Tuesday, September 16, 2008

confessions of an obama campaign volunteer

Not sure if you've noticed, but I've been really fired up about the elections lately. I've been having a hard time getting over all of McSame's lies in his commercials which seem to air every 10 minutes and just Palin in general (there is nothing about the woman that I admire and please don't give me the "hooray for working mothers" speech because people seem to forget that Hillary was a working mother too and yet the two women have nothing in common).

So, after stewing in my own anger over the last few days, I finally decided to do something positive with my negative energy--I volunteered for the Obama campaign.

To give you an idea of why this was important to me, I should preface my story with the following:

I have never donated to a political campaign before.
I have never volunteered for a political campaign before.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into before I actually went out and did it. But all nervousness and fear of any less-than-perfect experiences in political volunteerism aside, I rushed over to the Arlington campaign headquarters last week to do whatever they needed me to do.

They needed me to make some calls. I give good phone (take your minds out of the gutter) so I felt comfortable giving it a shot.

I sat at a table of fellow Obamabots (hey McSame/Vagina '08 supporters! you wanna use that word as an insult? well, I'm taking it back!): two older women and a gentleman with an ObamaPride shirt on. ObamaPride boy was clearly a long time Dem and had lots of useful information about past elections. One of the older women, let's call her NotFunny, kept on saying under her breath between calls, "This election is not funny any more." I don't remember it being funny in the first place, but NotFunny was so clearly angry about all the lies coming from the McSame/Vagina camp that she just had to do something. Apparently, she had been volunteering for weeks.

The other woman has a special place in my politically cynical heart. I'll call her MyHero because she is a DC resident and stay at home mom who had seen one too many negative McSame ads that day and, after watching one, she got up, looked for the local VA Obama headquarters and metro-ed over to offer a hand. When I showed up at 5 pm, she had already been at the phone bank for 4 hours. When I left several hours later, she was still there.

MyHero showed me the ropes and ObamaPride fed me the information. And while I had a script to follow, I felt more comfortable giving it a personal touch. Not every call went well. I had a couple of hang ups the minute I revealed myself to be a volunteer for Obama. However, the tons of people I spoke to who were passionately supporting Obama more than made up for the random hang ups.

Several calls stand out to me now. There were a number of people I called who had previously identified as Democrats who were now unsure of whom to vote for. They were all women and were all pro-Palin. Seeing as that Palin is anything but remotely liberal, I kinda questioned their dedication to the party to begin with. But for whatever reason, they were confused because McSame had thrown Palin into the mix.

I reminded them that the election should be about the issues, not the impressions candidates give. I tried to answer their questions to the best of my ability. And I hoped I helped them come to a conclusion they felt comfortable with. I'd hate for anyone to vote for someone because they can relate to them personally and completely ignore the issues for which they stand. What can I say? I'm an idealist.

My final call was by far the best. The person answered the phone by saying, "What are you trying to sell me?" I was shocked, and stuttered, "Uh, nothing. I'm not asking for money." She replied in a very unfriendly manner, "What do you want?" And then I gave her my speech, saying who I was and what I had hoped she would do. With MyHero looking on, the caller replied, "Well, are you going to thank me for my donation to the campaign?" I thanked her profusely despite the fact that I didn't know she had donated until she mentioned it.

And then, her tone changed. She began to tell me how frustrated she is with the dirty campaign McSame's running and how she just had to donate (several times) because she was so mad. We talked for several minutes about what we did for a living and where we were from and where we went to college and what to do in Arlington for fun. Turns out, she is from Southern California and had attended USC (eek! a fellow Trojan!). She had recently moved to Arlington and was missing big city life. And she was livid about the elections and wanted to do anything she could to get Obama in office.

I convinced her to come in and volunteer with me in the phone bank and to canvass Alexandria over the weekend. The call ended much better than it began.

After that call, it was hard to leave but Jesse was waiting for me outside. I said my good byes to MyHero, ObamaPride, and NotFunny and told all of them, "I'll be back again soon."

I've convinced my assistant at work to volunteer for the campaign and she canvassed this past weekend. I've already signed up for various activities like phone banking, translating, reaching out to Latino voters, and post card making. Yeah, it's a lot of time but it's so worth it.

I'm fired up about this election and I feel as though I finally have the power to do something about it.

This may be my last post of the week. I'm leaving for the US Conference on AIDS and will be out of town for until Sunday. If I don't respond to any comments right away, I will do so as soon as I can.


Lexiloo said...

Good for you, getting involved with something so important! I worked on several campaigns during college, so I know just how awful cold calling strangers can be!

I'll be so happy when this election is over. Really, it's making me crazy. I'm not wild about either candidate at all, to be honest.

I like the Canadians approach- their campaigns are 36 days long, no ifs, ands or buts. The Prime Minister calls the election when he/she wants to and it ends 36 days from that date (I ran a campaign in Ontario in 2004), so nothing gets dragged out forever like ours do.

I hope you enjoy this experience, and also, your conference this week :)

Anonymous said...

Right after I emailed you last night I got an Obama emailed and am not signed up to go knock on doors this weekend. I'm stoked. Thanks for the inspiration!

C L said...

I'm volunteering this week too... and I'm so mad about the election, I alternate between being furious and thinking "this is election isn't funny" to laughing hysterically at things the Republicans say.

Better mad than indifferent!!!!!

Cyndy said...

There is a fundraising cabaret-concert at the Atlas Theatre on H Street this coming Saturday for the Obama campaign which features noted singer Steve Washington and the Doug Elliott Orchestra (a 7 piece jazz band). Tickets are only $35 and there are plenty of cool places to go on H street after the concert. Please visit www.ACONCERTFORCHANGE.org for more information.

Generation Next said...

I'm glad you had a good experience and were motivated to volunteer. I'm not good on the phone with strangers, so I don't phonebank, but I've done it before for Planned Parenthood. Kudos to you.

anOCgirl said...

OH LORDY. greetings from florida. I fly to a whole other state and then I get mentioned on dcblogs.com! Sorry about just now responding to comments.

lexiloo: whoa, those are some short elections. if that happened here, we'd have far less information burn out. let me know if there's anything i can do to help you with your vote (of course, i'm just going to tell you to vote for obama, but i've got good reasons why!)

instatick: you are the coolest little political activist! keep spreading the word, chica! you're doing a great job

CL: i've calmed down quite a bit since the selection of palin and instead of being mad all the time, i alternate between anger and laughter too. you gotta cope with this crazy election somehow, right?

cyndy: thanks for the info. if you ever want me to write about a specific obama event, just shoot me an email and i'd be happy to use the blog to promote the event.

generation next: thanks! volunteering is fun and good for the soul!