December 15, 2008
The Obama Campaign: Why We Won
(Barack Obama speaks in the rain in Chester. McCain cancelled his rally the same day due to inclement weather. That says is all.)
FYI: I'm unemployed for the good of the country. You're welcome.
In September, I left my job to work full time for the Obama-Biden Campaign. I came to Philly, lived with my brother and worked seven days a week. For most of my tenure, I was working in the Pennsylvania Headquarters, helping out the state policy director with various tasks—copy-editing policy documents, drafting talking points for surrogates and monitoring Internet rumors, smear fliers and robocalls through an email address called Watchdog.
Obviously Barack Obama won this election for lots of reasons—desire for change, force of his intellect and personality, a polarizing campaign by the opposition—but I think a lot of votes were won on the ground, through a philosophy that empowered voters and prized the simple act of listening.
For the last few weeks of the campaign, I was stationed in the downtown Philadelphia field office. Most of my time was still spent helping out with the Policy Department, but I was also there to answer policy questions (after weeks of reading draft after draft of every area of Obama's policy, I had some resources). In general, canvassers and phone bankers kept things simple, but occasionally voters would have more detailed questions. The volunteer would take down their number, and we would call them back. Promptly. I often had long, emotional conversations with individual voters, hearing about a sick child or concerns about "spreading the wealth"—damn you Joe the Plumber!
Health Care was the most common issue, and the one the inspired the most heartbreaking stories. A lot of people just wanted to be heard; they wanted to be told that the way they had been treated had been unjust (it was). So I would listen. I think that is a special way to run a campaign.
The Watchdog@paforchange.com email address was another tool of voter empowerment. The outlandish robocalls and mailers being disseminated by the PA Republican Party and various Right Wing activist groups blanketed the state. Instead of swallowing onslaught of misinformation and hateful language, supporters could send them to us. One man in Pittsburgh became our robocall guru—recording mp3's off his answering machine and being the first to notify the campaign of several controversial calls. He would also include the occasional zinger.
Made possible through technology (and the sheer manpower of the campaign), these tactics created a community, a village of supporters. And all of us helped to keep Pennsylvania blue.