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Joy from historic Obama campaign

Barack Obama will be the 44th President of the United States.

To type those words brings back the euphoria of the first few minutes after the words flashed on the blurry screen of the projector lugged in at the last minute to update all of us at the Northeast Philly headquarters on the results.

I have been awake for many, many hours.

I woke up at 4:30 AM to arrive at my staging location by 5:30.

Like millions of others across the country, I spent the whole day working. I watched the polls, knocked on doors, brought coffee and donuts to poll workers, and I talked to hundreds of voters.

There was a little high every time someone smiled at us and said, “I voted this morning!”

There was an even bigger high when the pollworkers told us that turnout was double what they normally see.

There was an almost unbeatable high when our state was called for our candidate almost as soon as the polls closed.

But nothing comes close to the feeling we got when, in a roomful of people who’ve worked those same long hours, the screen told us: Barack Obama will be the 44th President of the United States.

This campaign has seemed endless. After countless primary battles, it feels for a moment as though there has to be another one after this—this can’t be over. It almost seems too easy.

But it is over. And we have won.

Millions of Americans—a record turnout that has yet to be determined exactly—came out and repudiated the Bush policies, and repudiated the McCain campaign’s fearmongering. They voted for a man with a Kenyan father and a Kansan mother, a man with a “foreign”-sounding name and a middle name that echoes the name of a leader we were told was America’s worst enemy. A man who they were told in the past few months was different, was frightening, was a terrorist sympathizer, was simply un-American.

It is not too much to say that hope triumphed over fear. That the best in a majority of voting Americans trumped the worst in them. That the candidate who truly appealed to their better natures was the one that they chose.

They did not, all of them, repudiate the racism that has stained American history for too long.

One woman at my polling location said, “I can’t believe that I dragged my ass out of bed for a n*****,” but she went in and voted for him. Her racism was not gone, but she acknowledged it and voted for him anyway.

When the day ended and the results were announced, state by state, we paced the room, or perched on the edge of uncomfortable chairs. We held hands as we waited. And when the announcement came—”Barack Obama will be the 44th President of the United States”—we hugged strangers and cried and laughed at the same time. Breathing was hard. Tears flowed.

We pulled out phones and called friends and family across the country. People who had shared moments on the campaign with us, first-time voters, family members who’d never voted Democrat before. Our phones exploded with texts and calls.

I locked arms with a woman with whom I’d worked the primaries in Pennsylvania as we watched Obama’s victory speech and listened to him thank all of us. We wept, choking back sobs so as not to drown out his story of a 106-year-old woman who had seen the best and worst of America, not to mar his stirring repetition of the words, “Yes we can.”

Yes we can. It was our mantra for 20 months. Those of us who believed from the start, or came later, those of us who wanted something more than the anointed candidate of the party, those of us who demanded to be inspired, challenged, and promised greatness.

Too many of us had heard, “No you can’t,” for way too long.

My field organizer said, later, that, “McCain doesn’t have a chance in hell because we’ve got a roomful of people losing sleep to do inane things like count door hangers.”

And he was right. Volunteers came from as far away as Germany to knock on doors, to stand at polling locations and ensure that no one was turned away or denied the ballot, to make millions of phone calls. 80,000 volunteers knocked on 2.5 million doors in Pennsylvania alone the weekend before the election.

This is how democracy works. When the people come out in overwhelming numbers and demand their rights. When the pollworker follows people out and makes sure that she’s done everything to ensure that every single person who walks through the polling location door gets to cast their ballot. When people stand in line for three hours and instead of complaining, sing.

And because of all this, we have achieved what only months ago seemed impossible.

It feels fantastic to say it, and I will say it again:

Barack Obama will be the 44th President of the United States.


Sarah Jaffe

Sarah Jaffe is former deputy editor of GlobalComment. She's interested in politics and pop culture, and has a special place in her heart for comics.

3 thoughts on “Joy from historic Obama campaign

  1. We wept, choking back sobs so as not to drown out his story of a 106-year-old woman who had seen the best and worst of America, not to mar his stirring repetition of the words, “Yes we can.”

    I am only about half her age, and yet, I feel so much the same. I certainly could not imagine such a thing as a child or teenager–totally inconceivable.

    Amazing things can still happen. 🙂

  2. Joy, elation, jubilation. You’ve recorded in words what so many of us feel today. This is only the first step. For change to actually occur, we have to keep on pressing. And with people like our President-elect, the Vice President-elect, and those like you, there is hope for many more brighter days to come. Walk on.

  3. What an amazing day in American history. I personally didn’t vote for Obama but am truly inspired by the positivity and global reaction resulting from his election. His energy is addicting and his demeanor inspiring.

    His story is truly American. I’d love to dive into Obama’s mind and discover his motives and internal dialog. To go through a year of campaigning is very difficult, but to go through a year of campaigning and deliver a speech like that is truly inspirational.

    What’s also fascinating is looking at the dynamic of who voted, how they voted, and what drove them to vote. Obama’s campaign created a wave of energy that grew bigger and bigger as his campaign moved forward, engulfing (in a good way) each supporter and supercharging them. How did they do this? It all started with a vision. Obama’s vision, planted deep within his mind, began to take root almost 2 years ago today. The power of his vision can teach every American citizen about how to accomplish goals using the powers of visualization and intention.

    I looked into this vision questing further and found that many super-successful people have been using vision boards to help focus their mind and accomplish their dreams. A vision board is a collage of images pasted on a board that represent your desired outcomes, your goals, and dreams. By studying your vision board, your brain gains clarity on what is important to your success, the things you MUST accomplish. I found a site http://www.TheVisionBoard.com that allows you to download a free 8-step power plan to creating vision boards. I’d highlight recommend downloading it.

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