Nov 4, 2008

The Obama Ground Game - A narrative

In honor of Election Day, I'm posting an excerpt from a recently published narrative piece that gives a ground-level view of the inside of the Obama campaign. The writer, Nancy Webber, has been on the trail for Obama since January, campaigning in Oregon, California, New Mexico, Texas and Colorado.

After you vote, take a break from CNN and check out Nancy Webber's story. It's well worth the read.

For the entire piece, visit Etude, the journal of literary nonfiction.

January 13, San Francisco
A week later, I walk into Obama's San Francisco headquarters during a precinct captains’ meeting. The organizer asks, “Who is volunteering on a campaign for the very first time?” More than 80 percent of the people raise a hand. These people don't know it yet, but some of them will form lifelong friendships because of this campaign. As I listen to the organizer prepare this new group of volunteers for what she wants them to do, I'm struck by her approach. She doesn't jump right into the instructions, she asks them why they are here. It's standard procedure on the Obama campaign to ask, because it prepares canvassers for a different way of reaching voters.

“He was right when a lot of people were wrong, including myself, about the war,” said a Naval Academy graduate and veteran of the first Gulf War. The vet thought he probably had more in common with McCain, but that Obama had the potential to make real change.

“It’s personal," said Ben Muhammed. "My son had five job interviews with no call backs. He came and asked me if he could change his name to something other than Muhammad. We talked about it and I finally agreed to see if it made any difference. He changed his last name, sent the same resume to the same institutions, and he got three different offers.”

Each volunteer in turn speaks and the bond is formed. The work of contacting voters isn't easy, but they have learned that their job is not to persuade others to believe in Obama, but to persuade voters to believe in themselves — that their concerns are valid and that they can be agents of change. After today, this group will be back many times. They now owe it to each other. ...

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