Friday, November 07, 2008

Phew! It's finally over... but I miss the campaign.

It's difficult to explain post-election feelings I'm having this year. In 2004, I worked 16-18 hours a day on a presidential exploratory organization only to have it evaporate, leaving me completely spent. I then moved into consulting for a nonprofit and tried to help with the Kerry campaign on the side as able, but there wasn't the kind of inclusion and ability to feel a part of that. We thought he would win, as we'd thought Gore would win, and he lost. It was a terrible, hopeless feeling, wondering how we could make it another four years. And the people who I had worked with daily for so long just disappeared from my life, making me sad.

This time around, I started trying to get involved for Hillary at the start and did what I could, but the organization was tightly controlled with little we could do remotely other than blog about it and help out on the ground in small doses. I knew Obama was running a better online operation and my view of him improved throughout the primary to the point where I felt in many ways after he won the nomination that he would do better than Hillary in terms of being able to rally people behind him. She had the policy knowhow and experience; he had the charisma and the might. So I kept on blogging and began to a feel a part of a movement, through the MOMocrats, BlogHer, the Political Voices of Women and WomenCount, through the Personal Democracy Forum conference, Off the Bus (the Huffington Post project), VoterWatch, and of course the Democratic National Convention. I advised who I could on the side - candidates and campaign staffers alike, I blogged a bit for Women for Obama and helped launch the Tech for Obama site. I was tapped into everything and I felt included. I even reconnected with some people from '04 who had lost touch. Each debate, I was online live chatting, blogging, tweeting. I interviewed fascinating candidates and gave some tips on how to leverage the Internet for their campaigns. It felt good to help and I enjoyed interacting with people in every way I could. Then came election day.

I had already voted 3 weeks previous, just in case I needed to hop on a plane and cover voting problems somewhere, but I still felt the excitement for my vote on election day. I enjoyed hearing the reports of people voting via TV news, Twitter, facebook accounts, e-mail. It was like somehow the election was a real national event for once, not just something people dread. I felt a real thrill of being a part of it all, like being back in the stadium in Denver after a long line that lasted two years, winding around the web. I decided that night that I wanted to feel that buzz of people in person celebrating, so I went to 4 different election parties, the last two being juxtaposed both physically and in terms of their results. In one ballroom at the Westin in San Francisco, San Franciscans celebrated Obama winning the presidency and we watched his speech, cheering together. That was a great feeling. In the ballroom next door, it was too close to call for Prop. 8, and we inevitably lost in a close ballot proposition race over the right to gay marriage in our state. It felt bittersweet. Even after working countless hours and seeing all of the numbers as the electoral map turned blue, it was tough to soak it all in.

All through the night, I was on my phone, reading results and commentary by friends on Twitter, and I felt my friends with me, but the reality was that even though I saw many people I knew throughout the night, those who I had worked with closely each day of the campaign were scattered across the country and I missed being at home on my laptop celebrating and commiserating with them during that moment. It was like an incomplete memory. Somehow, I wanted that feeling of elation - celebrating in person and online with my compatriots, with all those who I felt were my sisters and brothers in arms. I even missed those in other parties who I had observed throughout the campaign. I felt for their loss when I saw their tweets come through during the night.

Now we look toward January 20th where we will watch the most notable inauguration of our lifetimes, and I am already fretting about how to make it memorable, meaningful. I've always been of the mindset that I need to see something to believe it. I want to see Barack Obama in the oval office behind the president's desk. Then perhaps it will really settle in for me. As President-Elect Obama has said, "this is our moment." Let's find as many ways as we can to celebrate it, revel in it, and share it together.

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