The time I first believed was December 2007. I had just driven up to New Hampshire with two friends after work on a Friday night. It was morning by the time we arrived and we immediately set out canvassing, fueled by massive quantities of caffeine. Unlike my two companions, the trip, for me, was not the result of being swept along in the growing phenomenon known as Obamamania. At most, I was leaning Obama at that point. For me, it was more an opportunity for a policy wonk type to indulge a latent addiction to politicking that she doesn’t have much of an outlet for in her everyday life (a fact, on the whole, with which I’m absolutely content). Roadtripping it with former campaign colleagues and getting caught up in the excitement of it all is, without question, a blast.
Thus, I found myself slipping on icy sidewalks and streets and surrounded by about three feet of (arbitrarily plowed) snow. When canvassing, it’s always a treat to find someone at home. Even if they don’t love your candidate, at least you feel productive in having talked to someone. At one of the first houses I went to, I met a man in his late 40s. As soon as I identified myself as being from the Obama campaign, his face lit up. I would be dishonest in saying I remembered anything we spoke of in great detail. What I do recall vividly was how his passion demonstrated the power of a candidate — this candidate — to motivate people for something beyond just winning an election. I’ve worked on campaigns before, but this felt fundamentally different. That quality has been written about ad nauseam in the intervening year and now President Obama is faced with the (infinitely more difficult) task of applying it to governing, but that was the moment I first believed there might be something worth believing in.
As for now, I’m defrosting from several hours standing on the Mall. I have the runny nose and frozen toes to prove I was there to witness history. It seems trite to say I’ve never seen anything quite like this before because I don’t think there has ever been anything quite like this in my lifetime. I feel incredibly lucky to be living in our little city today.