It was Halloween when I touched down in LA yesterday. I’d heard that Americans like to dress up on 31st October, but I wasn’t prepared for what I was greeted with. A woman next to me at baggage reclaim was dressed all in black with multiple skull and crossbones tatooed onto her shaved head. Her friend had a bllood trail coming from her mouth and looked as if she’s just been punched. At first I wasn’t sure whether they’d had a fight and normally dress like this – I’m in LA after all, but my stares provoked a ‘Happy Halloween’, plus a broad (black toothed) smile from the faux pirate. This put me at ease – sort of.
I was met by a James – a volunteer from the British Labour Party – who has been here for the past week. We drove to Santa Barbara and James gave me a good briefing on his experiences and about how the Obama campaign has been going in this part of the country. On arrival we met John and Felix, two other Labour Party stalwarts inspired to take a break from work and join the campaign. Together we went out for a beer and to admire the Halloween costumes. There were some fantastic efforts but we were not prepared for the number of people who had decided to dress as Sarah Palin! http://gov.state.ak.us/
California is a true blue state and Obama already knows those electoral college votes are in the bag. However there are lots of local candidates like Hannah-Beth Jackson who is running for California’s state senate and has a tougher fight on her hands. I met Hannah-Beth at a rally on Saturday morning and was impressed with the way she inspired the 100 or so volunteers who had turned up for a day’s campaigning. She told me her prioities were investing more in reneweable energy, demanding higher local taxes from the multinational oil companies who operate out of the state but currently pay little or no tax and focusing on improving health and education policies. There was a high level of enthusiasm amongst the volunteers some of whom told me how they’ve been using the internet to inspire people as has been happening all over the US The volunteers were joined by state congresswoman Lois Capps and Pedro Nava the local state assembly member, both of whom are also running for reelection. You can find out more about the campaigns of all of these candidates by checking out the Santa Barbara Democrats site.
After posing for photos with a cardboard cut out of Senator Obama and picking up some memorabillia we got a debrief over coffee from Tim Allison, a Democratic delegate and the team leader of the campaign in Santa Barbara. Tim outlined how the campaign worked and explained the levels of organisation that link what is happening in Santa Barbara into the national campaign. Everyone I spoke to – many of whom were old campaigning hands – said that they’d never experienced anything quite like the level of organisation of the Obama campaign. His ability to communicate messages, to inspire and lead was, they said, a sign that an Obama presidency would be successful.
It’ll be four more days until we’re be able to judge if these enthusiastic activists are right and to know whether Senator Obama has what it takes to convince America that he’s the right man to lead them, but I know they’ll be working their socks off until the polls close at 8pm on Tuesday 4th.
We said our goodbyes to the Santa Barbara lot and set off for Las Vegas, Nevada. Nevada is a swing state and so I expect the atmosphere will be quite different. There are high hopes amongst Democrats that for the first time in years the state will turn blue, but that remains to be seen.
I’ll be sure to post on what we find when we arrive and on how the last few days of the campaign develop in my part of the US.
FH Brussels team member Tim Nuthall is on the campaign trail with Democrats in California and Nevada in the last few days of this US election season. As a departure from our usual digitally related content, Tim has agreed to write a short series of posts on his personal experiences in the US.
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