It’s no exaggeration to say that some of the candidates on the elephant side of the aisle have me fearing for the fate of the free world. Doubtless I will support whomever becomes the donkey nominee and there are a lot of good things to say about Hillary Clinton. That being said, I believe Bernie Sanders brings a level of truth-telling to the current political discourse that appears to be seriously lacking in other quarters and has earned my sincere admiration. In addition, his ground game in my area has been building steadily for some months and now includes a downtown Portland office. As a result of all of these factors, this past chilly Sunday of a three-day weekend found me out going door-to-door canvassing in the wilds of New Hampshire to see what I could do to encourage primary voting in the Granite State, all while wearing my Bernie Sanders swag.
What made this day bearable, and indeed wholly enjoyable, was my canvassing partner, K. Small in stature but supersize in energy, enthusiasm, and downright 150-wattage can-d0 charm, K. simply left me in awe. There is hope for the world, or at least her part of it.
K. has spent two or three summers as a field worker for one of the PIRGs, going door-to-door ten to twelve hours a day for months on end and organizing teams of others to do the same thing. She worked a full-time job her last two years at university plus going to school, graduating just recently with a degree in social work. She plans to work in community development and has a particular and focused passion for voter registration and getting young people to participate in the political process. All this and she just voted herself, this past November, for the very first time. She thinks everything to do with convincing people to get more involved is “exciting!” God love her.
We drove down to NH yesterday morning (K. thankfully has a vehicle with heated seats) and stopped at a Dunkin’ Donuts *in a Walmart* for a bite to eat. Those who know me at all know this in and of itself is nothing short of show-stopping, but it was literally the only option we could find. Once equipped with our simple repasts, we took turns practicing our scripted speeches (the campaign is obsessively thorough in providing its volunteers answers to any imaginable question) becoming increasing creative and hilarious in our efforts to trip each other up. Upon departing the premises, I rediscovered why I dislike big box stores anew when, in my trip to the restroom I was repeatedly exhorted not to shoplift (and given many many reasons how it would ruin my life) AND treated to a wall of missing children’s pictures as I stopped at the drinking fountain. It’s a jungle out there, folks.
Next stop was trying to locate our canvassing territory. Although not always a fan of GPS software out of fear that our brain functions will wither and die, I have to confess that in this case it was a godsend. We drove to slightly west of Nowhere and parked on a sidewalk-less street in a modest ‘burb where the home siding and satellite salespeople had made a killing 20 years back but never returned. Lots of barking dogs scratching on Lucite windows, lots of pickups in the driveways. Thankfully we only knocked on the doors of known Democrats – not sure what the reception would have been anywhere else.
I don’t envy New Hampshire residents their unintended role in the nation’s politics. It must be simply annoying at some points (like now) to be on multiple politicos to-do lists, targeted routinely and repeatedly to have your voting preferences checked and rechecked like bowel movements in the ER. We quickly found how these good people deal with their unwanted place in the spotlight – they either pretend not to be home, or, if they are considerate enough to come to the door on a chilly afternoon, they claim to have No Preference. I don’t blame them. The only problem is that a No Preference check-off merely condemns them to a repeat visit by another pair of sincerely committed volunteers on another chilly January Sunday afternoon.
K., still upbeat, still smiling, still cracking jokes, let us call it quits after a couple hours. I was tired of slipping on the ice up and down to the front doors, uncomfortable with making the tired residents uncomfortable, ready to let my dogs thaw in her cozy car on the drive back up to Maine. But she had had a great day, and was ready to take on her five-hour night shift at the busy restaurant where she currently works. She was eager to do it again next weekend, delighted to be my introduction to canvassing, appreciative of my career counseling comments, looking forward to working with me again. Wow. I have another hero. Bernie, keep an eye out for this one. I hope you make a place for her in your White House. She’ll keep you fully charged for four years at least.