Monday, January 28, 2008

An American Political Aside

Fired up? Ready to go!

As you can easily tell from what I write about, I am to a certain extent a politics and news junkie. With the Presidential primary season in full gear, I got into the act and got involved.

I've lived my whole life in Indiana, a state that neither holds a relevant primary nor is traditionally in play come general election time. (Know the last Dem to carry IN? His name was Lyndon Baines Johnson and it was over 40 years ago.) That means that, largely from despair and not seeing it in action, I've never gotten active in a Presidential election before.

Fast forward to me living here in North Carolina. NC isn't voting yet, but its neighbor, South Carolina is. Or was, on this past Saturday. Earlier in the week I got an e-mail asking people to come volunteer to work as get-out-the-vote (GOTV) volunteers for the Obama campaign, and so I met some like-minded local people here from Chapel Hill and we formed a carpool. (Thanks to Linda, Erica, Carole, and Brian for making my first foray into political volunteering a great experience.)

We left the Chapel Hill area at 5:30am Saturday and got to Florence,SC after 8:00. The polls were open from 7-7, but I guess waking people up asking them to vote at 7:00am on a Saturday is a good may to make people mad! The Obama headquarters in Florence was nothing more than a house with some computers, posters, and some donuts and coffee from Krispy Kreme. Oh yeah, and hordes of people coming in to help! In addition to about 50 people from the Triangle area here in NC, there were 30 students from Howard University, and assorted individuals and small groups from a handful of different states, including a guy with a heavy British accent and a gentleman from Seattle who had also been to volunteer in New Hampshire and Nevada. He despaired that he might be a bad luck charm, as Obama narrowly lost NH and lost the popular vote while winning the delegate count in NV. His fears, however, would prove unfounded.

Because of the large turnout, our group of five volunteered to go back out into the rainy cool morning and drive about 20 minutes to a small town, Hartsville, where they didn't have as many out-of-state volunteers. Hartsville turned out to be a town of about 7500 people and with a small college in the town.

We spent the day going in groups of two or three to remind people of the primary, encourage them to vote, and arrange for transportation if they couldn't get to the polling place on their own. We weren't going door to door. Instead they wanted "targeted GOTV:" we had a list of people in a given precinct who they thought would be likely Obama voters and sent us to them. I have to admit I was a little puzzled at times, because in some situations the information was clearly out of date, which was a bit frustrating.

What wasn't frustrating was the result. Personally, we got a few more votes out. I especially remember one woman who thought we were selling something: "We don't want any." Then, when she realized we were from the Obama campaign, she was a little embarrassed to admit that she had forgotten it was primary day, but earnestly promised to go by and vote on her way to work. Statewide the results were great: not the 5-6-7% win the pre-election polls had predicted, but a 55%-27% win and better than expected showings in practically every demographic. (And, he won the county we worked in, Darlington, with 64%!)

Here's where a little hindsight would have come in handy. At about 6:00, the polls were going to be open for another hour, but the chances of getting to much more result were pretty slim. The town Obama organizer asked us to do just a little more, but also understood we had been at it all day and could beg off if we wanted. We also knew that Obama was set to give a victory speech in Columbia, an hour's drive away.

We did "the right thing" and went back out.

We also went to Columbia.

We also got left at the threshold... line about 30 yards from the door when the fire-marshall stopped letting people in. If only we'd left a little earlier, we'd have gotten in to be a part of a raucous crowd and hear live a man who is, in my opinion, one of the most impressive speakers of our time. The speech was great. I know: we listened in the parking lot before embarking on a drive home that ended n Chapel Hill at almost 2:00 am.

While the drive to Columbia might seem futile, it wasn't. I was glad that we got just a little bit of the atmosphere: electric. People only talking about one thing. Thousands of different people, all coming together, a diverse bunch of Americans, all celebrating something great that I hope will catapult Barack Hussein Obama into a fancy new house in D.C. and this country off the awful drifting course its on now and get it moving in the right direction.

Can we do it? Yes we can!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

It's Been a While

...since I've posted. A month and a half, to be exact. It's been a busy stretch, both for me and for Russia. The holidays were here and I have been lucky enough to spend a month with those I love. Now, it's back to school and things are going well, like they say "Time flies when you're having fun." I can't believe that January has nearly come and gone.

As for Russia, well, as you probably know, we have an heir apparent. No surprises, although I was a little surprised that the decision became public as early as it did, months before the March election. It seems like they are aiming for a seamless official transfer of power, without much real change.

Any opposition candidates (Kasyonov, Kasparov, Zhyugonov, are finding tough sledding in their attempts to get registered, run, and find air time for their campaigns. I fail to understand why the authorities feel the need to quash opposition when they would win even in a fair election.