So last night, exhausted and sore from walking all weekend and calling all day, and with nothing left for me to do to help Sean Sullivan’s campaign, I went out and had a couple beers, then went home and tried to sleep. Like a kid on Christmas Eve, I was way too nervous, so instead I turned on the TV for the first time in months and watched one of my all-time favorite movies, Street Fight. If you haven’t seen it, go rent it immediately, because it’s completely awesome. And although, like most great movies, it has a sad ending, the postscript is happy.
Anyway, as I watched Cory Booker and crew on their downright frightening campaign trail, I thought a lot about the campaign I’ve been spending basically all my free time on for the last two months.
This is the fourth Oakland political campaign I’ve put in volunteer time for, and what really made it stand out for me from all the others is who I’ve been sitting next to on the phones every night. Measure N had FOPL members and some people who just really wanted improvements for their local branches, but it was also lot of librarians. Pat Kernighan for Council and Ignacio De La Fuente for Mayor both had plenty of devoted community members making calls for them, but their campaign offices were also totally lobbyist central, a revolving door of all the regular City Hall faces. (I don’t mean that in a bad way. I wish we had them making calls for us, cause they’re great at persuading people! I suppose that’s their job, but I’m a really terrible phone banker, so I always get really jealous listening to them.) I guess there are plenty of other campaigns for those people to be helping out right now, so I’m not condemning them for not coming in and calling for Sean, but it’s certainly a very different feeling when you’re sitting in the office to look around and see that you’re there with just a bunch of random people who aren’t going to derive any professional benefit from Sean’s election, but drag themselves in day after day to call strangers and stay late into the night folding paper and punching holes and threading rubber bands when they’d rather be pretty much anywhere else in the world, because they really just want the neighborhoods they live in to be better. They want decent sidewalks, or trash cans, or useable parks, or maybe to just be able to walk down their own street after dark and feel relatively safe about it. They’re all willing to do their part to make things better, and have tried to work with the current Councilmember on these things, and have been treated dismissively and in some cases, almost abusively.
I’m so amazed by the incredible job we’ve done on this campaign. After yet another long night at the office, I stopped into a bar for a drink on the way home last week. Two girls who came in after me started chatting about the prominently displayed Sean Sullivan sign on the wall, and I sat and listened to them go on about how Sean’s campaign is so slick and corporate and talk about the fancy headquarters down the street and whole elaborate operation and big staff in there and on and on like that. I was too tired to say anything, although I had to try really hard not to laugh out loud. Being in that office so often, I find it almost impossible to believe that people actually see the campaign that way, but I have to admit that I felt a little excited to think that we’ve done such an awesome job with our completely grassroots work that even a few people could be convinced that it’s some fancy, professional effort.
And we have done an awesome job! We’ve called until people are sick of hearing from us. We’ve walked until people are sick of seeing us. I can’t speak for the other volunteers, I guess, but every time I decide I’m sick of it and just want to leave and have my life back and have some fun, I look at how hard Sean works and it just makes me want to work that much harder.
I have no idea what’s going to happen tonight, and I really hope District 3 voters are smart enough to realize how incredibly lucky they would be to have Sullivan representing them, and that they vote accordingly. But whatever happens, I just want to say right now how incredibly proud I am of all that we’ve achieved on this campaign – even though the media completely ignored us, and the insiders completely ignored us (or laughed at us for thinking that there was any point in challenging a lefty incumbent). But I think that at the very least, we’ve made a lot of people realize that they can and should expect more from their government than they’re getting. And I hope that no matter what the outcome of this election is, people will remember that and start pressuring their representatives to address their needs all the time, instead of just resigning themselves to living with the piss-poor level of service this City is providing until next election season.
And also, no matter what happens tonight, don’t expect any new blogs for at least a week. I’ve had my fill of politics, and I’m going to take a much-needed break and spend all my free time reading my brand new translation of my favorite book ever, which has been sitting unopened on my nightstand, taunting me, since March. You can watch tonight’s results come in at the Alameda County Registrar of Voters webpage.