Wednesday, October 22, 2008

a barack-tastic weekend in pennsylvania.

So much for posting a new blog entry once per week! In my defense, the past month or so has been busiest I've every had at work (so far). I've been a lean, mean, billable hour machine lately and have only been able to sporadically come up for air.

Last weekend was the first weekend I didn't have to work in four weeks. Glorious. Nick and I committed to clearing our schedules for the entire weekend so that we could take a road trip over to Bucks County, Pennsylvania to do some campaign work for the Obama campaign. There was only so much growling and screeching at the candidates and political pundits on television I could handle before I decided that I needed to be more productive with all of my political energy. Plus, while Pennsylvania seems to be leaning toward Obama, there are some signs that he still needs a big push there in the last couple of weeks.

So, Nick and I called up the Obama campaign in Pennsylvania, rented a car, booked a place to stay and hit the road early Saturday morning. It was a beautiful weekend to travel.
The fall leaves were out in full force. For the first time since leaving Cornell, I actually missed Ithaca. But only a little bit! : )

Since I was still feeling sleep-deprived from work, I only managed to stir once we were at a rest stop and BK french fries were close at hand:
Man, those suckers are tasty. I try to stay away from fast food, but all bets are off on a road trip!

A couple of hours later, we arrived in Bristol, PA. Downtown Bristol, where our base of operations was located, was very old-school charming. Lots of small shops (sadly, many were empty and shut down), a beautiful waterfront . . . .

We arrived just in time for Historic Bristol Day, which involved a Farmer's Market type set-up with lots of delicious food and live entertainment. But Nick and I were there for business, so we bypassed the festivities and attended a short training before hitting the road. First things first: The campaign staff we dealt with was incredibly organized. I've volunteered with political campaigns before, but never one with this level of precision and organization. We were given a helpful training, along with a packet of information detailing the neighborhood that we would canvas that day (info on the folks we were targeting, detailed directions on how to get around, brochures to hand out, a well-organized chart of information we should use to keep track of the info we come up with). Nick and I hopped into our car and set out for a busy day of hitting the pavement for our guy Barack.
I didn't take any pictures from the time we spent canvassing --- thought it was a little weird to take pics outside of strangers' houses. But to summarize the day: It was an extremely humbling, yet extraordinarily inspiring experience. We were assigned to a very blue collar, working class neighborhood in Levittown, PA on the first day. Given the work Nick and I do in NYC, we've seen the first-hand effect of the economic downturn as it pertains to I-bankers and the like. The first-hand effect we witnessed on Saturday was different, but the adversity people faced was just as real (and honestly, really hit us at the core).

Our task was to knock on specially designated doors (people who were registered Democrats, not affiliated with any party, or part of a household that included both Democrats and Republicans), determine where that person/household stood in terms of presidential choice, answer any questions they might have, and stump for our candidate (if and when appropriate). By the end of the day, we ended up speaking with all kinds of folks: The wife of a soldier currently in Iraq; a 22-year old guy with a 2-year old daughter who had never voted in an election before, registered on a whim, and was considering actually voting for the first time (especially after we were through with him!); a man with his own roofing business; a feisty grandmother who was so pumped about Obama that she even took my Obama pin off my coat . . . . All kinds of people. Including some folks who slammed their doors in our face, or didn't share our enthusiasm about Obama. But in the end, we were able to have pleasant, engaging conversations with just about everyone we encountered. A lot of the people we met with were undecided on who to go with, and Nick and I were happy to just get them leaning towards Obama (or at least more committed to carefully analyzing some of the misinformation they may receive) by the time we left.
50 houses later, we were exhausted. We dropped off our materials at the campaign office, and relaxed for the rest of the night (and by "relax" I mean do work with the television on in the background --- I'm racy like that).

The next day, we set out to do the same thing. This time, however, we were assigned to a very affluent nearby neighborhood. Bucks County (or at least the part of it that we saw) was an interesting mishmash of folks from throughout the socioeconomic spectrum. Interacting with the higher end of that spectrum on Sunday was quite a contrast to our experience the day before. I'd like to elaborate further, but given my time constraints right now will just say this: We received a lot more resistance in terms of folks being comfortable opening up their front door and chatting openly with us. More doors were quickly (but fairly politely) shut on us. There were a couple of bright spots in our day: A born and raised Republican woman married to a Republican man who was genuinely conflicted about the candidates and was considering voting for a Democrat for the first time in her life. She was extremely articulate and was clearly conflicted about what to do. Nick and I had a great time talking to her and we think that we made some progress with her ---- I'm keeping her in my thoughts and prayers because I hope she ends up having some clarity and peace of mind. Also, a woman (married to a Republican) who just adored Obama insisted that we bring her back a lawn sign to put in her yard that day. She was a delightful and sweet woman who brightened our day after some discouraging encounters.

All in all, for those of you who are so inclined: GET OUT THERE AND VOLUNTEER!!!!! Whether or not you live in a swing state doesn't matter ---- the Obama campaign is launching a huge get out the vote campaign that will start up in the days immediately before the election. And the most important thing = people power. The campaign needs lots of folks to get out there and hit the streets. This is not the time to be complacent, regardless what any poll may say. There are two weeks left in this monumental presidential race. Be a part of it while you can. I can say from my recently acquired personal experience that you'll leave feeling inspired; feeling like you're part of a community ---- and will also have lots of fun! Even though my work schedule is bananas, I'm hoping to squeeze in one more day trip to PA, some phone banking, and election protection work. I hope you guys do some of the same. The clock is ticking!


Jen said...

What a fabulous post! Love the pictures and recap. I keep meaning to participate in the phone bank here or a trip to NV, but your efforts have inspired me to get off my duff and get working in these final two weeks.

(Also, I sometimes miss Ithaca, too. Especially this time of year.)

Jessica Shannon said...

Thanks for the update. I'm so proud of you guys for getting out there and working your butts off for what you believe in. You never cease to inspire me!
:) jess

danica said...

jenny, you MUST volunteer. especially since you're so close to nevada. (1) you + josh have the perfect personalities for canvas work; (2) you'll meet lots of interesting people that will remind you that there is a huge world outside of law firm life and (3) you will have a blast! we only have 6 days left . . . . tell me all about it after you've done it!