OHIO STATE OF MIND: Waging Democracy


EDITOR’S NOTE: Matt Goldfine has been working in Philadelphia and Harrisburg politics for the last five years. Tired of fretting over the polls from afar, he drove out to Ohio last Sunday to volunteer for the Obama campaign’s get-out-the-vote drive. He will be filing regular dispatches up to election night.

BY MATT GOLDFINE BUCKEYE CORRESPONDENT Nine years ago when I bought my used army jacket from I Goldberg, Philly’s most well-known and beloved Army Navy store, I was a very different person. Still grieving heavily from my brother’s heroin induced death a few months earlier, I was living in the city for the first time and taking classes at Temple. I didn’t know it then, but I was going through a formative period of personal growth that put me on a path that I’m not sure I could walked down were it not for the strength I came away with following the grieving process.

I bought the jacket probably because I thought it was cool and I thought it might better my chances of getting laid. Worn with jeans and a pair of Chucks, it fit much more loosely on me back then when I was a lot more svelt. I started dating a girl seven years my senior not too long after I added the jacket to my wardrobe, though now I’d like to think it was my irresistible charm, pretty face and quick wit that did the trick.

Today is Election Day — or E-Day as we call it around here. I will be donning that army jacket as I do my level best to get President Obama reelected. It’s been my go-to E-Day uniform ever since my first campaign back in 2007.  Why? Because, let’s not kid ourselves, elections are wars when you get right down to it. The differences between military strategy and election strategy are negligible. They both come down to: Where, when and how do you send troops. Which theaters make sense to wage battle in? What allegiances should be made?

This morning the war/election analogy is on my mind not just because of my jacket, but because of a disturbing phone call from last night. When someone here placed a confirmation call to a volunteer who was supposed to be with us today, the volunteer’s roommate answered saying that he was in the hospital in critical condition. The volunteer didn’t show for his scheduled canvassing shift yesterday, and apparently it was because he got into a car accident on his way to our office.

I don’t have any more information than that right now and have no word on if he is okay. For all I know, the kid could have handed the phone to his roommate telling him to make up a lie so he could get out of volunteering. It’s a horrible thing to think, but I’d much rather that be the case than him be in critical condition because was on his way to our office for me send him out to knock on doors.

Volunteers and campaign staffers may not be soldiers, but as I’ve walked the streets of Cleveland’s neighborhoods the fire in my veins makes me feel like I could take on any army. The poverty I’ve seen here is all too familiar. I’ve seen the same vacant houses and broken bottles in Strawberry Mansion. I’ve seen the same rusted cars and lack of opportunity in Kensington. And I’ve seen the same young mothers and futureless children in Point Breeze. Seeing it every day only makes me work harder. In the richest nation in the world, if we can spend two billion dollars on campaign, we sure as shit better be able to take care of the degrading level of poverty that plagues many of our communities, right?

It is not hyperbole to say that elections can save lives: they can. Barack Obama may not be the answer to all of our problems, but his policies have and will prevent preventable deaths. His polices will bring more equality and opportunity to a country that was built on ideals that we have yet to fully live up to. These things simply cannot be said about Mitt Romney. American democracy is a fragile process, but like a certain mythical boxer from South Philly, it tends to bounce back no matter how hard it’s knocked down. We’ve been through a tough four years, but I still believe in hope and change. No matter how bad it gets we always have the to opportunity make people’s lives better, and that’s why I plan to wage democracy until the day I die.


PREVIOUSLY: OHIO STATE OF MIND: Live & Direct From The Front

PREVIOUSLY: OHIO STATE OF MIND: Bowzer & Me Save Democracy

OHIO STATE OF MIND: From The Trenches Of Cleveland