My Election Day: November 6, 2012
For the past three weekends, whenever I was helping with Pres. Obama's Get Out the Vote (GOTV) efforts in Seattle and Washington state, either by knocking on doors or making phone calls, I'd write the following on my script:
This isn't about you.
It was just a reminder in case an irate or harried or impatient person got me down. You're not doing this for you, Erik. This isn't about you. Let it go.
It's also an echo of something Pres. Obama has himself said over and over again: “This is not about me; this is about you.” He said it at his 2008 convention speech and in his 2012 convention speech. He said it while stumping for a jobs bill in Raleigh, N.C., in 2011. He said it while trying to unblock judicial nominees in 2012 and during the health case battles of 2009. “This is not about me; this is about you.”
According to his memoir, “Dreams From My Father,” it was his college friend Regina who first said it. And she said it to him:
“Let me tell you something, Mr. Obama. Itís not just about you. Itís never just about you. Itís about people who need your help. Children who are depending on you. Theyíre not interested in your irony or your sophistication or your ego getting bruised. And neither am I.Ē
It's a helpful thing, not having it be about you. It allows you to do things you wouldn't normally do. It's a freeing message.
For example, in mid-October, when the election seemed to be slipping away from us, and again yesterday, when it felt better, I went door-to-door in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, in the Pike-Pine corridor, getting out the vote. I'm not an extrovert. I don't gain energy from interactions. But you do it anyway. Because it's not about you.
Most of the residences I was assigned were security buildings with intercoms, often old, so there was little face-to-face contact. One building was an assisted living and Alzheimer's facility, at which I didn't stay long. The people I talked to were too confused. It felt wrong. At a security building on Pike, the intercom was waist high, so I got down on one knee, then both knees, as I buzzed the voters on my sheet. It felt like I was literally begging for votes. Please, come out and vote. I was on my knees on the dirty Pike sidewalk. But it wasn't about me.
Building managers were helpful. They wouldn't let me roam their buildings but at least they told me who had moved. The last manager I spoke with ran an apartment building across from Sitka and Spruce, and we talked a good 10 minutes, about the same-sex marraige amendment, Referendum 74, and about how she had supported Hillary in 2008, and hadn't even voted for Obama back then because she was still pissed that Hillary didn't win. Not this time. This time it was Barack all the way. She's got her fingers crossed for Hillary in 2016.
Afterwards I walked past all the thin, fashionable ladies shopping at the ritzy downtown department stores at noon on a weekday, returned my sheets to the Democratic Headquarters on 2nd and Cherry, then returned home to get ready for a party. I was nervous but not too nervous. I had Nate Silver on my side.
Ward was the first guest to arrive. Throughout the night, he kept urging us to change the channel to FOX. He wanted to see the bastards squirm. We did once or twice but missed their biggest meltdowns: Karl Rove arguing over Ohio; Megyn Kelly fact-checking her own stats people.
It was over quickly. Not as quickly as in 2008, it seemed, but all of a sudden. MSNBC just declared. We didn't even see the graphic for Obama winning Ohio; just ”Barack Obama re-elected 44th President of the United States.“ Which state did they declare for him? we wondered. They weren't saying. So we did math: 18 meant Ohio. So it was Ohio. So it was over.
Except on FOX-News and in the Romney camp, which waited a bit. Rove wanted a replay of 2000 and Florida. I'm sure the thinking went: Surely we've suppressed enough votes in Ohio to make a difference; to screw up the exit polls. Surely, if there's a God in heaven, we did that. The nice thing? It wouldn't have mattered anyway. It turned out that Obama got Ohio but didn't need it. He got Virginia but didn't need it. It looks like he'll get Florida but doesn't need it. All the pundits today, so wrong yesterday, are wrong again today. They're saying that in the end the auto bailout won the day; that Obama saved Detroit and so Detroit saved Obama back. Maybe. But he would've won Michigan anyway and he didn't need Ohio. Because he got Wisconsin, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Colorado. And that was enough. We knew that going in.
If the popular vote holds, and it looks like it will, Barack Obama will be only the third Democrat to win the U.S. presidency twice with clear majorities. The others? FDR (four times) and Andrew Jackson (twice). That's it. Clinton never did it (third-party candidates), Carter once, LBJ once, JFK never, Truman never, Wilson never. Just: Obama, FDR and Andrew Jackson. That's the company he now keeps.
This was my first Twitter election, my first Facebook election, and, smartphones in hand, we kept trading comments and information from our Twitter feeds. We drank a lot, ate too much, laughed a lot. It wasn't just the Obama victory. It was same-sex marriage referendums in Maine and Maryland and Washington state that passed. It was pot legalizaton initiatives in Colorado and Washington state that passed. It felt like, at long last, after 30+ years,† the world, or at least the United States, was finally turning our way.
On Facebook I wrote something intelligent like, ”YES!!!!!!!!!!!!" Everyone knew what that meant. One friend, who had been hugely involved in GOTV efforts in 2008, and who knew of my donations and GOTV efforts this year, wrote:
I raise my beer to you Erik for all your hard work and donations. You helped make it happen.
It was a nice thought but felt so beside the point. Because it wasn't about me. Not even a little bit.
Our friend Erika's view of our TV, election night.