If all politics is local, effective politics is personal. The local paper is scratching its head trying to explain the precipitous decline in support of the Republican nominee from 77% in 2004 to a mere 66% in Tuesday's election. For a party that has had a stranglehold on our local elections since Lincoln, the lack of any sort of ground game, especially a face to face outreach to any undecideds, is astonishing. The Republican effort seemed limited to an ample supply of yard signs, one Sarah Palin's Traveling Circus rally just north of here and the annual chicken corn soup picnic. At no time was I ever contacted by an actual person acting on behalf of the McCain campaign. What I received was an unending series of robo-calls from anonymous voices telling me why Obama is wrong for American. I can't recall receiving any telling me why McCain was right for America. I even got suckered into participating in what I thought was a voter's survey. I should have realized right off that something was fishy when the lead question was whether I was more concerned about the economy or partial birth abortion. Being one of the duller knives in the drawer, I played along until I realized any answer to any question led to a canned negative statement about an Obama position. Wasting a couple of minutes until I had my "Hey, wait a second...." moment just ended up pissing me off. I imagine I was not alone in this. I got exactly one robo-call from the Democrats, a message from my buddy Bill Clinton urging me to vote and telling me where and when the polls opened.
My wife volunteered for the Obama campaign. She took the day off work to help get out the vote, work the polls and volunteer at the headquarters. Since the convention she would receive text messages from the campaign, asking what she thought of the debates or telling her where rallies were going to be held. Multiply that by thousands of districts, with tens of thousands of volunteers being made to feel that they count and are part of something bigger and more importantly, that they are making a difference. This happened all over the country, in latte sipping burbs and hillbilly heavens alike.
That was the brilliance of the Obama campaign. They used high tech communications to advance old style politics. They humanized the process. My district may never become one where Democrats can compete but there is a big foot in the door now. And it can't bode well for the future of the Republican party that, for the first time ever, the local high school went for the Democratic candidate. People will remember the smiling lady with the Obama button who offered them coffee while they were standing in line at the polls or the polite young black students who came to their door to offer them some literature. The "other" has a face now and somehow they seem not so very different.