Today is the day when the world holds it breath to see who America will choose as its President. Polls are open from 7am to 7pm and millions of Yanks will be braving queues and casting their ballot. It doesn't matter that polls show the rest of the world wants Obama to win, it's not their election, this is an all-American affair.
Thousands of Americans out in force for their President, with the queue going as far as the eye could see, even four hours before he was due to speak at the Hollywood school.
The candidates, whether presidential or a local councillor, are knackered as are the journalists and the volunteers. The Obama campaign this time around just does not have the same magic and enthusiasm as last time. But it is still one of the most formidable political machines ever assembled. 2008 was the first time, so will always be the best and the sheer numbers of volunteers was breathtaking, an estimated one million people volunteered. The Saturday before the election in 2008 the Obama offices were teeming with volunteers, this time was different, there was such a shortage they even needed me.
"What the fucking hell is going on? Where are you?" Came the shout down the phone as I stood outside my hostel having a fag.
"You were supposed to be here at 10am."
Being late had not entered my head, I had bigger, shitter fish to fry, I had no money and worse still my travelling compadre had none either.
"Errr I've nowhere to sleep tonight and no money to eat so those two factors need to be sorted before I do any volunteering today, oh, and don't ever fucking speak to me like that ever again."
The Obama campaign this time around just does not have the same magic and enthusiasm as last time. But it is still one of the most formidable political machines ever assembled.
After all as a volunteer, it can be easy to forget who is doing who the favour. We of course did our canvassing, which involves knocking hundreds of Democrat doors in the hope ten per cent answer so we can tell them to remember to vote. After speaking to two cool gay guys on Lincoln Road doing visibility - which is basically holding signs and shouting reminders to people walking past to vote - we decided to change tack. We wanted a bit of that action instead of wandering round the streets of Miami shouting through intercoms so we headed to the nearest office. In the nondescript nerve centre we had coffee and then heard the immortal words; "There are crippled veterans and anti-abortionists bullying our volunteers down at the polls...." Before the gay disabled Democrat finished his sentence me and fellow Brummie for Obama comrade John volunteered. The Democrat was delighted and got on the phone: "We are sending down some British soccer hooligans to help out...." After a couple of seconds waiting for the hooligans we realised he was talking about us.
We got to the early voting polls and there were lines snaking around the building with people who had already waited hours. As it happened the crippled abusive veterans had gone home, as had the pregnant woman with the “Obama wants to kill my baby” t-shirt on. But there was plenty of work to do with the need to explain to voters about the 10+ voting amendments and all the various Democrats on the 10 page ballot. It seems the Republican governor wants to make voting as confusing as possible and has succeeded.
"We are sending down some British soccer hooligans to help out….” After a couple of seconds waiting for the hooligans we realised he was talking about us.
We made plenty of friends at the polls at even got interviewed by a Norwegian radio station, a Democrat website and a Caribbean news organisation. When the clock struck 7pm the cones came out and the queue cut off at the last woman standing. All the volunteers for the countless candidates and causes quickly melted away and our thoughts turned to where to stay and what to do tomorrow.
We'd found out by email that Obama was coming to Hollywood, Miami, on Sunday by email. However, I misread the email and didn't realise I had to apply for the ticket. And by the time I checked it again on Sunday I didn't have internet connection, but we went anyway. And what an experience it was, thousands of Americans out in force for their President, with the queue going as far as the eye could see, even four hours before he was due to speak at the Hollywood school.
The atmosphere was great with lots of shouting, singing and chanting even despite the giant lines. Suddenly the dark mutterings about the Republicans piling up the votes of dead and mentally ill people and confusing Democrat voters were forgotten - the magic was back. The heat was overbearing so instead of queuing we went to the nearest bar. But not after we spotted some Romney supporters goading the crowds.They had signs a plenty, including 'We Need an American', 'Fire the Marxist' and 'America Loves Israel why doesn't Obama?'. I thought I'd get the party started by asking them for a ticket for the Obama gig but within seconds I was right in the middle of an abortion row, two women were having a shouting match about God and babies and the tension rose as new people joined the debate. There were racial slurs, religious bigotry and rank stupid analysis hurled back and forth as the divisive nature of politics was played out in front of bored looking press officers. After an hour trying to understand how the people could want the government out of every part of life except a woman's body I decided to get the ice creams in for everyone, and said goodbye. I figured the fella who turned up with a stuffed dog strapped to his car roof with the sign 'Trust the Mutt not the Mitt' could take over the good fight.
After returning from the bar a couple of hours later the queues had gone into the stadium and those who didn't make it stood and waited for the Presidential motorcade, a big deal for a neighbourhood like Hollywood. The hundreds of police officers and bike cops betrayed the main attraction who was on his way. The motorcade with all its outriders, SUVs, limos, fire engines and all other manner of vehicles glided into the school. Everyone on the street went barmy and it was a moment to remember forever as we glimpsed Obama. But the lucky ones were the in the stadium, we heard the roar as he entered the high school football stadium. We heard him shout: "Are you fired up?" Everyone was but then the wind changed direction and I heard no more. But that was enough for me, it matters not that we could have got in without tickets and I didn't need the passport I lost on the day because at last I'd felt the magic of 2008. After a day at the polling stations today I hope tonight I will feel it again, I mean he can't lose, can he?
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