Ask The (Until Very Recently) Obama Community Organizer

Hi. My head hurts still and I haven’t had much sleep, but I think that’s understandable.

I Organized in two states, Michigan and Indiana.

If a question gets too delicate, I’ll let you know.

I’m going to eat something and possibly sleep before coming back unless someone asks something relatively soon.

Oh yeah, if you are from Chicago and came to Michigan City, Indiana to help with the campaign, thank you again. Yes, you know me. I definitely talked to you.

Welcome home!

Have you found an entirely new career path d’ya think?

Is it as addicting and adrenaline-fueled as I imagine it must have been?

Amongst single volunteers, was there a lot of hooking up?

The impression from the outside is that the Obama campaign was tremendously organized and working with a playbook that had worked out plans for all possible contingencies well in advance. How was it from the inside?

Also, did you ever meet or speak with the man himself?

Thank you very much.

Have I found a new career path? Maybe. I don’t know what roads are now
available to me, but I’m making it known that I wish to at least be put out in front of those roads.

It was. Even moreso. There were the doldrums of the campaign and settling into a groove, but when you realized you got too comfortable, it was easy to find reasons to push the effort back up as far as it goes.

Well, to be fair, you can’t plan for every single contingency, but we had a lot of things mapped out and planned for very far in advance. Case in point: there was the Obama Fellowship, a 6 week volunteer program that ran in 25 battleground states before the campaign hit the ground there. They added a 26th. That 26th was Indiana. I had volunteers coming from Ottawa, Canada (18 hour trip, round-way) to see what we did and how we did it, our campaign was getting international queries on a daily basis asking what we did, how we did it, and when they can come in and learn.

Nope. I have not spoke to the man himself, but I’ve been on conference calls with him and Senator Biden. Senator Biden is as affable as he is behind closed doors as he is behind the podium (which could be a plus or a minus depending on what you think of him). I did, however, meet Michelle Obama. She’s very nice and sweet and is pretty damned genuine. She’s also pretty tall.

Answer to a question you didn’t ask:
We had a bunch of surrogates around. Usher was a dick. Doug E Fresh was really cool. Scarlett Johansson is very nice to look at, Kal Penn is possibly the best surrogate the campaign had, Jay Z is great and extremely supportive, and I think my girlfriend had a nerdgasm when Sean Astin came into the office the day before the election. He’s also a very nice guy. I think that’s the exhaustive list.

Well, if you actually want to make a decent living at organizing, might I suggest union organizer? Here’s where you need to go to make that happen.

Hm. I may look into that. Thanks for the link, senor (and really, sorry about the lawn signs. Really, I am. I just had too many balls up in the air to juggle at that time and one fell.)

Which one of these guys are you?


None of the above, actually. Funny, nobody in my office had business clothes on. We were working out in the field, although we sometimes had folks that wanted to help in the field that were surprised (sometimes pleasantly, other times not) when the work became more intense.

I just have to say, based on my experience volunteering at the campaign headquarters in Kansas City, MO that you’ve put a very impressive thing onto your resume. The three lead people I worked for, Alex, David and Moe, were all very bright, competent and had excellent people skills and I’d hire any of them for any business.

We didn’t manage to flip Missouri, but we got far closer than anyone expected.

I appreciate that very much. It took a lot of hard work, dedication, and sacrifice to make it all come together.

…Wait, you were in Chicago? Aw, you could/should have worked with your fellow Doper in Michigan City, Indiana! I’m kidding mostly, but again, I’d really like to thank the volunteers that came from Chicago. If it weren’t from the out-of-state support that we got, we couldn’t have done it.

What’s a surrogate, exactly? I mean, more exactly than “famous person involved in someone else’s political campaign.”

I’m sorry, I don’t have a question. I do want to thank you and everyone else who has worked so tirelessly to make this dream a reality. I’m an American living in Japan right now (military hubby) and was not as involved as I would have liked to be, but everyone on the ground in the states has my undying admiration and gratitude. Thank you. I am much prouder to be an American now than I’ve ever been.

A surrogate is someone, usually known or local, that speaks on behalf of the campaign. For example, we keep track of what issues that undecideds have. When someone like, say, General Wesley Clark would come into town, we’d pull up a list of everyone who is undecided or leaning either way, with their issue being “national security” and call through that list, inviting them to General Clark’s event.

I’ve heard that a lot, and as much as I’d love to accept your gratitude, it really belongs with the awesome support from the volunteers. I started every training session (because I was tasked with training every person that came into the door on canvassing and politics) by thanking everyone on behalf of everyone else that was in the office and too busy to say it. Because I had their attention, and sometimes the time, I felt like I had to say it for everyone else.

Thank the people that drove in from Iowa to Indiana and practically lived in an Airstream trailer in the parking lot. Thank the young woman that drove 9 hours from Ottawa, Canada to knock doors in suburban Detroit and was so impressed that she gave up the long Canadian Thanksgiving holiday weekend to bring a friend and come back. Thank the volunteers that housed perfect strangers just because they were either paid staff in another state or also volunteering for the campaign. Thank the people that brought us food, even when they themselves were living on food stamps. Say thank you to the multitude of high-powered lawyers that put their ego in check to answer incoming phones, handle the front desk, or answer assorted legal queries at a small table set up for them on Election Day in our office. Thank the people that realized that they do have a profound effect on the government when they band together for a common goal, that their voice becomes much louder when someone joins in to get things done.

Each one of those stories are 100% true. Those are only the tip of the iceberg, and they’re only from me. Each organizer has a list of things that they’ve seen volunteers do. People will surprise you if you give them a chance.

You do realize I wasn’t seriously asking if you were actually in that video, which is a spoof that was made by an improv group, right?

Ok, I’ll ask a real question. How does it feel to have played such a direct role in this historic race?

I know. I was being a brat. We’re all great people and all, but I don’t think that everyone in the Chicago office can hit those notes. I know my voice is scratchy because of all the trainings and speeches I’ve given.

It feels fucking awesome. It’s obviously the coolest thing I’ve ever done, and also the thing that’s mattered the most. I’m humbled that I was picked to help with it, glad I could help, and ecstatic that it turned out the way it did.

Again, though, I’m just some jerk that had a plan. It was really the volunteers that did it.

Hey, just wanted to chime in and say thanks and great job. Sleep well. [fist bump]

I woke up a lot earlier than I wanted to. That makes me a sad panda.

But I appreciate that.

By the way, I don’t want to hog this thread. I assume we’ve got at least one other Field Organizer around here. Also, to any voluneers that wish to impart their stories, especially ones during the last 4 days of the campaign, please do.

I live in Chicago, but work in Kansas City and have an apartment there. So KC was easier for me. I’m deeply disappointed in Missouri though. They elected a Democrat for Governor (Jay Nixon), but did not elect Barack Obama for President. That means a lot of people either had to split their ticket, or didn’t vote for anyone for President. There are other possible scenarios, but those are the most likely. It’s depressing.