The whole family went canvassing Saturday on a semi-rural stretch south of town. Sarah had been assigned this cluster of 30 or so residences in this area and handed a google map with the addresses highlighted. These were people whom the campaign had reason to suspect of being undecided or wavering or persuadable. We parked the minivan in the Laminated Tops store parking lot (closed on Sat.) and hauled the girls on the wagon. We’d brought along coloring books and markers, and had stopped at Kroeger’s on the way for a bag of Tootsie Roll pops to dole out to the girls for good behavior bribe the girls.
Our first pass was in a little mini… not sure what to call it, a tiny subdivision? Basically just a big driveway off the main road with 5 or 6 multifamily apartments. My guess is that these places might rent for $500-600 a month, I’m not really sure. Not fancy at all, with a touch of trailer-park feeling, but in a way, nice; one good thing about living here, if you want to go this way, is that you can have this kind of rural existence with a forest off your back yard and still be a 10-15 drive to town.
Anyway, the first name on our list turned out to have a big POW-MIA poster in the window, so we weren’t hopeful, and he didn’t really want to talk. Wasn’t rude, but did not want to tell us anything about his political views (part of the task here is to mark down whether the person is leaning toward Obama or McCain, and what political issues matter most to them).
The next guy was a sleepy-faced 22 year old, maybe, with no shirt on. He was friendly, especially when he saw Celie and Iris — he mentioned that he was a twin too. He told us that he was probably leaning toward Obama because his sense was that Obama is “probably more for the working man.” He is a construction worker and a member of the union; he sort of apologized for his appearance and mentioned that he had a shoulder injury and had slept in late because of the medication. He did not seem to know much about the election; when I said something about Biden, I wasn’t sure if he knew who I meant. I mentioned a factoid about McCain planning to give the top 1% wealthiest members of the population an over $100,000 tax cut, and that seemed to make an impression. Overall, talking to this guy felt useful if only to associate some friendly local faces with the Obama campaign (Celie and Iris probably helped). Also, we left him with two voter registration forms which he seemed happy to have.
There was one other encounter like that – a nice mom type whose very friendly 3-year-old daughter was eager to invite Celie and Iris in to play in her bedroom. I missed this conversation, but S. says that the woman explained that her husband is McCain all the way, much of her own family are Obama supporters, and she’s kind of wavering or in between. We were excited to hear that she said she was turned off by the bitterness and rancor of the RNC. Sarah’s strategy was to stress what Obama will do for the middle class and on economic issues and to point people towards the campaign website. She commented that it suddenly felt very useful to self-identify as a Middle-Class Mom (probably better than an oil painter and hugelkultur practitioner, for this purpose).
We found it kind of surprising to witness how many people are truly undecided. We talked with a friendly man who explained that he and his wife generally wait until the last week or so to decide. I wasn’t sure if this indicated a basically personality-based approach to the decision — deciding which candidate they feel most personally comfortable about — or whether it was more a sign of a set of political beliefs that is truly squarely in the center, whatever that means. Sarah was struck by how determining family seemed to be; many of the people we spoke to immediately made reference to what their husband or wife or siblings thought, and that really seemed to be the most important single factor.
A lot of people were not home and I can’t imagine this little stint was hugely meaningful, but it felt good to have put a bit of sweat equity into the campaign (dragging that wagon is hard work!)
I’d urge everyone to consider doing some canvassing. Remember, there are people in your neighborhoods (or nearby) who may barely know who the candidates are, or know little beyond what their spouse told them, and people who will not bother registering if someone doesn’t physically hand them a form. Just call the Obama campaign and say you can do some Neighbor-to-Neighbor canvassing.