearances by Mary J Blige and Beyonce.  There was a mood of celebration and even complacency amongst the students, partly because of the gloriously warm november weather.  But the Obama staffers there were concerned that not enough of them had early voted or were actually going to wait in the long lines on Tuesday; and that youth turnout might not be as high as expected come the close of polls.  I was also frustrated that there wasn’t enough focus on getting those who had voted to volunteer for GOTV shifts, especially before classes on Tue am. 

I left before the music acts came on so I could go do some volunteering of my own at an Obama office.  There was a sense of seriousness, of hard work, of tension there.  Hanging voting reminder flyers on people’s doors was the main activity volunteers were needed for.  I got sent way out to a neighbourhood north of Cincinnati. The local base there was in someone’s house and it felt very like a UK election where the parties use local activists’ houses as the hub for co-ordinating activity on election day itself in each ward / small area.  There was more a sense of urgency and efficiency there.  As the sun set I raced around the streets with my lists of houses to put the doorhangers on; ably assisted by Meghan who drove me around.

There was a moment of real sadness and reflection at the campaign house when it was announced that Obama’s grandmother had died.  People, including me, were genuinally upset on hearing the news.  I had heard it a few minutes earlier from a call with an Al Jazeera producer.  I commented to her that is was almost like life imitiating West Wing all over again: with Josh’s father having died on the day of the vital primary in Bartlet’s first run; and VP candidate Leo dying minutes before the polls closed on election day in the final series – the one in which a Democrat with non-white skin and a funny name won. 

The Al-Jazeera thing was an exciting addition to my trip.  Via theworldwantsobama website, they had got in contact with me to do a piece on what this election means for the world and why people are following it so much.  Well that is what it was meant to be about.  The other person interviewed, a Pakistani studying in the US, monopolised the conversation by talking in depth about why she fears an Obama victory in terms of policy and action towards Pakistan.  It was interesting stuff but I didn’t have the knowledge to respond authoritavely and the interviewer didn’t move the conversation on much during the 5-6 mins of the broadcast.  Still, I got a few points in and it was just a good and useful experience.  This was the first time I’d been into a proper major TV studio (I was taken to an NBC affiliate studio) and done a live interview to camera, complete with earpiece and just having to stare into the camera as the interviewer and other panellist were in other studios in different parts of the US.  The other nice thing was being chauffeur driven there and back, in the same car and driver as had whisked Mary J Blige to and from the airport earlier that day.


November 4, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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