I saw first hand this week why Obama won this election. I was one of thousands of out-of-state lawyers recruited to do voter protection work in Ohio. On election day, I visited three campaign offices in Cleveland and met some of the legions of volunteers who have been working tirelessly to canvass, phone call, and make sure the election was run properly. Why did we do it? We all know that no one volunteer is going to make the difference in the election, no matter how hard any of us worked. But I have no doubt in my mind that this collective effort did make the difference, particularly in close states like Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina, Indiana, Florida and others. There was simply no comparison between the level of commitment and enthusiasm shown by the grassroots-organized field staff in the Obama campaign and the Republican regulars who half-heartedly staffed the McCain campaign.
The themes of Hope and Change obviously won out this year over Fear and More of the Same. But another theme that may have been under-recognized is that the virtue of collective action won out this year over the virtue of individualism. It may be true that Obama supporters, like McCain supporters, generally believed that things will get better for them personally if their candidate were elected. But Obama supporters also demonstrated a far greater commitment to self-sacrifice for the common good. We worked on this campaign not because we thought that any one of us could make the difference, but because we wanted to feel part of a larger, historic collective movement. Even though we live in an competitive society, we have through this campaign come to discover the values of solidarity and community. We are going to need that collective-minded spirit, and a willingness to work hard and make sacrifices, to deal with the challenges that lie ahead for all of us.
In any case, it was worth traveling to Cleveland just to observe the fall scenery and attend the victory party!