This will be a quick post (I hope) and I probably won't post again until after Election Day.
It's at a moment like this when I sit and think "did I, as an individual, do enough to help support and promote Barack Obama?"
On the one hand, even asking the question is ludicrous. Obama's raised more money than any other presidential candidate in history, and he's a beloved international superstar.
On the other hand, we've got people like Joe the Plumber who clearly misunderstand Obama's policies (not to mention his background) and we've got a campaign of people working hard to make sure all those misconceptions stay at the top of their minds.
So what did I do to contribute to the Obama campaign?
I made two donations -- one symbolic, when I had very little money, and one that was a bit more substantial.
I spent several evenings phonebanking, although I didn't put in nearly as much time as other people I know.
I also spent one day canvassing in Virginia. I kept putting it off because I knew it would be a transportational hassle, and truth be told it was; I left my apartment at 2 p.m. and went from DC to Arlington, then was asked to hop into a carpool heading towards Manassas, then was driven from the Obama HQ in Manassas to a residential neighborhood, then spent 1/2 hour canvassing before it got dark and our team leader told us to pack it in. The travel time (round-trip) was nearly five hours, for just that little bit of canvassing.
So there you have it. That was my contribution. (I'm also going to do some volunteer work on Election Day itself, but I'll write about that later.)
Did I do enough? Well, I could have done more, that's for sure; and at the same time calling answering machines and spending hours in a car to knock on doors of people who aren't home also isn't, exactly, helping Obama. I mean, it doesn't feel like it's being helpful to spend time dialing numbers of people who won't answer. Making a donation feels much more helpful, and I'm glad I was able to contribute financially.
But out of all the hours I put into trying to contact voters who, 99% of the time, didn't pick up their phones or answer their doors, I did have one good conversation with one undecided voter. Interestingly, many of the other people I've talked to about their volunteering experiences said the same thing. Hours of what seemed fruitless work, except for that one conversation.
The team leader on the Manassas trip summed it up as follows:
"Look, we've got 5 million people working on this campaign. If we each have one good conversation with someone, even if that's all we're able to do, we'll have doubled Obama's votes."
So there you go.
We'll see what happens.