At 10:00 pm on the night of October 10th a force for great change rolled into the somewhat sleepy Central Pennsylvania town of Bloomsburg. Aboard a bus were nearly 40 young men and women from Fordham, Hofstra, NYU, St. John’s University and Binghamton University preparing to battle for Democratic votes in this Republican leaning county. In a last minute decision the day before, I had decided to join their ranks—it was a decision I will never forget.
The party left Penn Station at quarter to eight in the evening, but not before a reporter from WNYC had appeared as if by magic in the waiting throng to interview several St. John’s University students on why the were crazy enough to spend their Friday evening doing anything else but studying or going to a house party. I could feel the tension building as I boarded the bus and we began the odyssey, and thought of how lonely my textbooks must be sitting around waiting for me to come home.
After we stopped for dinner in Columbia, New Jersey, it came over the wire that a committee investigating the Troopergate scandal had determined that Republican Vice Presidential hopeful Sarah Palin had not violated the law but had misused her power as Governor of Alaska. To this the freshly fed army cheered and whistled. Numerous small policy debates and arguments sprung up and then died again as the bus neared its destination.
Sandwiched as if by divine providence between a Starbucks and a Chinese take-out place was the Columbia County Democratic Campaign Headquarters. We filed inside the building with our bags to be briefed on the agenda for the following day and were separated into two groups—those who would sleep in “the barn” and those who would stay in the apartments of some local Obama supporters.
The barn was graciously donated by a man I remember as being named “Olly,” and was located a few miles out of town. It was a cold, clear night far removed from the snugness of the urban heat effect and many of us—not anticipating the sleeping conditions had come without blankets. After some mattresses were brought down from the storage area above we settled in for some political bedtime stories the content of which is highly classified. After three hours, the groggy party ceased the “puma bashing” and stories of questionable legality came to an unspoken consensus to fall asleep. Our peaceful slumber however, was not the first priority of the well-fed bat who decided that 3 A.M. was the perfect time for some exercise. I who was peacefully situated on a bumpy wooden bench next to a fire that always just a little too warm was startled immediately to my feet. The lights came on and the circus of shrieks and laughter ensued, with one of us enlisting the help of a box spring to corner the blind mammal. Eventually, the bat retreated to a hole in the wall which was reluctantly plugged.
The morning came quick and in the form of hot showers and complimentary Starbucks and breakfast in town. The groggy lot was briefed again on what issues to expect and were sent to numerous locations throughout Bloomsburg and more rural locations in Columbia County. The day was long , hot and tiresome, but in the end It was worth it as 2,017 doors were reached, many hundreds of which were person-to-person contacts. Many people seemed upset about what a Republican administration had done to the United States and were ready to take to the streets themselves to ensure that the next four years wouldn’t be more of the same. Independents and those who had supported Clinton in the primaries but were on the fence about Obama got the straight dope about the McCain tax cuts for CEOs, and were disgusted to hear that in a time when tens of thousands of people have lost their homes or their jobs, a Presidential candidate had the audacity to propose such a tax plan.
With the bus on its way, a group of us decided that we weren’t going to leave town without leaving something that would last all the way until November 4th, we marched down to the Republican staging ground and plastered the 4’ by 8’ McCain/Pailn sign with a nice Obama/Biden sign and took group pictures. We got word that the bus had arrived as we were finishing up our photo shoot, and marched the five blocks back to the bus chanting “Be a part of something great, Obama 08!” and other slogans. Thumbs up from passing cars and smiles from passersby showed that we were well received. The gods of political theater apparently were not done with us because as we arrived back at Penn Station that night we were greeted by a handful of women parading down 31st street with Democrats for McCain signs. We quickly and efficiently shouted them down and went our ways for the night. Needless to say, we left our mark on Columbia County last weekend and are coming back for more. Come join the madness of Get-Out –The –Vote weekend as we surge into Bloomsburg for another round of toe-to –toe battle with McSame and company.