Monday, November 15, 2004

What Happened?

I'm sure a lot of you are wondering what happened - to my blog and to the campaign. I don't have a lot of answers about the campaign, but my blog just got the time squeezed away from it; I'm sorry about that.

Not long after my last post, they rearranged things at the Seemann campaign, demoting me from Field Director to Receptionist, basically, and putting someone I disliked and distrusted in as Field Director; I left the next day and went over to the Kerry campaign. No hard feelings, really - just I felt it was a very bad decision and that I wasn't able to be a productive part of the congressional campaign any more. Later the campaign pretty much self-destructed, a combination of personality conflicts, lack of funds, and stress - I am glad to have gotten away from it (relatively) early. But I'm sorry I wasn't able to help more, sorry Jeff didn't win (he got about 1/3 of the votes - not shabby but nowhere near enough).

At the Kerry campaign, I found myself working long hours - 70 and 80 hour weeks - and with very little free time for blogging and email, also very little access to computers beyond what was needed for work.

It was an interesting experience, and I'm very glad to have been a part of it, glad to have done everything I could to get Kerry elected. I fully expected us to win and win big, and I don't know why we didn't. We did win Stark County, but it's no consolation - the point was to win the White House, and as the whole world knows, we failed at that - AND lost ground in the House and Senate.

I based my optimism on a number of things, and I don't understand where it was wrong. First, the big picture of the American electorate has been that the Republicans have been winning because of their hard core voters - they have a minority, but a driven minority that goes to the polls, while Democrats have a less committed but larger base - Democrats get out and vote if it's a sunny day, or if their candidate is charismatic, but it's much softer support. Democrats have also been more factional - a candidate who is popular with Labor may not be popular with blacks; one who's strong with women may not get the support of gays or environmentalists, etc. That simply hasn't been the case with Republicans, whose dedicated core is very obedient to party leadership.

But this time - based on my own feelings, based on what I read, based on what I saw around me - Democrats should have been every bit as energized, every bit as united, as the Republicans have ever been. Our outrage at the Bush administration gave us all an understanding of how important it was to get registered and get to the polls and to put any petty differences behind us. And when Democrats get out and vote, it should come down to a simple matter of numbers - there's more of us than there are of them, so we should win, and win big. The unity and the energy were there - I felt it, I saw it around me. Everyone I talked to was doing more than they ever had. Some people were voting for the first time in their lives; others giving money, others giving time. Nobody cared much that Kerry was the candidate - whoever the Democrat was, they were voting for him and telling all their friends to vote for him. People were voting the "straight party ticket" (all Democrats). People were putting up signs - and putting up new signs when Republican hoodlums stole the first ones. Writing letters to newspapers; bringing friends to help volunteer. We had the party, the campaign, the unions, and the "527s" (like MoveOn and ACT) all filled with volunteers, filled with energy, lined up and doing the work that wins votes. We had Republicans working for Kerry. Veterans, cops, Catholics. People who had never voted for a Democrat in their lives.

So what happened? I don't know. Things looked great on Election day itself - turnout was phenomenal (previously, always good for Democrats); exit polls showed us winning EVERY swing state, by three points or more. "Bellwether" counties (like Stark) and precincts were going our way. It looked like my prediction of a nationwide landslide victory for Kerry was a good one. Then came the results, and here we are, with four more years of Bush. I can't explain it, can't really accept it, but there it is.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Less about the campaign; more about people

There's enough going on with the campaign that I can't share that there isn't much to say about it on this blog. Suffice it to say: we're very busy, I think Kerry's going to win (by a lot!), and I hope my candidate is, too. I've walked in a parade, dropped flyers on people's doorsteps, and handed out more flyers at the fair; I spend most of my time in the office preparing maps so our volunteers know which doors to knock on.

But there's another side to this campaign, one I can share more of - it's the people we're doing this for. We're doing this for everyone, of course - everyone in the district, and (particularly with respect to John Kerry) everyone in the nation and beyond. But I run into people, not even in the course of campaigning - just a matter of living here - who have stories to tell, stories colored by the background of harsh economic and social reality that conservatives foster. There's nothing compassionate about this reality.

These stories aren't balanced, and they're not exactly representative - they're the stories told to me by people who've hit bottom and don't see any way back, people bursting with the hurt of injustice, people grasping for anyone, just to listen and share a little bit of their pain. They don't expect help, just hope for a little sympathy.

The richest country in the history of this planet shouldn't have desperate, hungry, homeless people - but in Canton, Ohio, deep in the heart of America's rust belt, they are all over.

Republicans can't see the poor that their hateful social policies create. It's time to run them out of office and make things better.

Monday, August 02, 2004

I Ran the Son of a Bush Out of Town

On Saturday, a gray, rainy day, following Thursday's surveillance by a pair of Apache helicopters, George W. Bush came to my new home town of Canton, for much the same reason that I've come here - Stark County is a critical county in a critical swing state in the 2004 Presidential election. He spoke at an invitation-only event at the Civic Center, just a couple of blocks up from our campaign headquarters. I don't know what he said, but I'm sure it was the usual dishonest inflated puffery and self-congratulation, probably a call supporting the Hate Amendment and more tax cuts for his "haves and have-mores" base.

What I do know is that his presence did not go unremarked or unchallenged in this city of laborers, of unemployed workers, and of poor. We were out there by the hundreds, surrounding his venue and prepared with signs, strong voices, and high spirits. Where his motorcade - with two campaign buses, three press buses, countless police and sheriff's cars, communications vehicles, SWAT teams and Secret Service - entered the Civic Center, we were there. I was there. Signs read, "Where are the Jobs?," "Bush Lied," and "Help Is On The Way" (the last a quote from John Kerry's acceptance speech at the recently-concluded Democratic convention).

We protesters were not alone out there - the press was there, too, as well as at least one obvious infiltrator (clue to our nation's "intelligence" agencies - there's a difference between Hell's Angels bikers and pacifists and laborers. We're all anti-establishment, but we sport different threads). I haven't yet seen how much coverage the protests got, but if press reports don't mention them prominently, they are damned lies. We were there, and we will be there wherever the President chooses to speak. We are America.

George W. Bush wanted to follow up his speech at the Civic Center with a photo-op at a local restaurant, Lindsey's. But you know what? We were there, too. Someone in our network - maybe a worker at Lindsey's, maybe a friend of a friend of a friend - got word of his plans, and spread the word to protesters in the crowd. A number of us broke off and went to the Musicians' Local, right next door to Lindsey's; I walked there, about a mile down Market and another Mile along Tuscarawas, carrying my sign the whole way and getting friendly honks and waves from drivers. I held my sign out in front of the Musicians' Local, others held signs across the street, and pretty soon we had another nice crowd ready and waiting to greet George W. Bush.

But he didn't want to meet us. George W. Bush, you see, is afraid of regular Americans, afraid of alternative viewpoints, afraid of dissent. So his motorcade - buses, SWAT teams, Secret Service, and all - rode right on by and right on out of town.

You keep on running, Mr. Bush - you keep right on running back to Crawford, Texas. Any time you need another taste of Canton hospitality, just come on back. We'll be waiting for you.

Monday, July 19, 2004


Kent State University has a campus nearby, so I've seen the name a lot. That keeps Niel Young's song Ohio running through my head, from a time not so very different from our own:

Tin soldiers and Nixon's coming
We're finally on our own
This summer I hear the drumming
Four dead in Ohio

Gotta get down to it
Soldiers are gunning us down
Should have been done long ago
What if you knew her and
Found her dead on the ground
How can you run when you know

Ah, la la la la...

Gotta get down to it
Soldiers are gunning us down
Should have been done long ago
What if you knew her and
Found her dead on the ground
How can you run when you know

Tin soldiers and Nixon's coming
We're finally on our own
This summer I hear the drumming
Four dead in Ohio
Four dead in Ohio

One Bush Voter

I struck up a conversation with the woman running a Buffalo Wings stand on Wednesday. When we got to the subject of politics, she said she won't vote for Kerry because he's a "killer." Specifically, a "baby killer." For those of you not versed in the codes of American politics, this means she's "pro-life" (or "anti-abortion") and Kerry thinks women should have access to legal and safe abortions. I asked her what she thought about Bush sending our troops to kill and die based on lies, and she said that she doesn't support us being in Iraq, but somebody had to do it. Whatever.

We were able to keep the discussion civil, but I don't think a lot of persuasion took place. The wings weren't bad...

My First Week In Canton

I arrived Tuesday, got an apartment Wednesday and moved in and got a phone on Thursday. I've been working for the Jeff Seemann congressional campaign since Wednesday and my apartment is 15 minutes' walk away from headquarters. It looks like I'll be able to get by without a car, although the nearest laundromat is also 15 minutes' walk distant.

Canton is not pedestrian-friendly, and the downtown area seems very depressed; stores are few and far between. A striking contrast to Kiel. There are fireflies here, something I haven't seen in decades and a nice surprise. People are friendly, make eye contact and are ready to talk. There's already a lot of talk about national politics; people are paying attention.

Food is, well, food and not cuisine. Quantity, not quality. Last night I had two crudely grilled pork chops that were the size of t-bone steaks (had I known, I'd have ordered just one), with a baked potato and an uninspired salad of iceberg lettuce, one tomato wedge and one slice of cucumber. I finally found my first decent cup of coffee at a nearby diner this morning.

Work at the campaign is good; it seems like a good, dedicated bunch of people. And growing. I'm (to my surprise) putting my data analysis skills and experience to work, and it seems to be helping. I'm also the designated "IT guy" - so I have a lot of learning to do.

I've put in a little time with the Kerry campaign, making phone calls (they sometimes use our phones as part of a phone bank).

I haven't been in touch with ACT yet; it looks like the Seemann campaign may be able to keep me busy. We'll see; maybe I can find a little time to help out at ACT, too.

A Rich White Woman Who Won't Be Voting For Bush Again

On the first flight (it would have been the only one, except that it never actually took off, thanks to mechanical difficulties) from Detroit to Canton, I sat next to Karen - her name is easy to remember because every other sentence she spoke included her name: "he said to me, 'Karen, what about...'" - and we got into a discussion about the election. She's evidently wealthy - with homes in New Jersey, Florida, and somewhere on an island (Bahamas, maybe?) and a job that has her flying around the country looking at companies to acquire. She has always voted Republican, including for Bush in 2000. But she's not going to vote for him this time around - because of how he lied to the elderly, telling them he would provide prescription drugs and then failing to fund the program. She's not happy about Iraq, either, and I asked how happy she was with the budget deficit; the answer was not at all.

I couldn't quite get her to commit to placing a vote (in Florida!) for Kerry, although she did say she would vote, there are only two candidates on the ballot, and she won't vote for Bush, so: draw your own conclusions. Karen's also unhappy with George's brother Jeb (governor of Florida) because of the dismal state of education and treatment of prisoners in that state.


I was directed through Customs when I landed at Detroit; the inspector there asked me why I was flying to Canton. It was odd to me to be able to answer, without irony, "Patriotism." At his prompting I explained that I was coming to volunteer for the Kerry campaign, that my country is broken and I am doing everything I can to help fix it. We didn't discuss how he was planning to vote, but he certainly seemed to respect what I am doing.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Edwards Q&A

Dietlind asked:

> What do think about the nomination of Edwards as
> prospect vice-president, will he be advantagous
> for Kerry, or is he just an actor?

and I thought other readers might be interested in my answer, so here it is:

I like a lot of things about Edwards - he's very charismatic and a genuine populist, someone who will work for the poor and downtrodden. I like that he's from the South - it puts the Republicans on guard, because they like to think of the racist South as "their turf". But it's really John Edwards' turf, so while I still expect the South to go largely to Bush, I think they will have to spend money and time there to ensure that, and I think we may pick up a couple of states from the region.

I don't like the fact that he supported the Iraq war resolution (as did Kerry, as did all the likely Vice Presidential nominees). Maybe it is necessary, politically, to have a ticket of people who were pro-war, and if that is the price we have to pay to oust Bush, I can accept it - but I would be much, much happier to have candidates who had taken the right stand on the war from the beginning. But only if they were to win. I really want to think that my country could elect such people, but I really have my doubts. We have a lot to fix in the US.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Steve Rosenthal featured in the WaPo

Steve Rosenthal, head of ACT, is featured in an article in today's Washington Post.

Remember BugMeNot gives you easy access to the Post.

Saturday, July 03, 2004

Swaying Unhappy Ohio Voters Could Be a Key to the Presidency

...according to today's New York Times.
Registration bypass from Bugmenot

Democrats are hoping their efforts will generate a huge turnout of angry and anxious voters determined to oust Mr. Bush. One of their targets has been Stark County, a swing county surrounding Canton in the northeast, which was rocked by the recent announcement that the Timken Company would be closing three plants and laying off 1,300 workers. The company, whose founding family are major contributors to the Republican Party, has been an economic mainstay in Stark County for nearly a century.