I’ve been engaging in some fairly uncharacteristic behavior lately. This morning I headed over to the Brooklyn Academy of Music and spent a couple of hours phone banking for Obama, letting people in Florida know where their polling places are and encouraging them to vote tomorrow. Along with calls I made from home to voters in Pennsylvania using the Neighbor to Neighbor feature on Obama website, this marks the first time that I’ve ever volunteered for a major party candidate. Another first – I’ve donated to the Obama campaign not once, not twice, but four times, which is four times more than I’ve ever donated to a Democrat.
Yes, those were relatively small donations, and yes, two hours of phone banking is not a tremendous amount of time. But that’s a whole lot more time, money, and energy than I’ve ever before invested to get a major party candidate elected. I usually don’t get very excited over the sort of Democrats who are actually viable candidates. I usually vote for Dems because they’re better than the alternative, and often vote for third party candidates (mostly Greens) when they manage to get on the ballot. Even in this election, I’ve lamented the dearth of attention paid to Cynthia McKinney and Rosa Clemente, the Green Party presidential ticket, and for a while was leaning towards voting for them.
I know that Obama isn’t perfect, and that the fact that he is as close to the presidency as he is right now is itself a testament to the fact that he does not represent nearly as much of a departure from the status quo as I’d like to see. I’ve vacillated between feeling excited, hopeful, and proud when I voted for Obama during the February primaries to feeling pretty much over him by April.
But lately, my political pendulum has been swinging back in Obama’s direction. The final weeks of the campaigns have thrown the crucial differences between Obama and McCain into sharper relief than ever. And I’m not even talking policies here, where there are substantial differences but occasionally unfortunate similarities. I’m talking the philosophies of the campaigns and their approaches to politics, which have proven vastly different.
The McCain/Palin campaign seems to be trying to top themselves daily with increasingly vile and spurious appeals to the lowest common denominator. The whole line about Obama being a socialist and wanting to be the “Redistributionist-in-Chief” really got me shaking my head – they are actually billing “spreading the wealth around” as a bad thing and somehow getting people who would most likely benefit from more equitable distributions of wealth to buy into it! They’re rallying their base by blatantly stoking racial animus, by drawing out hatred and prejudice and capitalizing on it. I know that cultivating negativity and division is par for the course with conservatives, but they really have outdone themselves this time around.
Meanwhile, the Obama/Biden campaign continues to cultivate positivity and unity. They are inspiring, energizing, and uniting people, not based on shared prejudice and fear but on a shared desire for something better, not just for themselves, but for this entire country and this world. Barack Obama has created a movement unlike anything I’ve ever seen. When I walk through Brooklyn and see the amazing abundance of Obama signs, stickers, and buttons – especially in communities of color – the feeling of collective hope and joy becomes palpable. That’s a precious thing, and it’s something that we need to fight to preserve, to sustain, and to strengthen.
So I’ll be making more calls to voters tonight (you can, too – it’s easy!), and I’ll be heading to the voting booth early tomorrow morning to help vote Barack Obama in as our next President. I completely understand and encourage folks who are voting for McKinney or even Nader instead – believe me, being in a solid blue state, the temptation is there for me, too. But you know what? We’re about to make history here, damn it, and I’m going to be part of it. I hope you will be, too.
Cross-posted at Feministe