Paula B. Mays is an OffTheBus grassroots correspondent. Each week she contributes a campaign journal documenting her life out on the trail.
On Sunday, October 12th I went canvassing for Barack Obama in Northern Virginia, an affluent suburb of Washington D.C. Being coaxed into canvassing after I originally volunteered for data entry, I set off for this canvassing expedition, to historic Old Town Alexandria Virginia, on one of the most beautiful days of the year.
After signing in to the office in Old Town,and collecting our ready-made packets, a young and dedicated Obama worker came to give us, what appeared to be 20 or so people, a briefing as to our duties as canvassers. He told us Virginia was an extremely important state and if Obama wins Virginia, he wins the election. Don´t know if he was just trying make us feel important, or whether what he said was true. What he did say that was true, is that Virginia does not traditionally vote Democratic and this could likely be an historic vote.
So our briefer went through the paper in our manila folder and explained our duties--how we really want to speak to undecided voters and convince them to vote for Senator Obama, and Senator Mark Warner, while we were at it. We were instructed how to record findings immediately so they could be entered into the database right away and new manila folders prepared for tomorrows flock of canvassers. We were instructed to try to speak to both parties in a household, because in a lot of cases they have found, the husband has been for McCain but the wife would like to vote for Senator Obama and appreciates receiving more information from canvassers.
Well by some stroke of luck, I drew the neighborhood right behind my house. Opting to partner, rather than go this alone, I ended up with Uta, (not sure of the spelling, but we will stick with that for the purpose of this journal). Uta is a German lady was who has been living in the area for 17 years. Uta is very committed and enthusiastic in her support for Senator Obama. The funny thing is, though, Uta can´t vote, but she is still willing to get out there and convince others to vote as this election is that important to her.
So Uta and I set off to a Virginia neighborhood. Our particular area was a cookie cutter neighborhood of grandiose town houses. The entrances to the doors were three feet deep, and the lawns were perfectly quaffed and manicured. Many people weren´t home, holiday weekend and all, but we were instructed to leave a flier with information, which we did when there was no answer. But I knew this canvassing activity wasn´t my favorite, because when they were home, some of the people were down-right rude. One lady said, "We´re all set, we are voting for McCain (insert snide tone)." Another said she was eating dinner and slammed the door on us, at which point I said to Uta, "Look, I could understand that behavior if we were--and no offense meant--Jehovah Witnesses, who are known to knock on your door at the most inopportune time in order to convert you, but we are just citizens volunteering for a cause that could save their country."
Fortunately, a couple of the people in this area were very nice and gracious even if they were voting for McCain, and I think we have gotten to one or two undecided voters, which according to our young briefer was the aim. I even told one guy he could vote early as he stated he would likely be out of town on election day. I admit, though I felt a bit inadequate as I had visions of sitting at people's kitchen table, sipping coffee and having philosophical discussions as to why Obama was the best candidate, kind of like when the French artists and philosophers used to sit around Paris cafes discussing existentialism and impressionism. But we never even got past a door step.
So Uta and I knocked on 44 doors this beautiful Sunday. I was glad to help Senator Obama, but boy those adamant, right-wing voters got under my skin. My canvassing budding Uta said really it shouldn't bother me and that they were mad they were losing the election. There was something to be said for this, and once she told me that, I guess I gave up my snipping. All in all, I guess we were successful as we did seem to influence a couple of undecided voters, which as I said, our young staffer told us was the goal.
Don't know if I´ll be canvassing again though, may have to insist on that data entry. Let you know next week....
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