Every time there was a debate, MSNBC and CNN did that thing. They took some undecided voters, put them in a room on an awkward sofa, strapped a sensor to their head, gave them some Cool Ranch Doritos, and then asked them questions. It's always exasperating, watching them parse words and declare, "I really need to know more about their positions on immigration before I make up my mind," as if BarackObama.com and JohnMcCain.com don't exist or as if they couldn't just ask the 15 reporters who are poking them with sticks.
It's even more exasperating because the conversations lack honesty. Nobody wants to go on MSNBC and say, "I'm not sure because he's black." Instead it's, "I still don't know from the debate if I can trust him to keep us safe," etc. They don't want to sound impolite; after all, MSNBC gave them all those Doritos.
The reality, though, is that there are plenty of undecided voters out there, even as polls harden and Election Day gets closer. We all have them in our families; we may even have them oh hell no! among our friends. So what do we do?
From now until Election Day, Pinko Magazine, along with Huffington Post's Off the Bus Project, will share some case studies of friends who are trying to "turn" a loved one, and the strategies they're employing to swing fence-sitting friends and families away from the dark side. We'll call it Swinging Grandma. First up: Claire.
THE VOICE OF REASON: Claire Cox, 28, New York, High School Teacher.
THE NOT-YET-BELIEVER: Claire's 94-year old grandmother, retired nurse, San Diego.
THE CHALLENGE: In a tight-lipped, non-confrontational family, how does Claire help swing her uncommitted Grandmother? "She's 94," Claire told me, "and this could be one of the last elections she votes in, so I'm not gonna waste it."
THE APPROACH: Claire decided to write her grandmother a long, awesome letter, like she often does. She writes about her life, what she's up to, etc. Then midway through, she goes for it, connecting what's going on in her life to the election and going after McCain over an issue important to her grandmother: the sad state of the middle class and the price of groceries.
THE LETTER: Here is the election part of Claire's letter.
"...And I always feel intense when there's an election. Four years ago was such a disappointment - we went knocking on doors and made tons of phone calls, and we had, I believe, the highest voter turnout our Philadelphia precinct ever recorded - and Kerry lost. Four years later, the situation seems more dire than ever. The country's in debt up to its eyeballs; the middle class is shrinking, and I feel no closer to entering it than I did when I was on food stamps; people everywhere are losing their homes to foreclosure and can't afford gas or groceries; our schools are pitifully under-funded. I hope I'm not crossing a line here by talking politics, but honestly? John McCain and Sarah Palin scare me to my core. He's a mean-spirited, petty double-talker who lies through his teeth, and she can't name a single newspaper she reads or a single Supreme Court case, other than Roe v. Wade, that she has an opinion on. Her experience is embarrassingly minimal. She did not give one straight answer to Charlie Gibson or Katie Couric in those TV interviews, not one. (The idea of Palin as President is...absolutely chilling.) It's like she thinks it's a big joke. They are the opposite of inspiring. I was inspired when I watched Obama's speech at the convention in August. In tears. I have never, ever, in my life, felt this way about a person running for office. I know they end up disappointing us on some level or another, but no one has ever come close to truly inspiring me about our country and its possibilities."
PINKO/HUFFPOST OFFTHEBUS ANALYSIS: Very smart! It's not quite "do this for me Grandma," but that's implied. It's passionate, personal, respectful, and short. It's far more reasonable than that time I asked my mom how she would feel if my sister got raped and had to pay for the rape kit. DON'T DO THAT. Claire spoke truth to Grandma.
WILL GRANDMA SWING: Well, fortunately, she's in San Diego, so it's a pretty blue state. But still. We think the odds are good! Claire will update us next week.
Suggestions? Would you do anything different? Have you reached out to friends and family? Share your stories with us! Write them up, and send them to email@example.com with "Swinging Grandma" in the subject-line. Ben, the editor and writer of this feature, may just include them in Volume #2.
Between now and election day Off the Bus will cross-post a series from Pinko Magazine called "Swinging Grandma," looking at various person-to-person tactics readers are using to "swing" their fence sitting friends and relatives. Pinko is an online journal of progressive politics and culture. This is the first in the series. Come back here to my blog for the next in the series.
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