Tania Arias is an OffTheBus grassroots correspondent. Each week she contributes a campaign journal documenting her life out on the trail.
Once again, I chose to spend another gorgeous October weekend helping the Obama Campaign, this time in Yardley, PA canvassing door-to-door. Being a Manhattan resident, it is a very daunting task indeed. First, I had to rent a car and then follow MapQuest while tackling the NJ Turnpike. Going door-to-door is not one of our strong points. New Yorkers are fiercely private people who barricade themselves behind doormen, intercoms and video security systems. We are not used to the weekend visits from strangers with offers of salvation and/or political redemption so the thought of invading someone's privacy at home was terrifying.
Things began to look increasingly grim as I approached Yardley when McCain/Palin lawn signs and bumper stickers started sprouting like mushrooms from every direction. We do not have cars or lawns in NY so bumper stickers and lawn signs are alien to us. Furthermore, 99% of us do not wear our affiliations anywhere on our body or belongings; it is too much of an affront in a city of 8MM people crowded into subways, buses and public places. I felt that I had just entered enemy territory. Then I met Peg.
Peg was the canvassing organizer, and proved to be a feisty, no-nonsense, kind woman who instructed us on the finer points of canvassing. Since I was the only one without a partner, she volunteered to go with me but, she said that first she had to deliver an Obama lawn sign to a friend because in the last few weeks, hundreds of Obama signs had been stolen and removed from lawns all over the area (this might explain the vast amount of McCain/Palin signs that terrified me). She explained that, after neighbors got sick and tired of the thefts, surveillance caught the culprits. It turned out to be two young men that confessed to being paid by the local McCain/Palin office to remove the signs (they just go lower by the minute!). My anxiety level rose by a couple of more notches.
Peg and I headed out to the neighborhood we were to canvass and then she surprised me with the news that I would be left there on my own since she had pressing personal business to attend to. Are you kidding me? I took a deep breath and headed towards the first door. My deep and true dedication to having Barack Obama lead this country gave me the strength to intrude on them. I was immediately stopped by a young man who was doing lawn work at the first house and asked me if he could have my Obama button to give to his grandmother since she was an Obama supporter, just like him. Much to my surprise, the homes without the signs (there were 3 for McCain) turned out to be mostly pro Obama. As the first lovely young lady said to me "Oh, the Republicans live on the other side of the street". Home after home was inviting, friendly and mostly pro Obama/Biden. The dwellers were mostly 30-40 something white couples with yards full of playpens, swing sets, an array of sports gear and at least two kids. ALL of the wives were staunch Obama supporters while the husbands were either uncommitted or pro McCain, it appears that the white male population has yet to be convinced of Obama's vision. As I told one husband, "What happens when you do not listen to your wife?" He answered, "I get in trouble" to which I answered, "there is your answer, listen to her".
The older generation (70+), still held out for McCain. As one fantastic young woman said to me "Oh, I am so glad you are one of mine, I am so tired of fighting with my husband and mother. Sara Silverman has the great schlep but, where do you go when your parents are rednecks?!" As I pressed on, I gave away my other Obama button and convinced an undecided woman to read the literature on Obama's plan that I had given her. She was truly and sincerely grateful for the information. As I finished my canvassing and on my way to meet up with Peg, all of a sudden, I started seeing more and more Obama lawn signs, I was taking a different route than the one I came in on. As Peg tallied the results of all of our efforts, she told me that that weekend over 1,000 homes were visited and that support for Obama was now 4 to 1 when in the past it had been 3 to 1. It turns out that it is not the number of lawn signs that decide an election, it is the convictions of the people in the homes of all Americans.
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