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Yes We Can Get Out the Vote

LNW_Obama.YesWeCanGet involved today. Make calls from home—or on your cell.

It’s easy. And it’s important.

At the Republican convention, Rudolph Giuliani [3] sneered dismissively, “Community organizer. What’s that?” Well, Rudy, you’re about to find out.

This weekend we drove in a carload of Obama volunteers from Brooklyn to North Philadelphia—to the Germantown section of North Philly, to be precise. (McCain is pushing hard to win Pennsylvania.) When we arrived, there were about 100 other volunteers from New York—where Obama’s victory is assured—being coached by a bright and energetic field organizer named Kimeka Campbell. Kimeka runs a tight ship in North Philly, and Obama-Biden’s is the most efficient operation we’ve ever seen. The whole campaign, especially on the ground level, restores your faith in democracy. For over a week, daily e-mails from the organizers made sure we had transportation lined up, maps, instructions, and attachments about Obama’s economic plan compared with McCain’s, etc. Kimeka led a conference phone call two nights in advance to drill us on the basics and answer questions.

The Germantown field office was buzzing; even the Obama-Biden posters on the walls seemed to vibrate. Yes We Can. The several dozen Philly volunteers, ranging in age from 6 to 60+, were all busy sorting campaign literature, answering questions, calling voters on their cell phones, and working at their laptops. This was one of about a dozen field offices in Philadelphia alone. The system, no doubt based on the model taught at Camp Obama [4], provides maps and printouts of voters in the neighborhoods to which volunteers are assigned, clipboards, campaign literature, colorful handouts assuring voters You Have the Right to Vote with the polls’ hours and phone numbers in case “anyone tries to prevent you from voting, or if you have any questions about your rights.”

LNW_Obama-HopeOur task was to go door to door on our assigned streets, to make sure we had the correct name and address for the people on our list, and urge the people identified as “sporadic” voters to be sure to get out and vote on Nov. 4, even if it’s raining—and bring your family and friends and neighbors with you. We were also instructed to ask people if they wanted to volunteer, and we gave contact information to many of the young people we saw and encouraged them to get involved.

Our neighborhood was strongly pro-Obama, with signs in many windows, so we didn’t have to twist any arms. Most of our people had already been visited numerous times since before the Pennsylvania primary in April. One woman moaned in a mock-weary voice, “No more Obama people!” When we said we just wanted to make sure she wasn’t being neglected, she promised she wouldn’t miss it for the world. Another woman asked, “Can I vote five times?” Since she was so enthusiastic, would she be interested in volunteering? She couldn’t, she said, because she worked two jobs and Sunday was her only day off. In about three hours, we knocked on 116 doors and talked to 52 voters.

Obama and Biden have been pushing supporters to not relax for even a moment in winning this election. As Obama said in his “One Week [5]” closing argument speech in Canton, Ohio, on Monday, “We have to work like our future depends on it in this last week, because it does. . . . knock on some doors for me, and make some calls for me.”

You can help, too, by making calls from home. Find lists of voters to call in swing states—or in your own state—by clicking my.BarackObama.com [1] Action Center or MoveOn.org [2].

After 2000 and 2004, we know we can’t leave anything to chance. But it’s feeling good. Hopeful. And soon maybe Giuliani will appreciate what a community organizer can do.

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