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Fun in Philly: Getting Out the Vote, Door to Door

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

Volunteering Relieves Election Anxiety

[cross-posted at Daily Kos]

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Everyone knows the best cure for blues or worries is work. In the same way, the best antidote for election anxiety is volunteering and going door to door, making phone calls from a roomful of other volunteers. Yes-We-Can hope loves company. Above all, get out and do something. Action is empowering: too busy to worry, you feel less anxious. Working with others, you feel a part of something bigger: a good cause, the good fight.

And so, on Saturday morning on Eighth Avenue in Manhattan we boarded an Obama bus for Philadelphia, one of several carrying hundreds of Obama-Biden campaign volunteers from New York City into Pennsylvania. Our bus, with only one or two empty seats, brought about 25 of us to the Obama for America field office in the Ogontz neighborhood of northwest Philadelphia (staffed by friendly Lynn, above, among others) and the other 25 went to Cheltenham Township.

On a sunny, beautiful clear afternoon, we set out in teams of two each, with clipboards and maps and lists of Obama supporters or previous voters, with about 75 or more doorbells to ring and people to talk to. We were supplied with packets of Commit to Vote cards and small brochures about Obama-Biden’s commitment to a strong middle class—“building an economy from the middle class out”—and the importance of voting, with the date Nov. 6 prominent on the front.

Be Sure to Vote, and Please Volunteer If You Can

The objectives in this African-American neighborhood—as in every community in every state—were (1) to ask if President Obama can count on your support on November 6 (in this neighborhood, the answer was Yes He Can), and (2) to encourage supporters to get involved and volunteer a few hours or more for the campaign. Most everyone said they would be voting. We also asked the residents to tell their friends and family to be sure to get out and vote. Many yards and windows held Obama-Biden signs and even more for state representative Dwight Evans and Barack Obama (see below). We made sure they knew where the polling place was—they all knew where to go—and emphasized that it was not necessary to show an I.D. to vote. (The state supreme court recently ruled against the Pennsylvania state legislature’s recent law requiring voter I.D., but the court unhelpfully decided that polling place workers could ask to see an I.D. Most of the people we spoke with had been following the news and were aware that they did not need to bring an I.D., though more than a few said they would bring a driver’s license or other I.D. with them anyway.)

Because of the nice weather—and because more than a few people have to work on Saturdays—many were not at home. By our count, we knocked on 93 doors and spoke with about 40 voters, all of whom said they supported the president “strongly” and promised they would vote. Though a few were wary about opening the door, most were pleased to be visited and to be asked for their vote.

20th Street, Ogontz neighborhood, northwest Philadelphia

 

We kept noticing as we talked to people in this neighborhood the pride they feel in “our president,” and kept contrasting that with the attitude toward this community, if any at all, from the Republican party. This is a solidly middle-class neighborhood of mostly homeowners, well-kept gardens and neat front yards. How well will this community fare if yet another Republican administration cutting taxes on the wealthy and forcing austerity on everyone else takes power in the White House and drives its agenda through Congress? Does Mitt Romney even know these good people exist? They are all too aware of him and what he would mean for them and their families.

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On the way back to New York, one of the group leaders told us that the hundreds of volunteers on this one day alone reached tens of thousands of households, and that impact is magnified as the people contacted spread the word and urge friends and family to vote. He invited volunteers to step up to the wireless microphone and tell stories about their experiences. One said that she and her group stopped in for lunch at a neighborhood restaurant. They were the only white people in the place, but were welcome all the same. When the restaurant owner learned that they were Obama campaign volunteers, she refused to take their money. “You all are working for us; we just want to say thank you.” Another told of a college professor in her seventies who rolled down her car window and said, “Anything you can do to keep those [expletive deleted]’s out of the White House is just fine with me.”

We’ll be back on the beat in the coming weekends. The contact with voters is warming, affirming, makes you feel good.  You discover new parts of America and see with your own eyes what a difference an administration makes. Will there be investment and development in these communities, or neglect? Hope and pride, or something not so good?

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