I don’t want to hide my political leanings here – politics is more a part of my life these days, so I want to share it. And I certainly hope that you’ll take any of my political ranting as an invitation to express your opinions here, too. This is all to say that last weekend, I made the trek to Nevada to volunteer for the Obama campaign. And here’s how that went.
Day 1: Smooth Jazz
On Friday, I set off for Las Vegas with the Obama campaign on my mind. Obviously, I was not the only one, as most of the NPR coverage had to do with the election, and I saw a number of cars with Obama/Biden stickers on my way out of town. In LA, these stickers are rather common. But as I headed east, somewhere near the Nevada border, I saw my first ‘red’ car, if you will – a minivan with a McCain/Palin sticker paired with a Yes on Prop 8 sticker. It’s unsettling to look at someone’s car and feel instantly like you wouldn’t have much in common with the person inside. I’d never write someone off, but to me, a vote for a ban on gay marriage is a vote to prevent someone else’s happiness. Many of my best friends are gay, so clearly that influences my position. But philosophically, I just don’t think that anyone has the right to make decisions for someone else about something as intimate as marriage.
But I digress, sort of. During my drive, I tried desperately to cling to the NPR station, but eventually I lost the signal, and station-surfed instead. It’s odd how little new music is on the radio, by the way. I mean, I love some vintage Janet Jackson as much as the next gal, but really, aren’t there thousands of artists out there making new music right now? Ah well. As I approached Las Vegas, I stopped on a station, shocked to actually hear an Obama ad! We never get those in California. And all I can really say about that is, I’m glad that the Obama campaign thinks they’ve got a shot at that crucial ‘smooth jazz’ vote…
Day 2: You say nev-ADD-a, i say nev-AWD-a…
In the morning, I met up with the Obama campaign folks at the spot I’d been emailed to go, and I learned that Nevadans say the name of their state, well, kinda like Sarah Palin would say it. Nev-ADD-a. No open ‘ah.’ I actually never found myself needing to say it to an actual Nevadan, but I’ve been trying to say it this way since. I don’t want to be some snooty California outsider, after all. But every time I say it, I DO sound like Sarah Palin, or like I’m making fun or Minnesotans or something. Oh well.
The highlight – hmmm, lowlight? – of my first round of canvassing was running into (literally, they weren’t on my list or anything) a couple who, upon merely seeing my Obama sticker, told me: Obama is going to establish a welfare state, 40% of people don’t pay taxes, the quoted fact that only 5% of the country earns more than $250,000 is an absolute lie, that $250,000 isn’t that much anyway, and Obama just wants to give young people who don’t want to work hard a handout. Really. Being, well, kind of young myself, I just couldn’t let this one go. I wasn’t going to be able to talk these people down from their heroine-worship of Sarah Palin, but I felt compelled to inform these folks that I have never earned anything near that figure and have been working pretty hard, as have my other, young friends. Realizing that they’d offended me, they backed off on the ‘young people who don’t make $250,000 a year are lazy’ thing, and I tried to gently excuse myself while they were still raving about Palin’s gubernatorial experience. I smiled, wished them a great weekend, and told them we’d have to agree to disagree.
And I do, I mean, agree to disagree. That’s cool. But I very much dislike arguing with people who will insist on ignoring actual facts – all you have to do is look at census data to figure out how much of the country makes more than $250,000 per household. I looked it up on FactCheck.org right now, and it says, “Those reporting adjusted gross income of more than $250,000 to the IRS are projected to make up 2 percent of households next year, when the new president will take office.”
Luckily, my second round of canvassing was much better. I had a fantastic partner (who graduated from MSU, UM’s rival, years ago. See? Who says opposing sides can’t get along?) Not only did I meet quite a few Obama supporters who said they either already had or would vote early, but I met the dad of a family living in a tiny apartment with three kids who looked under the age of five, and he shook my hand and thanked me so much for volunteering for the campaign. Another 17-year-old boy literally chased after me after he heard me knocking on someone else’s door, asking me how he could register to vote so that next time, once he’s old enough, he can make sure he’s able to vote. He asked me if I had stickers, which I didn’t, unfortunately. I was really touched. I think however you feel about Barack Obama, you’ve got to believe that that kind of enthusiasm is good for democracy.
Day 3: Undecided
Sunday morning I went out for one last round. In knocking on something like 94 doors over the weekend (many of which, of course, were never opened at all), I only met one undecided voter. I’m actually really grateful to have gotten a chance to talk to her, not just because it seemed like she was leaning slightly (verrrry slightly) towards Obama by the time I left, but because it felt good to be able to talk rationally and calmly about the election with someone who may or may not, in the end, agree with me.
I have very strong opinions about this election, and I’d be more than happy to elaborate on why I’m so supportive of Obama if anyone wants to know (frankly, THIS blog has gotten long enough). But one thing I really love right now is the fact that Obama, when his audiences start booing McCain, shushes them. He rises above negativity and encourages his supporters to do so. He knows that we can’t combat hate with hate, and we can’t change what others will do, but we can control our own actions. We can smile and agree to disagree, even when it drives us crazy to do so! :)