campaigning in ohio - dispatch #1

the Vote Today Ohio office is on a hectic columus street on the periphery of Ohio State University. we are in what was formerly a frat house, so indicated by the giant team mascot and logo painted on the kitchen wall, the air hockey table in the living room, and the faint lingering smell of beer.

after a very long drive on friday night (thank you NPR, cigs, ipod, and bad coffee) – hurtling through black space across the interstates of America – i arrived in columbus at 3.30 in the morning, quietly let myself into this house, and dropped onto an uncomfortably small couch at the back of the main floor. i'd barely napped for four hours until the morning rustling of housemates woke me up. by 8.20, i was rocking a wild afro and black eyes while sipping desperate espressos and engaging in fatigued small talk with lively strangers. by 9 am, i was meeting with the field director – amy little, a political operative from new york – and by 9.30, i was appointed regional director (RD) for the cincinnati area.

since then, i have pretty much been ensconced in writing organizing materials and attending meetings. we are pursuing three primary objectives: information saturation; voter recruitment; volunteer recruitment. the main push of this effort focuses on 'Golden Week', during which we want to turn out more than 10,000 new or unlikely voters. the team is fairly impressive – organizers from california to new england who are young, smart, and pumped. i so far feel my experience and skills are being put to excellent use.

seriously, this is the most cush political campaign i have ever worked on. we are pimped out with wi-fi, office supplies, and strong, endless coffee. whereas in 2004, the modest little office of the Young Voter Alliance in madison had a lone cupboard stuffed with raman noodles, here is another freaking story. thanks to the generosity of donors, the kitchen of this frat house is overflowing with so much deliciousness. the project director's partner shopped til she dropped yesterday and began cooking up what will be a week's worth of meals for this bustling house. the fridge contains such shockingly non-campaign items as sunflower seed butter, Sriracha, and wine. we are spoiled. oh, and i've been moved into my own room upstairs, replete with air mattress and rusty windows. like i said: cush.

so this morning, i'm studying the site analysis and DPI (Democratic performance index) of my region, and the maps. tonight, our 20 state-wide 'Team Leaders' (TLs) descend onto this HQ House for their training. after their special session tonight, drinks are on tap at a place called the surly gurl saloon, then ready ourselves for tomorrow's big training. by tuesday morning, our keener pods will be on the ground doing their kicking-ass thing, and i'll be able to report on how the whole thing is playing out.

the VTO operation is working in concert with other initiatives like america votes, league of young voters, rock the vote, and swing semester. tomorrow morning, i'm going to try to hit a concert before the training: john legend will be performing on campus to kick off the early voting drive. i love him.


more mat leave for me - hooray!

harper’s gift to self-employed women of extended parental leave shows he cares. we apparently shouldn’t have to “choose between starting a family and starting a business” - aww.

from the sanctimonious tone of the announcement, you’d think harper has decided to bestow onto self-employeds all the benefits afforded other working moms … at least the ones fortunate enough to work in settings where a full-time/secure status gets them access to health plans, dental benefits, sick leave, paid vacation, A Pension, even THE WEEKEND.

the media has hyped the announcement as an election gimmick, and they sure got it right.

um, thanks, harper, for taking notice of the one million or so women you want to lure with this extended mat leave idea. those of us still on the fence about you will now surely belly up to your kool-aid. gosh, you really ‘get’ us!

puh-leez. throwing this bone to the small constituency of women who could benefit from the proposal after having mocked/decimated/overlooked so many policies that would advance women’s equality is akin to tossing out a couple of life preservers while denying the ship is even sinking. if canadian voters are so gullible as to think this makes you progressive or clued-up, then we surely deserve you as our PM.

anyone in touch with the realities facing women in canada - self-employed or otherwise - would rather harper (or any federal leader) put his suddenly-gender-inequality-addressing money where his mouth is by:

  • putting ‘equality’ back into status of women canada and augmenting funding to equality-seeking groups
  • incentivizing health plan providers to serve the increasingly non-traditional workforce of which a majority are women, including self-employeds, consultants, freelancers
  • conceding that fewer than 20% of children in canada have access to a regulated childcare space and heeding the calls for a universal childcare system
  • including self-employment within areas covered by the EI program - you seem to know that one in 10 employed women is now self-employed, so why allow 10% of employed women to be automatically excluded from EI?
  • increasing the amounts and categories of what we self-employeds can write off as business-related expenses, including more related to parenthood

harper seems incapable of recognizing - let alone comprehending - matters related to work/life/familiy balance that women of all sorts of employment status in canada face. maternity leave is but one modest piece of a far more nuanced, complex puzzle than harper could ever handle.


may will get to play - so what?

careful boys - it’s been awhile, but a woman is coming to debate you. a smart and sassy one, at that.

elizabeth may being allowed into the debate is a communicator’s dream. but it may be a sort of hell for the comms strategists in the various party war rooms. no sooner were they in damage control mode for having shunned her in the first place, now they’re brainstorming about how to use her inclusion to their party’s advantage.

even before her foray into electoral politics, may had a reputation for being scrappy. now that her lobby for an official podium has surged both her campaign AND her confidence, she’s sure to arrive at the debates in full form. if she’s smart, though, may will play the thoughtful and intelligent leader to the others’ boy-club-as-usual brand of banter.

may could transform the debate into something palatable, giving the usual testosterone fest a real shake up. her presence - never mind performance - could add value to a pro forma exercise that typically turns more people off than on to the leaders and their prized electoral process. folks might actually watch this one.

may has a lot riding on this appearance. in addition to cramming as much platform and persuasion as she can into her allotted time, may will have to give layton a run for his money in terms of presenting an ‘alternative’ political choice, especially on those finer policy points that have average voters wondering how to tell the ndp and greens apart. and while all the leaders have big plans for pointed attacks on harper, they will now have the added noise of may to break through - noise she’ll direct at harper sharply and effectively, i suspect.

with the sarah palin factor in full effect down below, may will be watched with even keener eyes. at the risk of coming across as another ‘novelty’, she has to up the ante on substance in a way palin thus far has not. why? i’d like to believe that unlike our sheep-y neighbours to the south, we canadians are a scrutinizing bunch who prefer substance over style and purpose over pomp.

may is unlikely to break any important ground with her interventions on the economy, social policy, or even peace. her mettle will obviously be most tested on the environment. most canadians tend to believe that no federal party really gives a shit about planet earth. with this access to the mainstage, may has a golden opportunity to generate real, credible urgency about climate change and the environment. at the debates, she will no doubt save her best assault on the prime minister for the conservatives’ appalling record on the environment.

i’ll be tuning in with high hopes, organic popcorn in hand.