11/22/2004

Successful Operation, But Patient Dead ?

Berkeley Daily Planet

Successful Operation, But Patient Dead: By EVE PELL
Pacific News Service (11-19-04)

With the help of tens of thousands of people like me, the Democrats and 527 Democrat-leaning organizations achieved their goals on Nov. 2: high voter turnout, millions of doorbells rung, a huge and enthusiastic army mobilized to defeat the president. Yet, as an old adage goes, “The operation was a success, but the patient died.”

What, if anything, did our highly publicized efforts accomplish? I’ve been reflecting on my experience since the results came in."

Despite the Democrat and nonpartisan superiority in numbers, the Republicans had the organizing edge. They had arranged for two certified poll watchers to be stationed inside the polling place, equipped with clickers so they could keep a running count of voters and lists of first-time voters, who could be challenged if they failed to present proper identification. Democrats had neither certified poll watchers nor lists of first-time voters, nor a running vote count.

For the most part, voting proceeded uneventfully. Rarely did anyone have to wait more than a few minutes. On the few occasions when a prospective voter had a problem—name not on the list, no ID, etc.—the person was instantly surrounded by six or eight volunteers desperately eager to set things right. I thought to myself, “We may be the most intimidating bunch here, swamping the very people we are trying to help.”

The day passed slowly. In mid-afternoon a garbage truck lumbered by, a large worker hanging on at the back. As it passed, he shouted, “Bush goin’ kill us all!”

At the end of the day, we said our goodbyes and went home.

I ended up feeling that a vast amount of money and volunteer time had been expended, for minimal results. Those three black ladies at our polling place had the situation well in hand; they knew their community, and they were far more effective than the dozen or so outsiders who, for a day, stood around on the sidewalk with clipboards and cell phones and very, very little to do.

Participating in Campaign 2004 gave me the satisfaction of working with others on an important mission. But that glow was short-lived, as the reality of the election results soon smacked me in the face. Looking back, I feel that I was part of a venture that was well-intentioned and somehow off the mark—a foot soldier following leaders whose battle plans turned out to be defective.

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