the kerry phone banks

Tonight was my first night working the phones for Senator Kerry. It felt good to be doing something concrete after so many years of just complaining about things to people on-line who, to a great degree, probably share my view of the current administration. So, I just walked into the local office of the Democratic Party and volunteered. After a fifteen-minute tutorial on persuasive communications, and a quick run-through of the script, I was handed a file, given a pencil, and shoved toward a phone. Unfortunately for me, the file Id inherited was from a rural part of Michigan some thirty minutes from here.

My first call, right off the bat, was to a man who said that he was only interested in one issue the rights of the unborn. As I didnt have much to say on that issue, I said, Well, the two issues that brought me to the Kerry campaign are the war in Iraq and the economy. I understand that youre passionate about abortion, but are there perhaps other issues that youre considering this year, like the loss of a quarter million jobs in our state alone? He thought about it for a moment and then said that, yes, there was something else he cared a great deal about – gay marriage. Knowing I wasnt going to get anywhere, I decided to cut my losses, thank him for his time, and move on. It was with some degree of dread that I noticed that my next three calls were all to people in the same small town that shared his same last name. (Im happy to report that one of the women in that family, who confided in me that she was a bit of a black sheep, planned to vote for Kerry, and that her son did too.)

note: Speaking with this first fellow, I was reminded of this person that I found out about yesterday while reading Metafilter.

Fortunately, the calls got easier and easier to make as I honed my pitch and got more comfortable with the material. The more I personalized the pitch, the better I did. I found that I did particularly well with young women, who, more often that not, were willing to hear me out, even if they didnt disagree. (I was envious of the woman working the phone next to me, who had a list of only un-married women to contact.) I think I may have actually convinced one or two uncommitted voters who were leaning toward Bush to lean toward Kerry. The things that really seemed to work, at least in the small communities that I was calling, were Kerrys pledge to stop rewarding American businesses who were sending jobs oversees and Kerrys newly announced goal to get America out of Iraq in four years time. I had one young woman, who was pro-Bush going into our conversation, saying, At least Kerry has a plan, by the time we said goodbye. That was the highlight of my evening.

I suspect that Ill get more of the same when I go back for my next shift, more people like the woman today who just said flatly, My familys always been Republican and always will be, and more people hanging up on me. Thats OK though. Its worth As for the woman who just said that she was a Republican, that was probably the most frustrating call because she refused to even say what the issues were that she cared about. When she said, Im voting Republican because thats how my familys always voted, I told her that I wouldnt have called myself a Democrat until I looked objectively at what Bush was doing to our country. And, I told her, I wasnt convinced that the Republican party of today was the same Republican party that her family voted for when she was young. I brought up the deficit and the rollback of environmental safeguards as examples. Still nothing. She was polite. She listened. But she just wouldnt budge from her, Im a Republican stance. When I asked her what she cared about or what she thought of the state of our country, she told me that it just didnt matter to her. I could accept, begrudgingly, the opinions of the man who said that gay marriage was more important than North Korean nuclear missile, but I just couldnt accept this woman saying that she refuses to think about it.

The good news is, it all might be an academic exercise at this point in Michigan anyway. In the past few weeks, as the rest of the country has started to shift toward Bush, that wasnt the case in Michigan, at least not so much. We stayed on the Kerry side, and, now, analysts are saying that me might be a lock, a sure thing. Its apparently become so obvious that the group Americans Coming Together, a progressive political grassroots movement like MoveOn, just decided to pack up all their operations in Michigan and shift their resources to Ohio, a more swinging swing state. Heres a quote from the Detroit Free Press on the move:

Americans Coming Together (ACT), the political fund-raising group behind high-profile rock concerts meant to increase turnout for Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, is closing all 10 of its offices in Michigan and reassigning most of its 100 staff members to other battleground states.

The shift comes as polls show Kerry still holding a lead ranging from 4 to 6 percentage points over President George W. Bush in Michigan, but with Kerry trailing in other states considered must-wins for the Democrat.

My plan is to keep working anyway. We cant afford to lose Michigan. If the numbers keep moving in Kerrys favor though, Im thinking about heading down to Ohio in late October for a few days.

OK, its my turn to bathe the baby, so I have to go Goodnight my invisible friends.

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