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May 3, 2009 / sadhbhanu

Only Victory Will Make Change a Reality

See Original Article in the Irish Times


 On the eve of the US presidential election,  Sadhbh Walshe, an Irish writer and filmmaker living over there, explains why she joined Team obama and went vote-hunting in Philadelphia.

I APPLIED FOR US citizenship in 2003 because I no longer felt comfortable being an alien in a post 9/11 United States. My green card felt as valuable then as my credit card does post economic collapse.

When my number was called a few years later, I pledged allegiance, registered as a Democrat and got psyched up to vote for the first time in a presidential election.

When the Maverick duet started to pull ahead in the polls, I called Team Obama and offered my services without preconditions. A few days later, I made the first of many trips to the swinging city of Philadelphia.

When we arrived at the local campaign office, the training session was under way. I scanned the faces of my fellow recruits. They were black, white and every shade in between. Team Obama has achieved legendary status among grass roots movements with its 1.4 million volunteers and small donor funding. Being new to the scene, I have nothing to compare it to. I can only say I was impressed.

Prior to our arrival we received numerous e-mails with detailed material about Obama’s policies and talking points specific to different voting blocks. The focus of the training now was how to represent the Obama machine (Stay positive) and what to do when confronted by mad dogs or angry Republicans (Run for your life).

Shortly afterwards, armed with a clipboard and campaign pack, I was knocking on my first door. I had no idea what sort of reception we would get, but it quickly became apparent that people wanted to talk. I was surprised by how informed people were on the issues. I was surprised by how worried people in every income bracket were about making ends meet, about healthcare, and about job security.

My team registered numerous voters that day, ranging from kids who had just turned 18 to pensioners who had never voted in their lives but felt compelled to do so now. I was stunned by the level of anger at what had happened over the past eight years. I am equally stunned that it was allowed to happen.

No wonder Americans are mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.

The second time I went to Philly (I get to call it that now), my friend and I were dispatched to a low income African-American neighbourhood. Everyone was registered. Everyone was voting for Obama. I wondered why we had been sent here at all until I learned that this area had only an 11 per cent turnout in the primary vote.

We were stopped on the street by an elderly gentleman sitting on his stoop. He told us we were naive if we thought white folk would vote for a black man. This was a fear we had heard voiced throughout the day, and it upset me.

I pointed out to him that my friend and I – two whites – had come to Philly from New York to make sure that a black man gets elected and that most white people are not racist and want a black president in office even more than he does.

He smiled up at me, his tired eyes twinkling. “You think so?” he said.

After I joined Team Obama, the poll numbers started to head in the right direction again. Of course I don’t mean to take all the credit for this – no doubt the global economic collapse and the increasingly erratic behaviour of his opponent had something to do with it.

There was a time when I thought that if the worst comes to the worst, I could deal with a McCain presidency. He was not George Bush. He did make an admirable stand against torture. He has a history of bipartisanship.

But when, in a wanton attempt to seduce Clinton supporters, he chose a running mate who would put Paris Hilton to shame, and when his chief endorsement comes from a man called Joe the Plumber, whose first name is not Joe and who is not a licensed plumber, all respect went down the toilet. Sadly for Joe the Plumber, he is now being eclipsed by Tito the Builder. Sadly for John McCain, he is now being eclipsed by his own shadow.

So at the weekend, I trekked to Pennsylvania for the last time to do my bit for Team Obama. He is way ahead in almost every poll, yet any Democrat you talk to is in a state of absolute terror. Twice bitten. Twice shy.

But if by some delicious miracle we wake the day after tomorrow with a cool, calm, smart, sophisticated, black and white president, it will be because ordinary Americans of every race and creed banded together to make it happen.

Sadhbh Walshe is a New York-based Irish writer and film-maker 

This article appears in the print edition of the Irish Times

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