Well we have finally left the Americans to their own devices. The formidable campaigning machine “Brummies For Obama” is no more, our work here is done and the only way it will be resurrected is if the women of the Obama clan take up politics.
We've pressed the flesh, shouted slogans at strangers, knocked countless doors, argued with anti-abortion loons, stood at the polls and stuck Obama-Biden stickers in toilets across Louisiana, Alabama and Florida. However, our best work was targeting an all important and transient demographic group that was key to Obama's victory - the barmaids and boozers vote. We frequented all kind of dives, two bit joints, backroom bars and even dreaded mock Irish bars to find this group in their natural habitat. Our message, that we travelled halfway around the world to volunteer for Obama so the least you can do is vote seemed to resonate. We had our shtick down to a tee after over a fortnight on the stump for Obama. Our badges, t-shirts or accents would be our in - whether it be our “Brummies For Obama” apparel or our selection of badges and pins that included “Ridin’ With Biden” “Smart Women Vote For Obama” or “Dog Lovers For Obama.”
After hearing us speak the question would usually come, "What you guys doing here?" I'd always say "The rest of the world fell back in love with America when you elected Obama." Which is true, I remember having loads of arguments with anti-Americans before Obama and I'd always win by saying: "You say George Bush, I say Johnny Cash, you say Dick Cheney I say Elvis Presley, you say Donald Rumsfeld I say LL Cool J." America is a continent and I don’t believe it fair to write off hundreds of millions of people because of their politicians. That’s why my fellow “Brummies For Obama” comrade John and I left our responsibilities in the UK and went to help. We love America and Americans. However, when our political discourse failed us and things got a bit hairy we’d normally fall back to "Our Missus would never let us have a holiday for two weeks, but they couldn't say no to us saving the world." excuse, which always seemed to bring a smile.
Our campaign war chest ran out countless times and we had to tap friends, family and associates for money to carry on. The New Orleans Tourist Board were golden, putting us up in a cottage where Elizabeth Taylor stayed numerous times and even gave us our own butler. My miscalculation that the Obama campaign or the tourist board would find us places to stay in Miami cost us dear and our cunning plan to get first the Obama then the Romney campaign to fly us down to Miami failed meaning we had to endure a crazy 22 hour Greyhound bus journey to get to that battleground. If our New Orleans leg ended with us living it up in a $1000 a night hotels, Miami was strictly a hostel situation. Serbians snoring, Russian racists, Aussie chatterboxes and Spaniards shitting themselves were par for the course as we stayed in the cheapest places Miami had that didn’t charge rent by the hour.
While the campaign did not have the resources or volunteers to put us up which cut down our productivity down on the campaign trail but we persevered nonetheless. The best bit of campaigning was meeting and talking to normal people doing remarkable work for their country. We met some lovely Romney supporters on the stump and at the polls, though of course we met some rather weird and nasty ones too. Meeting Obama supporter and celebrity black cinema star Mario Van Peebles (pictured) at the polls was a highlight, though I did feel bad for asking what he was up to now.
Polling day was a bit of anti-climax, with me spending the morning in Miami's British Consulate sorting out an emergency passport so I could get out of the country. However, this gave me time to listen to some spectacular American radio with ex-Fox News barmpot Glen Beck seemingly having a nervous breakdown - veering from predicting the GOP would win big one to wondering aloud how many guns people should buy if by chance Obama won.
After a bit of canvassing we had lunch at an Italian where we were treated like Kings, garnering the only freebie I'd blag in Miami, before reminding the barmaids and boozers to vote after their shift. All the tension of an American election seems to happen the week before polling day, with the general feeling on Election Day being relief that it’s finally all over. It is not merely the President Americans vote on, but all kinds of amendments from state and local constitutions are placed on the ballot paper. Florida’s paper was over 10 pages long, no wonder they took so long to declare! Across America voters were asked to vote on such burning issues such as whether pornstars should use condoms, weed should be legalised, whether a bridge should be built from Detroit to Canada and whether 20,000 dogs and cats should be spayed or shot dead. They have to vote on school boards, congressmen, councillors – it’s not surprising after being bombarded with adverts for months on end the average American is just glad it is all over.
We went to a few polling stations to help out but luckily, things were largely running smoothly. Obviously this being Florida there were some trouble spots, such as in Brickell, where the consulate was where voters were still at the polls hours after 7pm due to rank bad organisation, but unlike the huge lines that greeted early voters in the days before the election, the majority of voters in Miami could vote without having to wait hours due to all the polling stations were open. We found a very posh resort to watch the first exit polls and drank fine rum, with the barman “accidently” dropping some in our drinks when he heard of our hard work.
There was only about two hours of real tension over the result, and trying to work out what exit poll meant what almost put me off my drinkbut the team of black barmen seemed confident and that rubbed off on us. After realising we couldn't take the piss with the free rum we headed to find a party to celebrate the win. In the 2008 election the Democrats hired out the entire Jungle Island complex which held thousands of volunteers but this time was different, lower key affair. The party for the national campaign volunteers reminded me of a crap student union where the drinks were expensive, so it was a good thing we smuggled in our own rum. After getting sick of waiting at the bar and realising there was no Wi-Fi to scrounge we went to the local volunteers party which had plenty of food and some lovely people.
As the results came in there was a massive feeling of followed by exhaustion - unlike 2008 where people cried in the streets, it was all a bit more muted. The world had not changed after the same bloke in power won, but we had helped America and the world dodge a bullet. And that will always remain special. The Brummies for Obama were in our bunk beds before Obama's speech, it had been a long day that started at 5.45am.
Not fancying another 22 hour Greyhound journey we decided to fly back the next day to New Orleans after realising we had left it too late to fly back on the day we were leaving America. We bid farewell to our hostel inmates and headed to another Irish pub. The thin lipped fella drinking at the bar made our trip worth it. Looking at the statistics on CNN he said: "This election is a turning point, over 70 per cent of white men who voted went for Romney but because of the blacks, latinos and now women as well people like me do not control this country, white men have controlled this place for centuries, but no more, we are going to shit, we will no longer be number one in the world, we are going to end up like Europe, I'm leaving as soon as I can."
The fact Obama made wankers like that up and down the country so unhappy spoke volumes, he did not grasp that his moaning is exactly the opposite of what democracy is about. I asked, “Why don't you move to China? They will be number one soon and don't let women pick their leaders." He just grumbled into his shit beer and carried on bristling at the unfairness and scowling at the cheerful barman who bought a copy of my book “Obama and Me.”
We had to go to New Orleans via Charlotte and stayed at a diamond of a hotel, the Dauphine, in the French quarter after getting a press rate. The beauty of a bed and bath revitalised us to get back on the mega booze. And what a place to do it. New Orleans was at full tilt on a Wednesday night, with countless back street bars which don't charge the Earth for a drink. We discovered Florida would be won by our team whilst sitting in a 24 hour bar drinking cider and listening to ZZ Top. I find it amazing that Florida is still the problem child of states during elections following the 2000 debacle. We heard plenty of tales of the dead and mentally ill voting for the Republicans, as well as other constant complaining of dodgy practices, if this election had gone down to Florida again it would have certainly ended up in a court room again.
But that did not stop us toasting our success over and over again. Whilst we were neither the best volunteers, nor the best international travel journalists, we did spent a week in New Orleans and didn't hear any jazz and we did go to Miami beach and didn't see any sand. But we spoke to countless Americans and that was good enough for me.
Brummies for Obama did our job, we've sacrificed November, December and Christmas and New Year to afford this adventure but we achieved our mission - get Obama re-elected and have fun doing it.
You can buy Steve’s excellent book here: Obama and Me: The Incredible True Story Of A YouTube Sensation
The Obama Count
Amount of time spent at the bar - lost count after 72
Amount of time spent officially volunteering for Obama - around 35 (five of those lost in the streets of Miami)
Hours talking about Obama at the bar - lost count after 30
Number of times I said: "I'm an international travel journalist" - gave up after 100 mark
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