Friday, November 07, 2008


I may have spent election day hard at work, but some of my friends have been working on the campaign trail for weeks.  To honor one such noble soul, I would like to post the comments of an old friend, Ben Vernia, who spent the last few weeks serving as a regional voter protection organizer for the Obama/Biden campaign in Stark and Wayne Counties, Ohio.  Ben and I worked together at the Justice Department, before he moved on to the private sector.  What follows are his words, unfiltered.  If you would like to post a comment, please note that I will be out of town this weekend and won’t be able to publish your comments until Sunday night or Monday morning.

Take it away, Ben:


If I had to sum up this election in one word, it wouldn’t be “change,” it would be “hunger.”  The people I saw in northeast Ohio (not to mention those in Joe McCain’s “communist” Northern Virginia, where I live) were hungry, hungry people.  Some were hungry for leadership.  Some were hungry for racial equality.  Some were hungry for progress on specific policies like health care and labor rights.  Some were hungry for an end to bleakness that has smothered their communities for eight long years.  Perhaps a few were hungry for any kind of “change” they could lay their hands on, but I think “hunger” is a more accurate, though politically less catchy word to sum up the mood on E-Day.

At 6:30 pm, an hour before the polls closed in Ohio, the regional political staff set up next door to us lawyers in a “boiler room” call center looked dejected:  the long-expected lines outside the polls hadn’t materialized, and maybe we’d lost.  Perhaps everyone had overestimated the voters’ hunger, and apathy had stolen the helm of our country once again.  It quickly became apparent that voting in the weeks before and morning of Election Day had left no voters to “get out” at dinnertime.  We hadn’t overestimated the people’s hunger, we had underestimated it.

In an election characterized by a lot of lies about Barack Obama, the biggest was perhaps the one which appeared most irrefutable:  that he had no management experience.  It took me about a day with the campaign to realize how wrong that was.  All campaigns are pressure cookers; the Obama campaign turned this pressure into discipline.  Staffers blended mutual support with candid accountability and a relentless focus on staying on target and getting the job done.  If President Obama runs the Executive Branch half as well as Senator Obama ran his campaign, the country will be in good hands.

Finally, because I was based in Canton, home and burial site of William McKinley, I listened to Kevin Phillips’ biography of the Republican president.  I was reminded of Karl Rove’s boast that he fancied himself the 21st century Mark Hanna, the Senator from Cleveland who advised McKinley.  Setting aside the perfectly credible suspicion that Rove viewed the Iraq war as a desirable analogue to the Spanish-American War (the “splendid little war” whose low body count helped propel McKinley to a second, assassin-abbreviated term), it was sweet to have a front-row seat at the decimation of Rove’s dreams for a “permanent” Republican realignment. 

 In the final week of the campaign, Barack Obama spoke through his exhaustion at a Civic Center only a few blocks from the site of William McKinley’s home, who received 750,000 visitors in a stay-at-home campaign for reelection in 1900.  Rove’s biggest mistake was seeing himself as the architect of a generation of Republican dominance.  In fact, Rove’s hubris ensured that the first GOP candidate after Bush became the 21st century version of William Jennings Bryan, whose appeal to conspicuous religiosity solidified his evangelical base at the expense of a broader appeal.

Those were Ben's words.  But I'd like to end this post with a wish about a VERY important topic. Barack Obama needs a puppy to fulfill a promise to his children, but one of those kids has a pet allergy.  The politically correct crowd is pleading that he get a puppy from the shelter, but you're not hearing that from me.  As a fellow dog lover with pet allergies, I can safely say that there is only one breed for Barack:  get a bichon!  I have two, and I love them.  So do my two daughters.


Betty C. said...

Hi there! Well, it really happened! The reaction in France has been amazing -- people have been running up and congratulating me as if I were personally responsible or something! (Well I was a donor!) I had a crowd of students in my office before classes on Wednesday morning -- spent an incredible early morning watching the results come in on Internet with my daughter Charlotte -- drove into Rodez honking our car horn and blasting "When the Ship Comes In" out of our open car windows. Fortunately we have an Obama bumper sticker so people had some idea what was going on!

Now I think it's time for all of America to get to work on the huge problems we have to face. My euphoria hasn't lasted that long, but my hope persists.

Daniel Spiro said...


I am reassured -- but not surprised -- that the French have reacted that way. I think the entire globe is reacting that way. People are doing more than exhaling. They sense the potential for greatness in the air. Let's hope that we ALL do our part.

As Barack has said, it's "all hands on deck" time. The change he is talking about is both top-down and bottom-up.

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