“I’m doing this for my kids. I’m not some kind of doctrinaire Democrat or anything, it’s just that I want my kids to have a future.” These are words I spoke many times over the last weekend to strangers. They have the virtue of being true.
Of course, it’s also true that if wifey and I remain in California, which just elected another big-old-government Democrat to the governorship, there’s a good chance that California will make sure that Dar will continue to enjoy the sort of social services he currently enjoys. (We don’t know that these are going to produce an independent person by the time he’s 21, but we also don’t know how bad things would be without them. But that’s another blog post.)
But still. I want Dar to be part of a country that isn’t every-man-for-himself, a nation that has special provisions for its most vulnerable. For me, as a Californian, the rest of the country begins in Nevada. So that’s where I went last weekend.
Now, I’m not saying I’m going to put this on my CV or anything, but we did successfully flip blue the governor’s mansion and a Senate seat, so I’m going to declare the trip a success.
Partisans love to talk about their opponents as paid protestors. I mean that both liberals and conservatives love to speculate about their enemies cashing checks from George Soros or Charles Koch. It’s fun to think about the other side as transparently transactional. Fun, but also silly. Not once throughout the Tea Party peak years did I ever accuse the foot soldiers of being paid. Over the weekend I saw lots of lawn signs for the Republicans. Did anyone pay the people who put those up? I highly doubt it. (On the other hand, I do believe Putin pays Russian and Moldovan trolls some kind of ruble-minimum to post obnoxious confrontational crap online.)
I likewise wasn’t paid. Of the people at the Carson City Democratic Party office where I volunteered, I don’t know who was paid. Could very well have been nobody. To tell you the truth, a little more money might have helped. We had almost no lawn signs. I wound up driving to the Reno Democratic Party office to steal some of theirs.
Personally, I love putting up lawn signs, especially on seemingly abandoned property near polling stations. (But not so near as to violate the law.) It turns out there’s a lot of such places in and around Carson City and Reno. Yay recession! I don’t know, somehow it carries the same thrill as tagging a wall with a spray can. Or, uh, how I imagine that feels.
On the other hand, I hate phone-banking. I hate cold-calling. Some people are great at it. I don’t mind text-banking as much, but when doing it (in California this October) I learned that you maybe get 5 or 10 responses for every 100 texts. If that was the rate of return at a lake, I’m not sure I’d bother putting bait on the hook.
On the other other hand, I like canvassing. Somehow, knocking on doors isn’t that big a deal to me. Not really sure why. Maybe because I enjoy Halloween decorations?
Over about three and a half days in Nevada I know that I knocked on at least 300 doors. Maybe 400. Did I reach more than 30-40 voters? Well, yeah, probably. When people weren’t home, I left personalized notes (on the campaign literature) that often commented on those Halloween decorations or on some other parts of their lovely front stoops. I like to think those ink-scrawled notes work better than texts. I mean, look, this was important enough to me that I personally came to your house, right?
The Nevada Democratic Party did have a recommended script. Maybe if I had been paid, I would have stuck to it. Maybe if former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had lifted a damn finger to help any Nevada Democrat, I might have listened to him. As it was, I found I liked to say my own things. What were those things?
“Hi, I’m Daniel Smith, I’m here from the Democratic Party, have you voted?”
If the answer is yes, I thanked them and move on.
If not, I offered to help them vote in several ways before finally asking…
“Are you thinking of voting for Jacky Rosen or Steve Sisolak?”
Sometimes they’d say yes, and then I’d underline the importance of getting to the polls and how much their vote matters. Once in a while someone said no way and in that case (per the script during Get Out the Vote Weekend) I said thank you and have a good day. (It’s way too late to convert people with strong opinions.) But in a few cases they said or implied that they weren’t sure. Then, especially if I saw kid toys or strollers in the front yard, I’d say something about our kids’ futures. Or:
“I’m afraid of the Trump agenda, I feel like we need to stop it.”
“What’s your top issue, is it jobs, health care, immigration, women’s rights…?”
More often than not, people said health care.
“This is where your vote really affects your money. Obamacare isn’t perfect but it keeps the pool large. Every vote against it makes the pool smaller which makes your costs go up.”
Uh huh, they would say. I was over-simplifying and maybe they knew that. But I may have convinced people, too.
I know that I got at least, oh, 10 people to the polls. I mean, they weren’t gonna go and now they really assured me. I mean, I probably had 20 such encounters, so let’s say half of them weren’t acting or kidding themselves.
The truth is, the Democrats, and the United States, need Nevada more than they may realize. It’s no good whining about the fact that Wyoming has as many Senators as California. Yes it’s a structural inequality but ain’t nobody changing the Constitution. Instead, liberals need to learn how to talk to people in rural, smaller states. They need to make places like Wyoming and Idaho more like, well, Nevada. And they can. One house at a time.
My kids’ future may well depend on it.