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20 September 2008

I did phonebanking for Obama today. I just called 25 people in allegedly left-leaning Western Washington. Of those, 23 did not answer the phone. Of the remaining two, one was a wrong number (and a little angry), and the other said he wasn't going to vote for Obama or McCain (and seemed angry, too). Not an auspicious beginning.
Cold-calling is a hard, hard job, even if the people on the other end would otherwise be receptive to your message.

Hang in there, though.
posted by mudpuppie 20 September | 14:59
When I was knocking-and-dragging for Deval Patrick in Boston during the 2006 elections I got pretty much the same response... 100% of the people we were reminding to vote that night probably didn't actually go and vote (and these were people we already had on a list as prospective supporters!)

But you know what made it tolerable?

When I got into an upscale apartment building and the reception on the floor said I couldn't go knock on the these flats without confirming with each that I can go, but could stand there and call their floor #'s up using their phone (before he decided that this was gonna take too long and I needed to get off their phone thing) and this lady picked up and she was SO enthusiastic.

It makes me so happy to this day? I don't know why but even two years later, that lady happily going "You're from the campaign? TELL DEVAL, TELL DEVAL I VOTED FOR HIM!!!" makes not just that night, but a lot more about life worthwhile.
posted by Firas 20 September | 15:15
grouse, it just goes with the territory. I've been doing phone banking and door knocking for Obama for a while now and some days are just like that. But, every little bit helps, really. And usually you meet or talk to someone that make your day.

We had a big effort today, called Steps For Change where we all met at one of Pittsburgh's 780 public stair-cases and then fanned out into the neighborhoods canvasing. Fortunately, we got a pretty flat area to canvas so I didn't have to climb too many steps but it was still three hours of walking around.
posted by octothorpe 20 September | 15:18
Same exact thing for me, grouse. I keep calling and calling some people, and they never answer their phone. Their names taunt me on the fixed list I have- nyah, nyah, you can't call anyone else until you keep calling us and getting our machine, over and over. It's enough to make a person just give up.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero 20 September | 16:15
My only worry about this GOTV and phone-banking is that -- having done it myself for Kerry through a 527 -- there was evidence that Kerry-related GOTV ended up also energizing potential Bush leaners who were now more motivated to actually vote. I don't think there are any set answers, but it was very disconcerting to wonder how much we had hurt own efforts, because my group was specifically focused on swing voters.
posted by stilicho 20 September | 16:54
I did phone banking and canvasing for an unknown democratic challenger to an incumbent Republican congress woman two years ago and it did work. He was running in a majority Democratic district and mostly needed to get his name out and to convince Democrats that he was a serious candidate. The last two candidates had run really half-assed campaigns and a lot of voters (including me) had figured that the democrats had given up on the district. He ended up winning a big upset by firing up democrats and getting them out to vote.

The someone unhappy ending to the story is that the new congressman, Altmire, has turned out to be a really right-wing blue-dog Democrat but even a bad Democrat is better than any Republican.
posted by octothorpe 20 September | 18:03
I don't respond well to telephone solicitations. Even if it's a cause I support. A phonecall won't change my opinion or encourage me to do something I wasn't planning to do anyway. Unsolicited phonecalls make me very, very angry.
posted by ColdChef 20 September | 19:04
I took so much abuse phone banking for Kerry in '04 that I can't bring myself to do it again. People were mean, mean, mean. But I can understand why. ColdChef is right, unsolicited phone calls are really irritating.

The abuse we took from our neighbors for putting up a Kerry sign on our lawn, on the other hand, was pretty uncalled for. Makes me want to erect a 12 foot animatronic Obama this time around.
posted by jrossi4r 20 September | 21:57
Yeah, I don't like unsolicited phone calls either, although I would be nice if Obama people called. I've considered canvassing in person, and thought this would be a good way to build experience and expertise--I would be able to answer people's questions with the web right in front of me. On the street I can probably get stumped more easily.
posted by grouse 20 September | 22:04
I absolutely hate talking on the phone and talking to strangers, and I've been doing lots of this too. It gets easier. Don't be discouraged. When you hit a negative or uninterested person, it feels bad - but only for a second. I've learned to move on. Because if you stay at it, over time, you start to hit more and more really great moments with people. When you find out someone's not interested in your candidate, just move on at top speed - because the sooner you dispense with them (politely of course) the sooner you can get on to another undecided voter who you really might sway. And then, every now and then you run into a really passionate supporter who makes you feel great.

Some of my happiest moments this campaign season have come from talking with people who are really, really troubled about the current state of affairs, but have traditionally not voted Democratic. I honestly feel that, whether or not they vote for my party's candidates, we've had some meaningful conversations that made us feel like there was common cause.

Let's see - today we went to 62 houses to knock on doors. At 48 houses, people weren't home. Of people who were home, 10 people were pro-Democratic or leaning that way. Two refused to comment, and two said they were traditionally Republican, but talked to us for several minutes about issues anyway. The whole process took four hours. That was a typical day canvassing. It's a battle of inches, and a slog, but totally worth it.

It's not going to take a whole lot of undecideds to change things in this country. Move a few votes - just a few. Get a new voter or two. It's all done in the smallest increments, but the calling - the personal, sincere contact - is worth 100 TV ads.

You might consider going down to your nearest campaign HQ to do the calling. It makes it more fun and easier - even if you keep getting no-answers, you can hear people around you having these inspiring conversations with folks, and it kind of pumps you up. Plus, the people are just great and it's heartening.

I know it's a pain in the ass. Don't give up, though - sooner or later, you're going to have some great conversations.
posted by Miko 20 September | 23:39
What Miko said - she and I spent some quality time on back roads and little cul-de-sacs this afternoon when we could have been at the beach.'s what motivates me, and I hope it will motivate you also:

as hard as it is to do the canvassing/phonebanking/what-have-you, think about what the actual candidates have to do in a typical day. Talking to hundreds and hundreds of people, being shuttled from town to town to do it all again, with little or no downtime.

Add to this the attacks on their character, the slanders, and the typical "silly season" bullshit the people you support are dealing with, and in that light, making the extra effort on my end seems a little more bearable.

I do this kind of stuff because I feel like I'm fighting for a way of life I believe in, on behalf of people with far more stamina for campaigning than I ever will possess.

And that's what gets me to my next phone call or front door - it's small potatoes, but it matters.
posted by Lipstick Thespian 21 September | 00:01
a 12 foot animatronic Obama


Speaking as someone who hasn't answered an unsolicited phone call in at least 3 years, I can't bring myself to think about phone banking. But I'm pretty well decided that I'm going to Nevada (since it's the closest swing state) to register voters for at least a weekend or two in October.
posted by scody 21 September | 02:25
Are any of the rest of you doing campaigning for Obama finding any white seniors who will vote for him? I've been canvasing mixed race neighborhoods which are 90% Democratic (because this is Pittsburgh) and almost every single white over 70 has said something to the effect of "I'd never vote for that man, who is he?" I think that they all watch Fox news and listen to AM radio.
posted by octothorpe 21 September | 08:21
Are any of the rest of you doing campaigning for Obama finding any white seniors who will vote for him?

Cutting through the lobby of the Hotel Edison in Times Square to go to "In The Heights" today, we passed an old white guy slowly shuffling in the opposite direction, an "Obama for President" pin displayed prominently on the pocket of his old man shirt. We almost stopped to give him a high-five.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero 21 September | 23:11
Are any of the rest of you doing campaigning for Obama finding any white seniors who will vote for him?

Yes. We talked to a great guy yesterday who didn't seem to have the full complement of lungs, and who was pretty passionately in support. That's at least one. But white guys over 70 motivated by race are something like less than 1/5 of the white male vote which is less than 1/4 of the total vote. I'm more concerned with recruiting new voters to outvote them than I am with convincing them.
posted by Miko 22 September | 00:19
Are any of the rest of you doing campaigning for Obama finding any white seniors who will vote for him?

Yes. We talked to a great guy yesterday who didn't seem to have the full complement of lungs, and who was pretty passionately in support. That's at least one. But white guys over 70 motivated by race are something like less than 1/5 of the white male vote which is less than 1/4 of the total vote. I'm more concerned with recruiting new voters to outvote them than I am with convincing them.
posted by Miko 22 September | 00:20
My parents are white over-70s who will definitely be voting for Obama, no fence-sitting about it at all.

Interesting about them; they were Republicans up until... hm... I'm not sure, but definitely by Bush senior they had switched. I think they are fiscal conservatives; I think they like the idea of small government and conservative policies. I think they are scared shitless about the new religion-in-government Republican party, and the spending like a drunken sailor bit. I think they believe in a strong military but are heartsick about American aggression. My dad served in the military and went to college on his GI loan; he worked for the federal government for his whole career, and loved his job. He is about as middle-class, solid-values, pro-family*, honest and patriotic as they come... and no fool. So, he's making the patriotic choice.

* somewhere along the line, this got all twisted around to stand for "fundamentalist Christians" who want to get all up in your personal, private business. No. Pro-family as in good schools, health care; affordable higher education, job opportunities and job security - the kind of stuff that actually does create conditions that promote strong family units.
posted by taz 22 September | 02:34
My bf's mom is nearly 80, and she seems to be leaning toward Obama (she's a Republican, but I think she's voted for Dems and Independents on occasion before). When we visisted his parents a couple of weeks ago, she said she was insulted by McCain in picking Palin, and questioned his judgment. She seemed genuinely interested to hear why we're voting for Obama, and open to the conversation, so... fingers crossed.

We're also working on his brother, who's a blue-collar guy who desperately wants to start a union at his job, doesn't particularly care about abortion or Teh Gays, etc., but has been swayed by a combination of memes: The War Hero Is A Regular Guy, And We Want A Regular Guy In Charge; Illegal Immigrants Are the Entire Reason You're Having a Hard Time Financially; and Obama Can't Wait to Personally Pry the Gun Out Of Your Cold, Dead Hands.

Luckily, his brother's a generally smart guy who I think might be open to a discussion based in facts and logic, so we've been sending him a careful selection of relevant articles and youtube clips.

His dad is a sweet old guy, but we know he won't vote for Obama in a million years, so that conversation is just being delicately sidestepped.
posted by scody 22 September | 20:18
Try Biden on the gun issue. Biden's pretty staunchly pro-gun-ownership.
posted by Miko 22 September | 21:53
ooh, thanks, Miko! Will do.
posted by scody 23 September | 18:44
My husband has a man cold. || Weekend 3-point update