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James & His Dog, Dallas to Lake Village

A man came by my house a little while ago, an Obama volunteer named James Rhodes from Dallas, Texas. He and his dog spent the day at Democratic headquarters in Lake Village, Indiana, pop. 812.

Dallas to Lake Village, I kid you not. Indiana’s a “tossup” this year, don’tcha know. We haven’t gone Democrat since “All the Way with LBJ” when I was 13. That was my first campaign and we won 49 states. What will happen two nights from now?

James on my doorstep was dead on his feet. The first thing I did was offer him a sandwich, but he shook his head. He talked about coffee, although he doesn’t drink the stuff; I got him to accept a Coke instead. He had about a 90 minute drive ahead of him, and was talking about his meeting tomorrow with Obama’s regional staffer at 4:30 a.m. He appreciated that the Coke I gave him was a 1-liter. Should I have given him two?

He was here to pick up my voter contact sheets for the little bit of door-to-door and phone work I did. I got through about half the sheets, which are supposed to help scratch off early voters for Tuesday’s Get Out the Vote effort.

On Election Day I’m supposed to be a pollworker at a heavily Democratic precinct in Roselawn, in the far northeast part of the county, where I’ll record and phone in the names of people who’ve already voted, so the campaign doesn’t have to keep contacting them to urge them to vote. On paper it’s a sophisticated operation designed by Obama’s masterminds, the best campaign ever devised, though here in rural Indiana it kinda breaks down a little. There’s too much work and not enough people, but here was James from Dallas, with his dog.

We quibbled about the hours I’d work the polls. I’d previously committed to 10:30 to closing time at 6 p.m., but he was trying to get me to show up five hours earlier. I’m Gay, I don’t do dawn; I just don’t. He tried running a guilt trip (“it’s only one day, this is history, this is the future”). I’m an Episcopalian, we don’t do guilt; he’s Catholic, well, of course. I’ve unlocked polls at six in the morning and believe me, no one shows up. You sit around feeling like a chump while normal people get their beauty sleep. Yes, turnout should be heavy this year, but even Change You Can Believe In isn’t enough to get most Americans’ ass out of bed. The pillows are so comfy, the covers are so warm…

I have contributed an inordinate amount of money this year to Barack Obama. I have organized little gigs in my hometown. My Obama yard signs have been targeted twice because Republicans know I’m a local leader. I put on a picnic; I paid for T-shirts. I went door to door, I telephoned.

I didn’t bring my dog from Dallas, Texas. I didn’t give up everything like James Rhodes did.

I’m cynical enough to think, “No politican deserves this much devotion.” LBJ didn’t; he knew the Vietnam War was a loser but he kept sending American boys there to die anyway, so he wouldn’t be accused of being soft on Communism.

Still, Vietnam wasn’t the reason I supported him so devotedly at age 13. The reason was civil rights, and there he was the best President of the 20th century.

If Obama wins on Tuesday, I will feel as if my civil rights work is finally done. Of course more work will remain, but I’ll feel as if my responsibility is more or less concluded. The torch will have “passed to a new generation of Americans,” in President Kennedy’s stirring words. I will stay involved politically as long as I live, but to go from Black kids and senior citizens water-cannoned and shot down in the streets to a Black President will be so dramatic a change as no one can imagine. It will become my job in the future, in my 60s, to support the change-agents who are 40 and 20.

I am so proud of today’s young people. James from Dallas is maybe 25, and there he was on my doorstep because this was the place he needed to be—yes, rural Indiana—for the change he believes in.

He made himself homeless for some period of time for Barack Hussein Obama.

One or two pundits say there is still a theoretical chance John McCain can win, though everything has to fall in place perfectly. Thus I was out doing my little door to door, my little phoning. Indiana’s 11 Electoral College votes hang in the balance, even though I think we’ll see an EV landslide, 375-163, as I predicted a month ago.

Meanwhile I wonder how McCain-Palin voters will adjust to the shocking new reality if Obama wins. America will have elected an “unpatriotic Muslim ultra-liberal socialist pal of terrorists/friend of criminals/baby-murderer,” so it only stands to reason that “the Blacks will take over.” Right?

The country is dangerously polarized and it will take a superhuman effort by the next president to unite us.

But a superhuman effort is what Obama has given us. That’s what inspired James from Dallas and many other millions.

I don’t know what will become of the Republicans. George W. Bush has been a disaster, John McCain has become a total whore and Sarah Palin is soon to be crowned Miss Know-Nothing. If Obama wins, how can he unite such an angry nation?

Here’s where I take my hope, which I left with James from Dallas. First, we’re going to win. Maybe not Indiana, much less this county, but we are going to win.

Second, foreign name and all, Obama’s quite moderate. He doesn’t want to destroy capitalism, he wants to make it work for all Americans. If he gets the chance to govern he’s going to steer down the middle of the river; tough on Afghanistan and Pakistan. I trust him more than John McCain to kill Osama bin Laden.

I hope that actually living under The Black Guy’s administration will cause a few of his worst critics to soften their tune. Maybe that’s too much to hope for, but one does pine for intellectual honesty out of a few responsible right-wing ideologues. If he brings about any modest progress on the economy or foreign affairs, I hope there are commentators who acknowledge that, instead of plunging headlong into the Know-Nothing apocalypse.

Finally, this is what gives me hope: Obama’s humble invocation, the day he announced his candidacy on a cold winter’s day in Springfield, of Abraham Lincoln, a one-term Congressman with little national experience.

The challenges we face—Iraq, global warming, the next great Depression—are as searing as the Civil War or the attack on Pearl Harbor. So where did Obama go? To Springfield.

The man knows exactly who he is and precisely what he faces. He welcomes the enormous challenge. He knows that he alone cannot move the country to where it needs to be, he needs so much help. One man alone cannot cope with all this; that’s why Sen. McCain, the only principled Republican in my lifetime (until he lost to George W. Bush), has had to whore himself out to have any hope of gaining power. Sarah Palin and racist redneck trailer trash? Puh-lease.

Obama went to Springfield—which is why James came from Dallas and I tramped around on Railroad St. and phoned a few folks. It’s hard to fathom amidst mass media and YouTube, but the decisions of individuals really matter.

McCain may take Indiana, but he will never defeat James and his dog.++

2 Responses

  1. McCain won´t take expat´s in Guatemala either…we´ve been well organized for a very long time and I know only one person who is voting/has voted for McCain/Palin….Democrats Abroad have been active, at least here with many activities/events there are few Republicans in sight even amongst the very wealthy Americans who have second homes here! A Democrat who lives outside Santiago de Lake Atitlan just called me (this minute)…he´s going to check into a fancy hotel tomorrow at Panachel and party with Obama (he doesn´t have cable around his home)! We many not be at Grant Park in person tomorrow, but we´ll certainly be there in SPIRIT after delivering our votes for OBAMA/BIDEN!

  2. Those of us stateside appreciate the patriotism and votes of Americans Abroad. Thanks, Leonardo, for the word from Guatemala!

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