In the beginning, it was new. My friend Barack was a new kind of candidate, and it was natural he would have a new kind of campaign, run by his friend David, who would, in turn, become my friend. We met when Barack came to Houston just before the Texas primary last March and gave a speech “open to everyone” at the Toyota Center, Houston’s downtown basketball arena.
The only catch was that you had to have a ticket, and the tickets were only available by contacting Barack’s presidential website, and they were going fast. I raced to the website—by then I was deep into my Obamania--and managed to glean two, one for my son and one for me. I am pretty sure that my relationship with David began very soon after that.
I voted for Obama because I trust him to make the right decisions for me and my country; if I were interested in doing it myself I would have run for office.
David is, of course, David Plouffe, Barack Obama’s campaign manager. I should also say that David and I are not exactly friends, just like Obama and I are not really friends. David is one of the geniuses who put together the email list of 13 million supporters who contributed part of the astounding $600 million raised for Obama. The transition staff is now trying to figure out what, exactly, to do with this vast network that the Baltimore Sun called one of the most valuable assets in American politics.
Just last weekend, there was a closed-door summit in Chicago about how to use these contacts in the future. I don’t mean to be a wet blanket—I wept along with everyone else on November 4th—but I am now filled with dread. To my BFF David, I would ask: please take me off the list.
It was great to be part of the campaign. After I went to the rally, David started sending me emails that addressed me by my first name, and were signed with his. Some were deliciously wonky: “Our projections show the most likely outcome of yesterday's elections will be that Hillary Clinton gained 187 delegates, and we gained 183. That's a net gain of 4 delegates out of more than 370 delegates available from all the states that voted. For comparison, that's less than half our net gain of 9 delegates from the District of Columbia alone.. .” David—that’s how he signed his emails—told me which states “we” were winning, which states “we” were losing, and, of course, where I could send money to help the cause. Virtually every email had a big red Donate button at the bottom.
As the campaign went on, I also heard from Barack, Michelle, Joe, and my new friends at Move-On.org. But it was David who wrote almost every day. When “we” won on November 4, Barack and David thanked me via email, and I thought our relationship had reached its happy end. I was ready to let them run the country, while I went back to my life.
But that isn’t what happened. David has become sort of like a boyfriend I broke up with who keeps trying to be friends. He keeps writing. And writing. “Watch the video of Barack’s announcement and learn about the national security team,” suggested a message that arrived soon after Hillary’s appointment. Then, a few days later, David invited me to become a Change is Coming organizer: “On December 13th and 14th, supporters are coming together in every part of the country to reflect on what we've accomplished and plan the future of this movement. Your ideas and feedback will be collected and used to guide this movement in the months and years ahead.”
Just a few days after that, around December 3, David invited me to shell out $15 for a commemorative “Obama holiday mug.” The money was supposed to go to the DNC, whose resources “made this movement possible.” When I asked my son if he was still getting the Obama emails, he looked at me like I was nuts. “God no, I blocked him back in March,” he said.
So here’s what I would say to David and those staffers trying to figure out what to do with their mailing list of 13 million: I am excited about making change, but like many of the people who supported Barack, I now have to go back to living my own life. I understand the seriousness of purpose behind this enterprise. If you need me to help mobilize for a nuclear attack or to send money to victims of global natural disasters, I’m yours. But the fact is, I am already organized in my own community. In the last few months I have helped with hurricane cleanup in the wake of Ike, I have helped beat back an effort on the part of the school board to destroy my son’s school, I have contributed, ambivalently, to an effort to continue gentrifying my neighborhood. In the meantime, I am underwater holding onto my job and trying to get my son into a college we probably can’t afford.
For these reasons, I don’t need to know—immediately-- what kind of dog Barack is thinking about, or what kind of sandwich Hillary is thinking about getting in the state department cafeteria. I can read about it on the web, see it on cable, or even study one of my rapidly dying newspapers. I voted for Obama because I trust him to make the right decisions for me and my country; If I were interested in doing it myself, I would have run for office.
David, don’t worry. We can still be friends; I’ll be here when you need me. But now, I need you and Barack to do something for me: be the change I want to see in the world.
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Mimi Swartz is executive editor of Texas Monthly, and the author, with Sherron Watkins, of Power Failure: The Inside Story of the Collapse of Enron. She has been a staff writer at Talk and the New Yorker.