In the whole state of Ohio, only one county went more heavily than mine for Barack Obama: Cuyahoga County, at 68.5%. Athens County came in second, with 66.5% for Obama, and that despite our heavily white population. (The New York Times shows county results if you click on the states.) My friend and candidate for state representative, Debbie Phillips, also won, helping regain the Ohio State House for the Democrats after many years of Republican control. (I got to hug her at school pickup today; I’m still waiting for my hug from Obama.)
I was watching the returns at home last night when the networks called Ohio for Obama. I did the electoral math and realized the election was over. We hauled the Bear out of his bed and whooped and hollered and shed a few tears. We put the Bear back to bed and opened a bottle of white wine (I’d been too busy to even buy deodorant, never mind champagne). My sister, who’d supported John McCain, called from California to congratulate me on singlehandedly tipping Ohio for Obama. She was as gracious as McCain in his concession speech but a whole lot funnier. I do love my little sis.
Of course, my part in the campaign was minuscule. I didn’t stop out of school to work full-time for the campaign, like my former student Rence. Nor did I practically move into the local headquarters like my friend Vicky. I didn’t get a mere half hour of sleep on Election Eve, as did my student Meredith, who helped lead the on-campus campaign.
I’m stunned by the dedication and sacrifice that went into Obama’s victory. I’d love to know how many people volunteered for the campaign. It must be in the hundreds of thousands. It has been a thrill to bathe in the spirit of common purpose – to indulge in hope and make it real.
My part was small indeed. Okay, so I did face down a man with black teeth. I braved vicious dogs. (And by “braved” I mean “cowered before them.”) Everyone who’s heard about my adventures canvassing in Pine Aire Village thinks that Mr. Blacktooth was definitely a meth head and maybe had a lab of his own hidden in one of those decrepit trailers. I’m no expert on meth (and thank goodness for that), but I remember similar scenes from a Donna Tartt novel, The Little Friend, which featured a character with a serious meth habit and nasty teeth. Now I have a vivid visual to go with the book when I re-read it someday. The irony is that my encounter with Mr. Blacktooth did nothing to advance Obama’s win, since he was a non-voter and apparently a nasty racist to boot.
My impression is that most volunteers gave the time they could afford – and then a bunch more. Maybe that explains why so many of us are about to collapse today, even those of use whose contributions were modest; we’re almost too tired to feel the joy. Our families gave of their time, too. My husband ferried the four of us through the woods on Sunday, navigating ridges, hollows, and perilously steep driveways while I dropped literature. He tended the kids during most of my outings. But my boys also went out canvassing with me a couple of times, including the final round of get-out-the-vote door knocking yesterday evening.
I hope my sons look back on this someday and feel like I do now: privileged to have played a bit part in overcoming the scars of American history.
I hope they’ll look back and say, with pride and pleasure: Yes we did.
(Although I do have a few pansies blooming right now, this one is from a few months ago; it just happened to have the right color.)