29 August 2008

Volunteer for Obama, Work for America

It is hard for me to sum up the convention when so many have already written so well about Obama's speech and the overall effect of the convention to rally Democrats in this must-win election. I have said this before, and I'll say it again now: We must elect Obama now. If we fail to elect Obama, this nation will not be able to look itself in the eye on November 5.

This is not meant to shame or to brow beat. Until 2000 and 2004, I believed like many Democrats that in our nation it was enough to exercise the vote as the practice of true democracy. Even after 2000, I held to the faith that our country would correct its mistake, and that the collective powers working on behalf of John Kerry would prevail in a gritty election against an incumbent president who was clearly willing to use dishonorable and dishonest tactics to stay in office. That's just politics, right?

But those forces didn't win, and now an entire nation waits with bated breath not only for the announcement of our next president, but for the simple relief of being done with eight of the most damaging years in American history.

If this all sounds a little high-toned, well, I might just be guilty of that. I no longer believe that a Democrat has the luxury to merely cast a vote for Barack Obama and count on that vote to carry the day. We each need to get out and register voters, talk to undecided voters, ask McCain supporters what it is they actually like about their candidate, ask about policies, educate ourselves about the issues, encourage Democratic voters to register for mail-in ballots (both for the paper record and to ensure turnout even if the weather is bad or robocalls spread misinformation on election day), ask our family members the uncomfortable questions about politics that we may not always speak of, and drive voters to the polls on election day.

I haven't simply swallowed the Kool-Aid here. In 2000 and 2004, Democrats lost by incredibly close margins. There is more enthusiasm among Democrats in America for the political process today than ever before, and similarly more discomfort among Republicans. Obama's campaign manager David Plouffe points to Pennsylvania, where over 300,000 new Democrats have been registered to vote while the Republican Party ranks have thinned by some 60,000. Registering voters and encouraging them to check the box to receive a mail-in ballot will do more to ensure Democratic success this fall than any other single effort.

It's not easy to register voters. I speak from experience when I say that a three or four hour shift with the clipboard may only yield one new voter. But, to borrow a phrase from my wife, we do the work of ants. Piece by tiny piece, Jenna and I watched as millions of ants turned out night after night near our home in Oaxaca to take down an enormous tree. There is no doubt in my mind that that tree will soon fall. So too have a million plus volunteers turned out to support this history-making campaign by registering voters, collecting data, making phone calls, knocking on doors, housing campaign staffers, and more.

To the those who read this post, I beg you to take a little of the time you may have and call the DNC or the Obama campaign office nearest you to find out how you can get involved in your neighborhood. It may be as simple as making phone calls from home, or opening your house to host a meeting of undecided voters from your neighborhood. There are many ways to get involved. The choice is ours now on how we each will donate what we can--whether that be time, money, or hard work--to make sure that every American understands the urgency we face.

John McCain scares me more than George Bush ever did. Bush is ignorant, incurious, and incompetent. The damage he's wreaked is difficult to calculate. To put it in perspective, though, John McCain is angry. It'd be like electing Dick Cheney to serve as the highest executive in the land. To be sure, I'd actually prefer four more years of ignorance and incompetence than to see what even one year of anger will do for this country. McCain is angry, mean, and petty, and to echo Obama's speech he simply does not have the temperament to be commander-in-chief. You think incompetence got us in trouble? A McCain presidency would signal the escalation of Cheney-esque leadership at the most visible level, and, to be sure, the guaranteed decline of American leadership, competitiveness, and national character, both at home an abroad.

Pick up your phones, Democrats. Donate a couple hours of your time to the campaign. Let us do the work of ants to rebuild our country.