Complete Society

Ideas and strategies for a sustainable world

Last day of door knocking

Just a quick post on yesterday, Day 3.  It was slightly shorter since we didn’t get going until about noon (we don’t want to bother people Sunday morning and many of them would be away at church).

On the way in, I saw people standing on the grassy median in the road, waving McCain/Palin signs.  Like other people I talked to, my first thought on seeing them was, “What a waste of scarce volunteer resources”.  Why aren’t those people knocking on doors or at least making phone calls?  There’s no way that McCain has too many volunteers in the area.  Research shows that canvassing is at least 4 times more effective than phone calls which have got to be several times more effective than waving signs on the road.

Here’s a fun picture from the Ashburn office:

Favorite conversation of the day:  “It’s like a company re-org.  When your company’s failing, you don’t re-org with the same people who ran the company down”

Funny moment of the day:  Young woman answers the door.  I introduce myself and ask her if Fred and Mary are home (not the real names).  She closes the door to go get them.  Fred comes to the door, opens it, says “We’re watching football”, shuts the door.  I stand for a moment surprised in mid-sentence.  Then as I’m about to leave, a young boy (maybe 8 yrs old) opens the door to say hi.  I hand him some of my literature and ask him if he could give it to Fred.  He says ok and shuts the door.

Overall, the energy of the day was great.  I went out 3 times with different teams, probably totaling around 120 doors.  Each time I came back, the office was teeming with volunteers.  In the neighborhoods, didn’t see a single McCain/Palin canvasser.

This was the last day of door knocking.  Monday is just about dropping off literature and giving that last little nudge to go out and vote.

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November 3, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Canvassing Day 2: Inspiration becomes action

The theme of day 2 for me was ‘inspiration’.  I’ve said all along that the President doesn’t need just the intelligence to make the tough decisions; he needs to inspire the country to come together and empower everyone to tackle the tough challenges facing us.  For a great contrast of the two campaigns’ ability to inspire volunteers, read this at fivethirtyeight.com:  The Big Empty

Since there are so many little interesting tidbits today, this post is going to be more a stream of consciousness than my normal writing.
•    Arrived in Ashburn to find 40+ volunteers ready to hit the sidewalks – 90+% of them were from out of state.
•    Local campaign vice-chair confirmed that this is THE battleground county of this battleground state – says the McCain campaign doesn’t have people like us, he’s *paying* his small canvassing force here
•    Here’s our smallest supporter.  Her mother was singing the bit from SNL: “Solid…solid as Barack!”


My canvassing team is 3 people, so we take on some big packets.  These are clustered so one can coordinate and drive while the other 2 zip down a street, but even though I’m the driver I get out to do a fair amount of knocking myself.
•    On my 2nd house, a woman actually trips down the stairs coming to the door!  I see it happen through the clear storm door and open it to help, but her husband comes and helps her up.  Luckily, she’s not hurt.  Rough start to the day!
•    I see some McCain canvassers for the first time, driving by and I consider how little presence the McCain campaign has here even though we’re still seeing the dueling yard-signs everywhere.
•    Here’s a picture from the Democratic precinct captain’s house:

“Veterans for Obama” seems so powerful since McCain’s war “hero” status is supposed to gain him the military vote (and Virginia has a long military tradition).
•    We encounter two young women canvassing for Judy Feder, local Democratic candidate for Congress.  We’re amazed to find out they are Columbia University students, part of a group of 130 who came down from NYC to knock on doors for Democrats.
•    I actually talk to an undecided young voter (he’s 25).  The most interesting thing he said was that I was probably the 4th Obama supporter who’s visited him vs. zero McCain supporters.
•    My favorite quote from a voter today: “We’re voting the Democratic ticket.  He’s 65 years old and this is the first presidential election he’s voting in.  That tells you something.”

Before coming to VA, I’d heard that northern VA was full of minorities who’d moved out to the suburbs from DC.  This afternoon, we found these fascinating “pockets” – mini neighborhoods of a 1-2 dozen houses that were all Asian last names. This is common in CA but I wasn’t expecting it here. I tried to go for the East Asian houses and it was interesting to note that the Columbia students had assigned a young Indian-American to cover the neighborhood that was literally 75+% Indian.

The one “negative” part of the day was getting into an argument with an elderly woman who’d already voted for McCain.  She wouldn’t leave us alone and got progressively nastier, crossing the line when she told one of my partners that he must not love his 3 kids if he’s supporting Obama.   This is an extreme case, but one can connect a campaign’s attitude to the attitude of its supporters.  As with McCain/Palin, this woman had nothing positive to say, not even anything good to say about her candidate – just nasty attacks.

Ending tally for the day – approx 170 doors knocked.  Enough useful conversations to feel successful.  Back at it again tomorrow!

November 2, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Toto, we’re not in California anymore

Today was my first ever experience knocking on doors for a political campaign.

For those who haven’t heard, I’ve flown out from SF to Arlington, VA to make the biggest difference I can in a place where every single vote is critical.  Because Arlington is  close to DC  ( i.e. abundant with volunteers), the  campaign has assigned me to the Ashburn office in Loudoun County, about 40 minutes west near the Dulles Airport.

Loudoun County is not just another county in a major battleground state, its ground zero for the fight.  It’s a microcosm of the statewide drama and according to one of my canvassing partners today (a volunteer who drives 1 hr+ from DC every day), it’s THE swing county.  Take all the other counties in VA and they’ll split dead even.  As Loudoun County swings, so does the state apparently.

The “split county” profile was evident right away. Just on the drive over, the number and size of the McCain/Palin signs was a wake up call.  I think I’ve seen one of those in the whole Bay Area.
The Ashburn office is small and lightly staffed compared to the SF Obama office where I’ve spent many hours these last weeks.  Granted, it’s a Friday morning but Monday afternoon in SF was *packed*, requiring at least 3 phone bank captains to handle the load.

In a split county, note that there’s going to be a lot fewer volunteers available and many of the ones that were there were from out of state.  *But remember*, this is one of probably 6 Obama offices in Loudoun County.  And the suburban commuter demographics would mean far fewer people around during a weekday.

That’s why our canvassing today only targeted 65 and older  folks, people who might be home  in the middle of  a Friday.

To keep this reasonably short, let’s just say the area really represented the demographic forces and political divide in Virginia.  Just about every Obama/Biden yard sign was matched by a McCain/Palin sign.  Often “dueling” across the street from each other.  And in this surprising case, fighting on the same front lawn:

By demographic forces, I mean the newer, younger suburban communities vs the older, more “rural” areas.  Just in our small canvassing area we saw the range: McMansions with large yards, more “middle class” townhomes, and small ranch homes tucked away down a gravel road.  It’s the  huge growth in these suburbs in northern VA that’s cited as the reason VA may go blue this year.
Overall, the day went quickly and pleasantly – most people weren’t home but the ones who were home were always friendly.  I’ll cut this post short with the woman who really made my day:

I ended up catching a spry, 81 years young woman as she was heading to her car.  (slight paraphrasing) “Our whole family is voting for Obama.  That’s 16 votes for him!   My granddaughter is volunteering for Obama over in Fairfax.  We tried to go to his rally in Leesburg but never even got to security.  So we sat up on the lawn.  When we hear him speak, it sounds like what FDR wanted to do for the country.  We remember FDR.  You’re too young to know FDR.”  (emphasis mine)

November 1, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment