Today, for the first time, I walked the streets of North San Jose and knocked on doors for the Bernie 2016 campaign. A few years ago, if you told me that I would be spending my free time doing this, I would have laughed out loud. Sure, I probably stayed more politically interested than most people of my age group, but nothing to the level of those weird people who were actually volunteering to support these detached, pandering political campaigns. Working on your weekends- for free?
To be honest, though, the bigger issue for me is that this kind of stuff is not really my style. I can chill in my apartment complex for the whole weekend and not feel bad about it. Just like many other Americans, when some random person knocks on my door I get somehow annoyed. It’s natural in our society, to feel so entitled to your personal space that you are offended at random folks knocking on your door. Unless, of course, they are delivery pizza. All jokes aside, though, this was a very nerve-wracking thing to do. Would I be met with a wall of rejection and indignation? Am I really helping at all, or should I leave this to those who enjoy this kind of stuff more?
I’m glad I did this today. Admittedly, there were more rejections than welcomes; but the positive moments definitely outweighed the negative. This was also a huge reality check for me, about the way people interact with each other in person these days. As a tech worker, I am often completing entire projects via email, and for all the good the internet has done for us, it has made us less able to simply deal with each other in person.
My partner was Nat, an Arab-American retiree who supports Bernie because she “wanted to give the best future to the young.” She was brand new like me, and concerned that people would be turned off by her accent. She was also scared of people’s’ pets, which made things pretty funny because she would stay away/out of their houses if they had a hyper pet; and there are a TON of pets out here. Nonetheless, she jumped into the fray with me, and she was a fantastic person to meet.
The neighborhood that we walked appeared pretty wealthy, so I became concerned that we would run into a lot of Clinton and republican supporters. We were told to expect a pro-Bernie sentiment, but it turns out that most of the pro-Bernie people in this neighborhood were actually away at college. Therefore, most of the people who answered the door were the parents of our intended targets. If you ask a young Bernie supporter who their parents support, it really feels like they say Clinton pretty often. That was definitely the case, as most people were 45+ years old, and sometimes seemed to turn their noses up as we explained who we were.
We talked to one grandmother who was very reluctant to let us speak with her grandson. When we explained that we were with Bernie and we wanted to make sure he was registered to vote, she went crazy. I asked her why she hated Bernie. She vehemently told us that Bernie was “nuts” and that “it’s supposed to be about the party, not the person.” We offered listening ears as she explained that we were almost as bad as republicans, and she doesn’t let republicans in her house. Eventually, a younger fellow appeared behind her, with a dejected look on his face, and he started to wave us off: “You guys might as well move onto your next place, this isn’t going to be good…” so we left. She didn’t stop yelling at us until we were beyond the driveway.
That was a fun story, but that was an extreme. Most of the parents were polite, even if they had an expression that suggested this wasn’t worth their time. We had one pro-Clinton father who acted very concerned that his son might be supporting Bernie. We had another who was actually happy that his son was politically interested. All of the politics stuff is interesting, of course, but I became sort of fascinated with just how awkward everyone is. I think people expect themselves to be more politically-minded than they are, so when you try to engage them in substantive conversation, they recoil at the notion of ‘explaining themselves.’ We asked these people what Clinton policies attracted them to the candidate, and not a single one had an answer that didn’t fall into one of these buckets:
- They think Clinton is more electable
- They want to see a female president before they go
Even though most doors were either answered by Clinton supporters, or nobody at all, when we found Berners it was always great. I got to register a young lady named Danielle, so she can vote in her first election. We came to that house looking for her sister, who was at work, but when Danielle heard who we were, I saw her light up. She wanted to know how she could vote for Bernie, and she invited us in. Nat stayed outside because she had a hyper dog (^_^). I sat with Danielle, helped her fill out her paperwork, and explained all of her voting options. If just one person is a voter now, because I got off my butt today, I’m happy with that.
But I also had a chance to help Briana, who checked her voter registration and noticed that she had been mysteriously changed to republican. We got a new registration done so that she can support her candidate. Also on our path today was Howard, who said he was a lifelong republican but the letdown is just too huge this year. Clinton is the obvious choice for money-first republicans, but Howard was different. He assumed that Clinton was the better candidate, but I listened to him and I learned that his son was in the Marine reserves. He knew that a Clinton presidency means a higher chance of his son going to way. With a veteran there to bring up the issue in person, he decided he cared a great deal about that. Another registration complete. One other reasonable ‘Clinton-dad’ told us that he admired Bernie for staying in, and sticking to the high road. I’m glad he wasn’t fooled by the recent media propaganda about the rigged NV convention.
Canvassing is not the kind of thing I would consider a fun time. Despite the great feeling of accomplishment, I have to admit that it can be hard to keep a smile on after hours of walking up to, and away from, random residences. I suggested to Nat that she would be better suited to phone-banking, since she was already shy, but the pet problem was probably too much. This isn’t for everyone and I wouldn’t expect everyone to do it. I love the people who at least donate to the campaign- they fund the resources we volunteers need. Many volunteers contribute phone calls and text messages (which I mostly do); or they do data entry. I’ve interacted with so many insightful and interesting people in the past few months. After our first “win” today, we felt empowered, and no amount of rain, fatigue, or pro-Clinton finger-wagging brought us down. If you can find just a tiny bit of motivation to try this once, I would recommend it. Not specifically for a politician, but for any cause that you really support.
There is limited time before the primary election here in California, and that will most likely be the final determining factor in this Democratic nomination fiasco. If we come out and VOTE and swing this pledged delegate count back where it should be, the corrupt superdelegates will face a hard task in maintaining their blanket Clinton support. California is HUGE in the process, despite the fact that Clinton has shown utter disregard for us by declaring herself the winner already. But regardless of what happens in June and July, this movement must continue. We must get money out of politics. I’m not walking these streets for corporations/Hillary though- so the Democrats need to decide on which side of history they wish to be.
“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” -Dale Carnegie