On the day of the second inauguration of Barack Obama, Binita Mehta, Progressive Women Committee Member, discusses her experience working on the Obama for America campaign, and why more of us should get involved.
Today is the public inauguration of the 44th President of the United States of America. In November 2012, Barack Obama was re-elected and I was fortunate enough to have played a part in this historic election, having worked as an “Organizing Fellow” on the Obama for America campaign in Fairfax, Northern Virginia, close to Washington DC. It was a fantastic experience for me to have had such a hands-on role in the weeks running up to Election Day, the pinnacle of the campaign, and I definitely learnt a lot.
Whilst working in Virginia, I was lucky to secure some VIP front row tickets from the boss, official title, Field Organiser, essentially a strategic district Campaign Manager, to go and see Bill Clinton and the President himself address supporters at a rally. This was an incredibly exciting experience; whilst rallies are practically unheard of in Britain, they are an integral aspect of campaigning in the States. 24,000 Americans, not just from Virginia, gathered in an outdoor arena on a freezing November evening, with only two days of campaigning left before Election Day. The speeches given were electrifying and truly motivating, with the crowd keenly awaiting the President and former President’s arrivals in helicopters over the open-top arena, and keeping spirits high with singing, dancing and chanting of the ‘Yes We Can!’ and ‘Fired Up, Ready to Go!’ slogans of the 2008 Obama campaign, as well as ‘Forward’ from the 2012 campaign.
Having worked extensively on the last UK General Election campaign and on Boris Johnson’s London mayoral re-election campaign, it was very insightful for me to compare how a political campaign was run and won so effectively in another country, especially in America where politics has a much higher profile in the media. Of course, the campaigns are certainly much more expensive, with Obama’s re-election campaign costing$683,546,548 with his main competitor, Republican candidate Mitt Romney’s costing $433,281,516. By contrast, the Conservative General Election campaign in 2010 cost £16,683,000.
This difference in expense could not be ignored; the vast amount spent on media strategy by each party was obvious. Every other radio advert was related to the election; primarily, they were negative and somewhat attacking in nature, much to the distaste of us reserved and stiff-upper-lipped Brits! Billboards were everywhere, even poster boards outside houses and bumper stickers on cars were much more common and prominent, representing all parties and candidates. At a local level, differences in campaign style were few and far between however, the main distinction being how advanced American campaign materials are from those used in Britain.
I was keen to take some of my newly learnt tricks home to use for my personal Watford Borough Council campaign, the election of which was taking place in late November. Now, as I gear up to run my Watford County Council campaign, they certainly will be being utilised!
As we are Progressive Women, it is only expected for us to be unhappy with the lack of female representation across all tiers of government and business. So why not take inspiration from the record number of women that were elected to Congress in 2012? Make it your albeit slightly belated New Year’s Resolution to get involved in a local campaign, be it political or otherwise, and use some of your spare time to make a difference. After all, Hillary Clinton, rumoured to be a potential Presidential candidate in 2016, began her political career by knocking doors at the age of 13 and Barack Obama himself humbly started as a Community Organizer in Chicago before embarking upon his political journey to the Presidency, surely inspiration for us all!
Join Progressive Women for our female-led Funny Fundraiser on January 29th with Kate Smurthwaite, Bridget Christie, Catie Wilkins, and many more. See details here