Oberlin Blogs

OOO Snap! Here's to Ohio, Obama, and Oberlin College

November 7, 2012

Paris Achenbach ’13

I was writing a paper in Mudd library on the afternoon of November 6th, 2012, when a frenzied Oberlin student bounded in and made an announcement.


My friend Deirdre and I stared at each other. "Shit," we both said. Fortunately we had both early-voted in Ohio to avoid the whole "Should I try to preserve my GPA and edit this paper that's due in an hour, or should I try to preserve the country by voting in one of the biggest swing states in America?" kind-of-dilemma. Still, this girl freaked me the heck out, and now I was stressed about the future state of America, on top of my stress involving my final paper on Robert Lowell's poem "For the Union Dead." Oy. Rough Tuesday.

Honestly, I had been thinking that Ohio would probably go red this election. I've lived in Oberlin for three years now, which is not a long time, but enough to notice abandoned businesses, foreclosed houses, empty croplands and a LOT of conservative political billboards and signs. There's not a whole lot of money floating around this state - or at least, not in Lorain County - and a lot of the economic issues of the state haven't gotten better, or have actually gotten worse.

A wooden barn sitting in a field of tall grass
An old barn along Lorain Road. Rural Ohio is beautiful but faces a lot of economic issues, especially around Lorain County.

A thick wire hanging in an abandoned factory
A crazy abandoned mill, or factory, a couple miles outside of Oberlin.

A close up of a soy bean crop
Soybeans are one of the major crops and around Oberlin; agriculture contributes $93.8 billion to Ohio's economy.

That's what really scared me - the fact that Obama promised change, and yet, I hadn't noticed this midwestern state change much since I've been at school here. Again, I haven't been here that long, not to mention I live in an outlier college town that has money; but I've sensed that the quality of life here in Ohio has not dramatically increased since Obama took presidency. And although I don't blame Obama for that, I figured a lot of Ohioans would probably not be jumping out of their pants at the idea of re-electing him. WHEREAS, the people who really wanted to see a change WOULD be motivated to cast their vote for Romney, and take the couple hours out of their day to go to the polls.

Fast-forward five hours, and I'm watching the election returns (with Deirdre and co.) on a giant projector at my friends' house down the street. Everyone's nervous and yelling at ABC and Democracy Now!'s livestream sites, which are frustratingly boring and kept freezing up. I had a bad feeling about the swing states, especially Ohio. And then, rather suddenly and anti-climactically, Jon Stewart announced it: Barack Obama won the election, and Ohio swung blue.

For a minute I didn't believe it. I could not believe it. There were really people out there, other than liberal Oberlin students, that had enough motivation to go to the polls and cast their vote for Obama?? My hipster friends and I weren't alone in our desire to elect a Democrat?!? We were all shocked; some of us began shouting gleefully, others (myself included) began crying, though not quite as uncontrollably as in 2008, when I was seventeen and sobbed at the overwhelming notion of such a historical moment.

I had assumed this election would be the victim of the indifferent voter - someone who was vaguely unhappy with Obama's track record, but also distrusting of Romney's policies - who didn't have the motivation to get the polls and cast their vote (unlike a motivated angry conservative who felt VERY motivated to elect Romney). And yet, I was proven wrong: Ohio pulled through, and the people of this state humbled my cynical beliefs.

President Barack Obama reading the book Where the Wild Things Are to a group of children. He is making a silly face and his collared shirt is pulled up to his ears. First Lady Michelle Obama sits next to him, making a silly face and holding a microphone to The Presidents mouth
That's right: America re-elected this guy. Amazing.

So Obama had another four years as America's first African American president, we avoided the Rompacolypse that I had so intensely feared, I finished my paper on Robert Lowell and so had Deirdre, and pretty much every single Oberlin student was FREAKING OUT. No wonder what happens next:

1. Shouting and jumping (looking something like this)
1.Numerous bottles of wine
2.Running and skipping down North Professor Street in the freezing cold, all the while singing "WE ARE NEVER EVER EVER ELECTING ROMNEY AS PREZZIE" (inspired by Taylor Swift of course) (though I realize in retrospect, it doesn't really fit rhythm-wise) (oh well)
3.High-fiving approximately 400 people in Tappan Square who are all crying and screaming
4.Witnessing the most hilarious crowd-surfing attempts in Tappan Square's gazebo OF MY LIFE
5.Free PBR
6.More shouting and losing voices
7.Dancing to the percussion band (where did they come from??? how did they have their instruments? did they rehearse for this night in case Obama did win? someone please explain)
9.Drunk dials to my other drunken liberal friends and repeating over and over "THIS IS THE BEST DAY OF MY LIFE"

Etc. You get the picture.

This was my first presidential election I could vote in, AND I got to vote in Ohio - it was almost too exciting to handle. By the end of the night I collapsed, utterly exhausted from the stress and excitement and elation of the day. Before I fell asleep, though, I wrote this entry in my journal (replicated in its entirety):


1.If America can re-elect Obama, there is hope for mankind.
2.Oberlin is the best place in the world to celebrate a major political victory.
3.Twitter, Facebook, and the Internet as a whole will be a) the demise of television, and b) the demise of my life and ability to concentrate, they are so addicting.


An orange sunset over Lake Erie
A sunset on Lake Erie over the summer. Here's to you, Ohio!

Responses to this Entry

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and great pictures! Like your Dad, I love you past Pluto and back again.

Posted by: Jamma on November 8, 2012 8:31 PM

Thank you, Paris! As an Obie myself ('02), I can imagine and appreciate the euphoria that was erupting all over campus. To have been in Ohio, let alone Oberlin, during this historic win, must have been incredible. Go Obama, and go Oberlin!

Posted by: rebecca ducore on November 9, 2012 11:13 AM

"Oy. Rough Tuesday." Well put.

Posted by: Smilin' Dave on November 9, 2012 11:20 AM

Tuesday was really rough. I ended up over-caffeinating and making it even worse, but once Obama won, the party in Tappan made everything better again. I wasn't even drinking and I still had no idea what was going on in Tappan, it was that amazing. I even managed to get to my morning class on time the next day, that is how happy I was.

Posted by: Emily on November 9, 2012 12:31 PM

Well said! And your photographs are gorgeous.

Posted by: Tess on November 9, 2012 12:34 PM

Sounds like a wonderful celebration! I'm now living in another swing state (Virginia) that has left its Confederate, Jim Crow, Southern Strategy days behind and voted Dem in the past two consecutive presidential elections. It's so nice to read this account of Oberlin and Lorain County, Ohio, during the 2012 election.

In 2004, I was living in Oberlin and teaching at the college. I, like many other local voters, waited in line in the parking lot outside the Oberlin public library for 4 hours--in the cold and rain--in order to cast my vote. There were some would-be voters who, after already waiting 2 or 3 hours, had to leave before they got the chance to vote because they had to go to their shift at work. Some Oberlin College students came, bringing pizza, water, umbrellas and plastic tarps, and encouraged everyone to "stay in line!" (This was in the days before social media like Twitter, with its trending #StayInLine hashtag that kept everyone's spirits up on Election Day 2012 earlier this week.) In the '04 election, Karl Rove executed GOP campaign GOTV micro-targeting to a science in Ohio, and the Ohio Secretary of State (a GOPer) made sure that there was not enough voting equipment in high Democratic voting areas. Students at Kenyon College waited in line *8 hours* to vote. Ohio went to Dub-ya by a very narrow margin, thus winning Bush the election. Progressives were deflated.

In the '04 election post-mortem, Dems calculated that if we'd just drummed up a few more votes in each Ohio precinct, Kerry could have won the state and the presidency. (And that '04 election had consequences: think of all those who died in the war as a result of Bush's policies.) 10 votes per precinct is not insurmountable; it's just a ground game that needs to be honed. Fortunately, the Dem candidate in '08 and '12, Barack Obama--the much-derided "community organizer"--understood this task, and the Dems built a mighty, well-oiled, volunteer-powered GOTV machine that's brought us the results we've seen this week.

Prepare for a lot of traffic: the Washington Post has a link to this blog.

Posted by: Former Oberlin Professor on November 9, 2012 12:36 PM

Great post! As an Oberlin 1984 grad, I've often wondered about how Oberlin was experiencing this year's campaign and election with all of the focus that there has been on Ohio as the key, and had wished I'd kept my voter registration address there instead of in California (I actually live in France now). You write wonderfully and made me feel like I could really picture both the angst of not knowing and the total jubilation and craziness of Tappan Square. Many thanks!

Posted by: Daniel from Paris on November 9, 2012 2:50 PM

I grew up in South-Eastern Ohio (Appalachia). I was so very proud of Ohioans in the 2008 election. This go round, I visited home before the election and was sad to witness the overwhelming number of "End the War on Coal," "Fire Obama" political signs. I, like you, was sure that Ohio would swing red in this presidential election. I was delighted when I saw the final vote count and, once again, proud of Ohioans. There is no question, however, that Ohio and its citizens are suffering with unemployment and a lack of hope for future jobs. Ohioans are hard working and resourceful. I feel that the Obama administration must assume a strong role in providing education and job training to Ohioans and, further, provide incentives to corporations to return jobs to and create new jobs in the heartland. There is much work to be done in restoring Ohio's infrastructure and prosperity. There is also much work to be done in restoring Ohioans' hopes and providing opportunities to young people so they can stay in Ohio to contribute to a bright future for themselves and the state. In this election Ohioans and the nation have placed their trust in President Obama. For your sake and the sake of young people throughout our nation, may the President's work be focused, supported, and successful.

Posted by: Gary Fabian on November 9, 2012 2:53 PM

Hi there, and thank the Lord Almighty!!

Got a link to your blog off the wash post, and love your enthusiasm. I am in San Francisco, and did not see so much as one poilitical ad this cycle. So was hoping and praying that motivated intelligent people like yourself would get to the polls and encourage their fellow Ohioans to think clearly and do likewise!! Congratulations on Saving Democracy!! Greece is in trouble, but her daughter, the US, may just make it yet!!

Now, where did you get that picture of Barry being goofy. I LOVE IT! Was he doing something for kids for halloween???

Best Wishes.

Posted by: Peter on November 9, 2012 5:11 PM

Paris, like Peter I came over from your dad's column at the Washington Post and enjoyed your post very much.

As an Ohio State grad ('80) and a cousin to an Oberlin grad (2000), hooray for Ohio doing the right thing. Unfortunately I moved to North Carolina which did the right thing in 2008 before slipping back into the grip of the Red South. Perhaps I should come back home?

Best of luck at Oberlin. My cousin loved it there very much.

Posted by: Karen on November 9, 2012 9:34 PM

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