EPISODE 1: THE VOYAGE BEGINS
At 8:30 a.m. on Friday, October 30, 2009, the Dems Campaign Trip saga began. The ground littered with Oren’s cups and copies of the New York Times, it was clearly an assembly of the liberal-minded that gathered on College Walk that morning to kick off a four day marathon of GOTV action. The excitement was palpable as we, the campaign-trippers, carbo-loaded for the long and strenuous van ride ahead, feasting on high-quality bagels and cream cheese stolen by necessity from Hewitt. Time stretched on as Prestige Vans proved to be not so prestigious in their ability to actually provide punctual transportation services.
However, at long last, vans 1, 2, and 3 arrived to the joy of their soon-to-be occupants. That joy, unfortunately, was short-lived for many, as the reality of a six-hour drive in a cramped fifteen-passenger van set in. Van 1 chose to rep the 80′s to the chagrin of certain van members (Barry), but elation of others who choreographed and sang along to the sweet musical stylings of Cyndi Lauper and Bon Jovi.
At long last, after many hours of tree identification, nap attempts, and other failed efforts at passing the time, the Dems arrived triumphantly in Virginia, checking-in at the Quality Inn, where the desk attendants were very concerned at our teachers’ reactions if any boys and girls stayed in the same room. We, the corrupt youth of America, found this very amusing. Also amusing was Freshman Rep Michael R.’s discovery that we were not, in fact, staying at the Holiday Inn, where—in true College Democrat fashion—he had asked his mother to send him an absentee ballot. Luckily, repeated renditions of a certain song, and the realization that the Quality Inn provided both microwaves and refrigerators, seemed to suffice.
Though far from the city, somehow a taste of home was able to creep into the day one itinerary in the form of the not-quite-so one-and-only Chipotle. Several freshmen were exposed to the wonders of the Chipotle burrito (a veritable “brick of food,” described one campaign-tripper) for the first time, at what seasoned Chipotle diners repeatedly called out as, “crazy low prices.”
After this fine dining experience, and a slight delay of Van #2, which would prove to be portentous of this van’s general pattern of behavior, the bonding began. In true Dems fashion, said bonding was facilitated via a circle of people saying their names and one interesting fact about themselves. Of note was the “fact” presented by one first-year that she was one of ten children. Evidently, it is nowhere to be found in the Dems Constitution that your “interesting fact” must actually be true… Several striking truths were, however, revealed, including gems such as, “I love to eat,” “I go to SEAS,” and Lead Activist Stephen’s tried and true, “I’m a Gemini.” (Apparently the Constitution has no provision against recycled facts either…).
Night One dinner was a subject of much debate. One van headed off to experience some true NoVA nightlife: a carnival erected in the middle of a K-Mart parking lot. This taste of Virginia’s undeniable classiness was chased with a showcase performance by an organizer at the Creigh Deeds campaign headquarters, located in the same plaza. This well-meaning woman dropped more f-bombs than anyone felt quite comfortable with, extolling the virtues of all surrounding restaurants with the qualifier, “FUCKING GREAT, MAN.” Needless to say, we all ate well that night.
EPISODE 2: THE ASSES LEARN TO CANVASS
The next morning marked day one of canvassing. Exhilarated with GOTV spirit, spurred on by a fantastic retrofitted rendition of “Light My Candle” by board members Avi E. and Sarah S., we, the eager campaigners, hit our turf running. The weather was less than hot, in both senses of that adjective, but we kept our spirits high, fueled by the first of many excellent PB&J bag lunches. Overall, extremes of success and failure were evident in all canvassers’ results. At the last stop of the morning route, for instance, a 28 year old woman was convinced to go out and vote for Deeds after discovering that he is not only endorsed by Obama, but his opponent hates women and gays! This was promptly followed by a door slam in the face by an irate Republican.
Luckily, such campaigning woes were allayed by the prospect of that night’s Halloween festivities, which were preceded by the greatly anticipated free food at Chipotle night. Inspired by their undying love of Chipotle, the Dems donned their best burrito costumes and flocked out for free—and by definition, significantly tastier—Chipotle burritos. Favorite costumes not crafted out of tin foil included “old news” (a dress crafted entirely out of old newspaper), Rosie the Riveter, Sarah Palin (complete with “Palin 4 Prez 2012” tramp stamp), and various Dems as Dems imitation costumes (the highest form of flattery).
Yet the saving grace of the Dems’ late-night Halloween event was not the great costumes, but rather the wonderful phenomenon that is daylight savings time. After an extra hour of much needed sleep, the campaigners hit the trail once again. In the rain. A rousing motivational sermon from Jonathan B., coupled with some slightly higher quality bagels than those from the so-called Quality Inn made for a slightly less sucky morning, but all that this campaigner can say is that thank God it stopped raining. Our various encounters with felons and Jesus freaks would have been significantly less amusing were our ability to flee from them hindered by even more slippery leaves.
After “shot-gunning” late into the night, a canvassing method whose name happens to be quite a propos to the region given the preponderance of actual shotguns spotted hanging over mantles, several Dems decided to venture to our nation’s capital under the fearless leadership of Dems prez Kate-O. Since we had not, of course, walked quite enough already during the day, we decided to take a lovely nighttime walking tour of D.C.’s monuments and memorials. This prompted utter exhaustion and subsequent like-a-rock sleep upon return at approximately 1 a.m.
Monday’s morning routine was marked by even more physical activity—this time in the form of group aerobics via the Cupid Shuffle led from atop our fifteen passenger vans. Adrenaline pumping, the Dems headed off to headquarters to receive assignments from illustrious field organizer Keith. Canvassing and “lit-dropping” was the name of our game for this long workday. In fact, this process continued into dinnertime, when it became significantly awkward to be watched by suspicious Virginians whilst hanging Creigh Deeds propaganda from doors and running away. We later phone-banked their little hearts out until 7 p.m., when we were finally released for dinner.
Yet the sweet taste of freedom was brief, as we were summoned back for a pre-election day canvass “striking party.” To those unfamiliar with campaign work, said celebration may sound questionable, but this blogger can assure you that—for better or worse—a “striking party” involves neither hitting things nor partying. Crossing out bad addresses with a Sharpie…a rollicking party indeed. Luckily, most were able to get a quality night’s sleep back at the Quality Inn, which would prove to be much needed.
EPISODE 4: E-DAY DEFEAT
When I was a young kid, I would always wake up super early on Christmas day out of sheer excitement at the momentous occasion. 6, sometimes even 5 a.m. would see me running down the stairs with enthusiasm and joy.
Somehow, Election Day in Virginia did not elicit quite the same reaction. 6 a.m. came much too soon, and not even the awesome $1.35 Sunoco gas station coffee could rouse this blogger. A good luck bowl of Fruit Loops helped to slightly bolster the spirits, but unfortunately could not help Creigh Deed’s ever-plummeting poll numbers. In a last ditch effort to get out the vote, the Dems hit their turf with a vengeance (against Bob McDonnell, specifically) and knocked on hundreds of doors—most of which went unanswered due to the fact that it was Tuesday morning.
After a stroke of organizing genius, we were finally instructed to at least leave some fine Deeds literature at our stops, which at least provided some sense of purpose to the endeavor. It was approaching 4:00 when the last van assembled in the tiny campaign office for some inspirational parting words from Keith. Jonathan B. presented our dear leader with a mix CD of Dems favorites (see The Ballad of Mark Warner) in hopes of mitigating Keith’s…interesting…taste in music.
And so with little fanfare, the Dems headed back to NYC. But the Virginia lovin’ was not over yet, as we continued our efforts, phone-banking from the road for three more hours. Take it from me, Virginians just love having their dinner interrupted by campaign volunteers: “The polls are still open! Really, no, really! Go! Now! You still have fifteen minutes!” Luckily, with near full participation in our Jack Kerouac style phone-banking, the bitter rejection of being repeatedly hung-up on was quickly over, and the tired campaigners could bask in the pain of the reporting precinct stats (it’s a tough life advocating for democracy).
After tears, sweat, and blood shed, it was with great, great sadness that the Dems finally accepted our beloved candidate’s defeat. Better luck next time, Creigh…and good luck, Virginia. We hope you enjoyed our stay.
Photos courtesy of Kate O’Gorman