Friday, November 30, 2012

Small and Mighty (2.0)

The Russell Library is proud to announce that several small collections are now open for research. The newly-opened collections include:

Jane Webb Smith Collection of "Baldy" Caricature
Paul Broun, Sr. Collection of Jimmy Carter Presidential Campaign Memorabilia
Wood and Associates Political Advertising Material
W. Frank Barron Papers
Cedar Creek Civic Association Records
Georgia Public Policy Foundation Records
Charles L. Bowden Papers

The Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies is open for research Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 4:30pm, with the exception of University holidays. For more information, please visit http://www.libs.uga.edu/russell/ or call (706) 542-5788.

Post by Tammi Kim, Processing Assistant for Arrangement & Description Unit, Russell Library

Monday, November 26, 2012

Bittersweet Goodbye

Note: In the post below Russell Library student worker/blogger Beatrice Pollard recounts the time she spent interning for the Obama presidential campaign in 2012, as well as how she spent election night 2012. The opinions expressed here do not in any way represent the views of the Russell Library, which is non-partisan in its mission and activities. This post is simply meant to reflect on the experiences of a college student on the campaign trail.

Like many great goodbyes, the end of a campaign is never quite as predictable as you think. When I reached  the end of the 2012 Presidential campaign trail I was left mostly in a state of uncertainty. On election night as the results flashed across the big screen, I think I felt a little bit of everything -- both happy for the experience and sad it was over, anxious for the outcome and relieved to be finished with the phone calls and canvasing.  And, along with that anticipation came the fear of losing. I realized that I had just become a node in one of the largest, most effective grassroots networks that had reelected the President of the United States – that was a big feeling. For most of us on the ground, this is when it all came full circle, when we as a whole realized that this was bigger than us. Flashbacks to classes in U.S History, America’s revolutionary leaders came to mind as I recognized the cost for this hard fought civil right. In this election year  I mobilized my fellow citizens to participate in their right to vote.

While we all had our separate roles, in the final moments of the campaign we were working under a single heartbeat. After a while, “Fired up and ready to go” became more than a call to action used to motivate supporters, it was embedded in our hearts. The experiences I had working for a campaign this election season were the most valuable part of the process. Listening to stories from Georgians across the state, Atlanta to Augusta to more rural areas, showed me the true diversity that exists in the state population. And our group grew because of what we saw. The melting pot of people on the campaign all found a way to look past individual differences and connect through personal stories about what brought them out to support the President. We were real people working together. It was enough to believe that we as ordinary citizens making phone calls and knocking on doors were making a difference in determining the direction our country might take next. By the end of the summer our team had hosted numerous Get out the vote events and organized dozens of neighborhood teams around the state; that excitement spread and the people we met became dedicated to hosting their own events and getting the word out. We were able to rally Women for Obama, Hispanics for Obama and other diverse segments of the population into coming together as one big support group. Headquarters became busier and I watched as our enthusiasm spilled over into downtown Atlanta and the greater Athens area.

The final days of the campaign became increasingly busy as the race heated up, and I think for most of us the results of the debates and the increasingly close polling numbers were unexpected. But our team continued to work, canvassing neighborhoods, making more phone calls and taking road trips to the battleground states of North Carolina and Florida;  we were determined to make a difference.
I joined with my fellow Obama for America workers and Young Democrats of Athens to watch the election coverage at the Georgia Theater. To have contributed my blood, sweat, and tears for months, it was humbling to sit and watch the early returns, afraid my contribution wasn’t enough. We all sat watching, fixated on the screen as each state was called for Romney or Obama. The race appeared so close and we didn’t know what to expect. Nevertheless, decked out in our Obama pins and unyielding faith, our hopes rose as the numbers began to turn in our favor. In the end, our team helped to win those battle ground states. The biggest feat of all was Florida. Members of our Georgia team had spent dozens of weekends in the undecided state, forming neighborhood teams to talk to undecided voters. . I can’t forget the hours spent forgoing the Georgia-Florida football game festivities to canvass the Florida suburbs. And the phone calls – I’ll never forget the thousands of phone calls. But this was grassroots, and this was real. WE had a lot of reasons to be proud for the big win, but most of them were because we knew first-hand the hard work that goes into a campaign.

In any campaign, beyond all the glitz and the glamour there are real people making calls and logging in the data so we can make the calls again. Never once could I imagine how empowering it would be to have the opportunity to actively participate in election process. When I first signed up I was attracted to the glamour, but I left the experience humbled that someone from Augusta, Georgia could become a mechanism for change. I’ll carry the intimate conversations, the skills, and the optimism to any field I go into in the future. If you have the opportunity to give back to the community whether it is public service or campaigning – go do it. It won’t be the most financially rewarding, but it will definitely change your life.

Note: In the post below Russell Library student worker/blogger Beatrice Pollard recounts the time she spent interning for the Obama presidential campaign in 2012, as well as how she spent election night 2012. The opinions expressed here do not in any way represent the views of the Russell Library, which is non-partisan in its mission and activities. This post is simply meant to reflect on the experiences of a college student on the campaign trail.

Post by Beatrice Pollard, Student Worker/Blogger, Russell Library

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Election Day on the Ground in Athens, GA

Note: In the post below Russell Library student worker/blogger Lori Keong recounts how she and many of her fellow UGA students spent Election Day 2012. The opinions expressed by the variety of people Lori interviewed and gathered feedback from do not in any way represent the views of the Russell Library, which is non-partisan in its mission and activities. This post is simply meant to reflect on the way some students on our campus experienced the 2012 Election.   

On Election Day, after sending several texts to friends about their cable services, I lamented the fact that my roommates and I had chosen to skimp on cable TV. Instead, as my roommate and I cozied up around the space heater with a laptop and a bowl of popcorn and as the US map was slowly dyed red and blue with votes rolling in, it was apparent that the race would be as close as recent polls had suggested.

Election Day was the summit of so many months of campaigning from both candidates and personal campaigning from the citizens who supported them. It finally drew a popular victor in candidate debates waged on issues like foreign policy, job creation and unemployment, taxes, healthcare and gay marriage.  Without quite the same oomph as the monumental 2008 election—it was more of a celebration of continuity than of new beginnings—but was still a great day to appreciate the rights that we have as American citizens, most importantly our right to vote.

On Election Day 2012, people rushed to the polls to cast their votes, if they had not already voted early or were voting absentee. Recently, my Facebook newsfeed has been littered with Instagram shots of people boasting peach stickers on their breast emblazoned with “I’m a Georgia voter!” 

After surveying my friends on Facebook before Tuesday, many said they would be spending their day at the polls and then going to class. Others said that they skipped class to vote, while even more dedicated citizens skipped class and traveled home to vote there. One friend joked that he was going to watch Facebook implode since he had already voted early, while another made this tongue-in-cheek comment: “I'm gonna spend the whole day figuring out which of my favorite candidates to vote for! I wish there was a way to elect ALL the candidates!” 

For many friends, it was their first time voting in the general election.  Most of us turned 18 after Obama’s first landslide sweep into office. The older I get since I turned 18, though, the more it becomes apparent to me how socially unacceptable it is to choose not to vote. In the college environment, people who don’t vote, for whatever reason, are openly shamed. “I don’t care which candidate you vote for,” said one of my roommates.  “Everyone should be voting. It’s your civic duty. That’s what I believe.”  Especially with the candidates being so close—even in Georgia, where Romney was expected to win by a large margin, numbers were tight between the two candidates—it seemed even more imperative to cast a vote.

Despite the ever more important role of voting in this close election, there were still many Americans who didn’t vote.  Of friends polled who didn’t register to vote, some said that it was a sign of their discontent with both candidates, others expressed ambivalence about the election, while one or two said that they would have voted Republican in a state that was going to swing that way anyways. 
 A report from the Center for the Study of the American Electorate put 2012 voter turnout at 57.5% of all eligible voters, compared to 62.3% who voted in 2008 and 60.4% who cast ballots in 2004. This year’s voter turnout, however, was still higher than in 2000, when the turnout rate was as low as 54.2%.

This year, the group estimated 126 million people voted in the election, meaning that as many as 93 million eligible citizens did not cast ballots. (Read more about it HERE).

For Election Day coverage, many friends went to the Georgia Theatre and Little Kings Shuffle Club downtown, or to the Tate Center on campus, to watch the results with the UGA Democrats and other organizations. “The girls in my apartment are hosting an election party Tuesday... the day after we host a Guy Fawkes party,” said one friend. Others had the same idea as me: settling in with a bowl of popcorn to watch the election results at home.

When it became apparent that Obama would win the election, my friends rushed back from a viewing party, with some celebrating and others merely accepting the news. Facebook did not implode, but filled with exclamations of relief, “told-you-so’s,” and some disappointment.

Just a few responses from my newsfeed, posted here:

“so the lesser of the two evils won. oh well. our loss that we don't have the good luck of living under ron paul's presidency.”

“Clear eyes. Full hearts. Four more years.”

“Very upset about who will be leading our country for the next four years.”

“Tonight we celebrate. Tomorrow we get back to work. Here's to all you world changers out there.”

“How "For the People" is our government anyway?”

What do the results of the election tell us, though?

A recent article, “The New America,” from CNN paints a good picture of the national atmosphere that rendered the results of this election.  The article noted how progressive the nation has become, as shown by the legalization of marijuana by two states, a record 20 women serving in the US Senate, and the record number of minorities being elected to Congress. According to CNN, the election shows that country is far less conservative than popular belief suggests. However, election results also show a continually fragmented electorate who are still divided on race despite a larger and more diverse population in the United States. (Read more HERE).  

For a larger map of how Election Day played out and people’s favorite moments, check out this Storify of Election Night: 2012 #ElectionDay Highlights http://sfy.co/eAvk  #storify #voting #polling

* In the post above Russell Library student worker/blogger Lori Keong recounts how she and many of her fellow UGA students spent Election Day 2012. The opinions expressed by the variety of people Lori interviewed and gathered feedback from do not in any way represent the views of the Russell Library, which is non-partisan in its mission and activities. This post is simply meant to reflect on the way some students on our campus experienced the 2012 Election.   

Post by Lori Keong, student worker/blogger, Russell Library