I was at the Oakland Convention Center (aka the Marriott Hotel on 12th and Broadway) tonite at the Obama Phonebank to Victory-cum-Victory party event. Sandre Swanson, Barbara Lee and Ron Dellums--the pillars of Democratic elected leadership in Alameda County--spoke. There were hundreds of people there, of all races and ages, beaming and hopeful and alive.
It happened. The mantra for the night was 'Yes We Can!' with some modified 'Yes We Did"s thrown in once the announcement was made. Barack Obama will be the next President of the United States. The room erupted in applause when the electoral colleg tally made it past 270. As H. and I drove home, we heard whoops and hollers and screams of joy in the streets. We heard cars honking spontaneously and impromptu parties breaking out on street corners. We drove by the Parkway Theater and saw throngs of people jumping up and down and dancing.
I'm happy--elated even. I can't believe it's true. I never thought in my lifetime that a country that can be as racist and xenophobic and anti-Arab as this one could elect a Black man with a 'foreign' sounding name and a middle name like 'Hussein' to be the President of the United States. I underestimated the willingness of the people in this country to make change. A lot of us did.
But the most beautiful part of all of this is that this victory was won not by flooding the airwaves in battleground states with slick commercials bought with corporate dollars. It wasn't won just by virtue of being headed up by a charismatic leader. It was won thanks to a confluence of factors, yes, but at the heart of the matter, grassroots organizing was what won this Presidential race.
I've been saying it since the 2000 election--that if the Democrats would just bother to expand the electorate, to go back to their core constituents of people of color, poor people, LGTBQ people, union folks, young people, etc., they could win. And in 2000 and again in 2004, they didn't do that. They tried to win over the moderate likely voters. And they lost (the right-wing also stole thousands of votes, but in my mind the Democrats should've fought that, so in that way they gave up too).
Barack Obama and his campaign team knew that the formula to win was right before them, and that it would take a lot of regular everyday folks like you and me to make their campaign victorious. That if they helped people feel empowered to take action, if they organized enough people and taught them how to organize and mobilize other people and could do it in a disciplined and strategic way, they would win. And they were right. And they did it. And they won.
Barack's email to his supporters tonite summed it up best I think, even better than his acceptance speech: That grassroots organizing by everyday folks was the key to his victory, and will be the key to getting our country onto a path of peace and justice. Here's the email:
I'm about to head to Grant Park to talk to everyone gathered there, but I wanted to write to you first.
We just made history.
And I don't want you to forget how we did it.
You made history every single day during this campaign -- every day you knocked on doors, made a donation, or talked to your family, friends, and neighbors about why you believe it's time for change.
I want to thank all of you who gave your time, talent, and passion to this campaign.
We have a lot of work to do to get our country back on track, and I'll be in touch soon about what comes next.
But I want to be very clear about one thing...
All of this happened because of you.