GOTV IN AKRON:
Walking the Rust-Belt Walk in Ward 4
|A fuzzy shot of our staging location|
|Crystal, Jean and Pat Laying Out Turf for the Big Push|
At our Ward 4 outpost, ordinarily the combined space of the Just 'N Café and the Bizness Lab, we were superintended by a formidable local African-American woman who could re-focus chattering volunteers with a hard look from her chair behind the central-command computer. Hustled out to cover the next piece of turf, we worked our soggy printouts in the windy drizzle, drilling down to the last sporadic voters who might need a final nudge. Behind many doors were the voices – "already voted!" – of the already-voted or stern parents promising to turn their young'uns out to do their civic duty; behind others, TVs on and nobody answering; and others, either nobody home yet or nobody home, in vacant single-family houses or empty apartments with Obama materials dangling from a previous pass.
Akron used to be the Rubber City, running on the tire factories of Goodyear, Firestone and other manufacturing giants. The New Era had refreshed decades of General Tire workers getting off their shifts across the street. Plant closures hit the city hard. Downtown seems to be patching up its post-industrial distress, but in many parts of Ward 4, tired houses and weary residents reflect long-term unemployment, foreclosure, and the hard work of just getting by. The ravages of 1960s-era urban renewal also are etched in the abrupt dead ends of West Akron's streets, where we kept discovering that our next house number was on the other walled-off side of the interstate highway system.
Other than a scattering of lawn-signs and bumperstickers, there was not much evidence of the Romney/Ryan campaign. A handful of operatives made mischief: Obama/Biden lawn-signs had been regularly disappearing, as did – on election eve – the oblong placards we had just hung on doorknobs and storm-door latches, imprinted with the proper address of the right polling location for those particular voters.
To no avail: with over 74% turnout Ward 4 went 88% for the president on November 6, Ohio closed the deal, and Romney conceded before midnight in a form of early voting – with his feet, out of the battleground states and out of his misbegotten place in American political history.