Friday, November 14, 2008

James Forman with a very powerful email

James Forman with a very powerful email (all the way below) with a description of his day last Tuesday and his feelings:
Been so overwhelmed by the past week that I haven't written anything.  Plus, what more is there to say really?  My email inbox has literally exploded with heartfelt messages, congrats, stories from election day.  Sorry if i haven't responded to yours, I did or will read it I promise. 

I'm not sure that I have much to add to the deluge of words and emotions at this point, but here's my final diary of the campaign.

Monday, middle of the night
Up till 2AM after watching Obama speak to a crowd of 90,000 in Manassas (sweet irony there) VA.  Obama tells us he has one word: tomorrow.

Tuesday night, 5pm
Canvassed all day in Alexandria VA.  It's raining, i'm exhausted from last night, and i think i might be coming down with something.  Obama team is sending me text messages (why did I give them my cell phone number?) saying that VA turnout is low, we need to push till 7pm.  At the office at Grey Goose Lane we are deluged with volunteers, it's like one volunteer per voter, I joke to my mom that we should just each adopt a voter and sit on their stoop till we confirm they cast their ballot. 

Turns out that's not a joke.  Word comes from Tom Smith (love that I'm taking orders from my former student) that we should each take a list of voters and not come back to the office, just find the 5 or 6 left on our list that haven't voted and sit on their stoop, call them, do whatever it takes to confirm that they have voted.  "You own this list!", Tom commands to each of us as we leave the office with a list of voters that we have yet to confirm.  Jesus, I want to own the list, and I want to win, but mostly I want a drink.

Ify's sister Kiki and I have now confirmed 23 out of the 25 total voters on our list.  These are all people who told the campaign in the months previously that they were Obama supporters, but they are all new voters or voters with a sporadic voting history, so they are our targets for today (by the way, I promise to vote in every election from now on if only to avoid the "sporadic" designation that will ensure the daily barrage of Obama volunteers on my doorstep if I don't).  I think 23 out of 25 is pretty successful, but I'm afraid to face Tom back at the office and admit that 2 remain unconfirmed. 

Polls close. No lines at the polls at closing.  At least where we were, the long lines were all in the morning.   Now we just wait.

We are at a victory party sponsored by Spencer Overton (I hold spencer personally responsible for all this.  he emailed me ages ago and asked me to give money for a senate campaign of a law school friend of his with the ludicrous name barack obama).  Kiki gets a good seat in front of the TV, and already we are pissed off because we are losing 8-3.  KY's 8 for Mccain and all we have are Vermont's 3.  We are trying to read the tea leaves from the announcers hints, but they are being obtuse and anyway I sure don't trust exit polls. 

The unsurprising states are coming in.  Every red state is met with a sneer from Kiki, who has pledged never to visit any of them.  "Didn't want to go to Mississippi anyway," she says.  I tell her that "there are no red states, no blue states, just the . . . . "  She tells me to shut up.

The first big one is Pennsylvania.  Our bar is going crazy . . . wasn't McCain's whole strategy built on PA?  Can he win without it?  Some more states I cannot remember and that don't seem to matter much come in, and then the big one, Ohio.  I must say, of all the states Obama was leading in, the one I thought he was least likely to win was Ohio.  Not just because I thought the primary org sucked, my car broke down, we got crushed by Clinton, etc., but that's big part of why.  (and to speak of clinton, hated it at the time, but thanks for stretching obama to 50 states--we wouldn't have won indiana or ncarolina without the organizations built there in the primary.  and much love to clinton for tremendous campaigning down the stretch for the ticket.  anybody who hates on her now needs to ask themselves if they would have been woman enuf to suck it up and work that hard after losing a lifelong dream so narrowly.)

Anyway, who cares now . . . nobody in the bar will admit it, we're all too stressed and worried that they'll take it back like they did with FL, but it's over.  VA is still close though, and I'm feeling some personal responsibility there.  Maybe it was those 2 people we didn't talk to. 

Then VA comes in and Obama is in the low 200s for electoral votes.  The polls are going to close on the west coast in less than a minute, wait . . . people at the bar start doing math and shouting about CA's 55 and how they should be able to call Cali off the exits . . . . and maybe we're the last people in America to realize this but in like 30 seconds it is conceivable that Obama will be declared President, and then everyone is counting down 10, 9, 8, and then zero and the polls close on the west coast and CNN flashes up the image I thought I would never see and Obama is declared and we can't figure out what to do. I feel like Jimmy Valvano after NC State won the tourney and I'm running around finding people to hug, we're crying, taking photos, screaming and pretty much acting like what it feels like, the best day of our lives. 

Later somebody tells me that I shouldn't tell my wife that part about this being the best day of my life, given our wedding and all, so I don't tell her, but she does get this email.  Lucky for her she ignores a lot of my emails, but babe, if you read this one, sorry about that.

The speeches come on, McCain first.  I cannot believe these shits boo Obama's name.  I don't have the tape, but I remember watching Kerry's concession and some others, and I could be wrong, but I don't remember Dems booing the winner.  McCain's speech is quite good, but the commentators seem a little too ga-ga over it.  I mean, what did they expect McCain to say?  My opponent, the dude you just elected, is a punk-ass terrorist socialist who wants to steal your money and has secret affiliations he is keeping from you?  Oh right, ok.

The other thing that I don't like about McCain's speech is this bit about special pride for African Americans.  I mean, yeah, I get that, but it seems to miss the larger point about the special pride for all Americans.  But ok, I'm not going to hate.

Re special pride, it appears that chocolate city DC is now turning into a massive street party.  Crowds are forming outside the White House.  I sort of love that, but I'm also kind of hoping it is not too many black people out there.  Talk about feeding America's worst fears.  Let's at least wait till Jan. 20 before turning Pennsylvania Ave. into freaknik. 

Text from my friend Lisa in Seattle.  Lisa is white, and so is her daughter.  Apparently they were watching the acceptance speech and her daughter saw the Obama family and daughters.  She asked, "can a white girl grow up to have brown skin?"  Shit, I start crying again.

Going to sleep.  Only break in the euphoria are the results from GA.  My peeps worked so hard down there, it was a pure volunteer effort, little help from the campaign, and the energy and spirit I heard from folks like Chrisitian, Mary, Sonya and Amy was so intense.

Tossing and turning in bed, really I need 8 hours of sleep, but I cannot do it.  I have to go downstairs and see the paper, know it is official, it wasn't a dream.

Paper.  The good news is they haven't taken it back.  The bad news is that all the dirty dishes are still in the sink.  Wow, so everything is not going to change with Obama.  Still gotta wash my own dishes.  A preview of disappointments to come.

Reading the paper and I cannot stop looking at the photos of the Obamas.  I start thinking about my mom, how she decided to move to Atlanta when I was 11 and Chaka was 8.    We didn't want to move, we were new york city kids.  At the time she never came clean about why she had moved us.  Only later, when we got older, did she tell us the whole story.  About how she was a white mom raising 2 mixed-race black boys and our environment was mostly white.  I was going to a mostly white school.  She started to worry about a lot of things, including our racial identity.  She had lived in Atlanta during the civil rights movement and knew it had a thriving black community and black elected leaders, a black mayor.  She talked about how she wanted her black boys to open the paper and see pictures of black people running the city.  To know that was possible for us in America.  To have no shame in who we were.

My mom is sitting across the table, and I watch her with love and appreciation for her selfless decision to uproot us.  Then Ify comes downstairs.  She's got the little bump in her belly which is our baby to be, due in April.   This baby will be born during an Obama presidency, and will take for granted that which seemed so unlikely to me and my generation, and which seemed utterly impossible to my parents'.

. . . . . . . . . . .

Love to you all, thanks for support and energy and emails, doing this together has been what has made it so fun, and since I do have a life and job and work to get back to, any suggestions that any of you have for how to kick the blog/TV/RachelMaddow/talkingpointsmemo/CNN/billmahrer/hardball/total-media-addiction are quite welcome, James 

P.S. If I don't respond to emails pls forgive me, step one of curing myself of campaign addiction is less time on email.


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