Walking a Beat For Obama
Grass root politicking can be pretty grim.
Last Election Day, I decided I ought to put the rest of me where my mouth is and volunteered to do a little something for the Obama campaign. I figured I’d be in a room with a bunch of fresh-faced college kids working the telephones.
I was given a list of registered Democrats and sent out to go door-to-door in the Richmond Hill section of Stamford. It’s a low-income neighborhood. Very low income.
One of my neighbors told me the next day that if you hear a new story about Stamford and gang-related violence, this is the area they are talking about.
I can’t say I was scared. It was morning and from what little I know about gang members they are not morning people. And since I’m here to tell the tale today, I can say it was healthy for me psychologically to spend a few hours seeing how the other half lives. Or third or quarter or whatever it may be.
In fact, the hardest part of my day was the wardrobe crisis. The Obama campaign is apparently very hip, but I’m not hip at all. I have a Starfleet Academy decal on my car. And I knew I couldn’t try to be hip because no one is less hip that an unhip guy trying to be hip. I don’t even know if it’s still hip to say hip.
I went with a sweater and a tie.
No one I saw while doing my rounds looked like me. But then again, Obama doesn’t look like me. Well, maybe he’d look like me if I were black. And taller. And better-looking.
It was raining, too. And most of the time door buzzers didn’t work or apartment numbers weren’t marked. And I did a lot of trudging up the back stairs of buildings trying to find the person on my list.
Most people weren’t home. Many were no longer living at the address on my list. Some wouldn’t answer the door, just shouting out in English or Spanish they weren’t interested. Sometimes I would hear a television on but my knock went unanswered. But I told myself that if the situation were reversed and I saw a white guy in a tie walking around with a clipboard, I’d figure he was a bill collector or working for the INS.
I was buoyed by the thought of me doing my teeny-tiny bit for democracy and that if in the course of a few hours I could remind half a dozen people to vote or tell them where their polling place was then this was worthwhile. And thousands of people doing this really do make a difference.
As it turned out, Obama won Stamford by 89 votes. That sound you hear is me thumping my chest.
I spent the evening watching the returns come in, switching between the news networks. Deciding which one to watch was my hardest decision all day. I may be getting this wrong, but Wolf Blitzer kept saying CNN had the “best political team on television.” MSNBC said it had the “best political team in the business.” And a guy from Fox said they had “the best political team . . .ever.”
That’s some pretty heady stuff. CNN titles their election coverage “Ballot Bowl.” I find it troubling that someone somewhere is actually drawing a paycheck for coming up with that one. How about “Campaign Sturm und Drang?” And how far can we be from “Election Erection . . . brought to you by Cialis?”
I gotta say that, breathless news reporters aside, it was a worthwhile day for me. The last time I did anything for a political candidate other than write a check was in the days when I wouldn’t think twice about having cold pizza and beer for breakfast.
In spite of having voted for the winner of a presidential election only twice in my life, I still think our system works pretty well.
Democracy in action. Grim, yes. But still highly recommended.
February 11, 2008