Tania Arias is an OffTheBus grassroots correspondent. Each week she contributes a campaign journal documenting her life out on the trail.
On this gorgeous October Sunday in New York City, I volunteered for The Barack Obama Campaign phone bank to phone registered voters in Pennsylvania. Out of the 75 phone calls I made, only 26 people were home, out of the 26, only 12 agreed to speak to me, five of whom were staunch Obama supporters, three were for McCain and four were undecided. The one that struck me the most, however, was a Democrat.
The Democrat in question is a lovely, gritty 69-year old ex-military man who has been a Democrat his entire life and who was eager to inform me that, in spite of this, he will vote for McCain. I decided to engage him in conversation and he was eager to join me. He informed me that he is "a union man," a trucker his whole life (now retired) who likes to live in Democratic cities because "that was where he could always find work." I asked him if he was better off now than eight years ago and his resounding answer was "NO." I asked him if he had been happy and successful during the Clinton Administration and his answer was "those were the good old days." Imagine my dismay at his decision to vote for McCain!! His answer made my heart sink... . "He is black, I lived in Chicago and I know the filth Obama has mixed with and brings with him. He is going to fill Washington with Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and the likes of them. I do not agree with mixed marriages (meaning Obama's parents) and I do not trust him, he is black." "Furthermore, McCain is a war hero and Obama was never in the military, I want to vote for a war hero."
The "coup de grace" was when he informed me that, if Hillary would have been the candidate, he would have voted for her (never mind that she has never been in the military either). I explained that the same economic team that backed Bill was behind Obama and that Obama was best prepared to deal with the present crisis but, he would not be persuaded. We spoke for at least 25 minutes while I made the case for Obama. We established a rapport and he actually was very interested in listening. As I said goodbye I said "Please sir, on Nov. 4th, when you enter that voting booth, think of me and our conversation." I fear that he won't.
However, I had two lovely elderly ladies, both undecided, who did leave me with great hope. The first lady (age 72) was still undecided but leaning towards Senator Obama. She said that her husband does not want Obama "because he will take his hunting gun." I explained that Mr. Obama would do no such thing and that the only thing he wants is to make sure that AK-47s and illegal arms do not fall in the hands of disturbed individuals or criminals. Law abiding citizens, with legal permits, will not be disarmed. I even volunteered to give her my home phone number to call, even at 3:00 am, if ever Mr. Obama comes to take their gun away. We spoke for another 15 minutes and she opened up to my discourse on Senator Obama. She laughed quite a bit and as we said goodbye, she thanked me for the call and said that she felt much better about Senator Obama.
The last undecided and second elderly lady was my favorite. A farmer, age 75, Pentecostal, simply lovely, informed me that she did not like Obama very much because "he wanted abortion." I explained to her that he does not want abortion, no one does, that I am the proud mother of an adopted daughter and know the pain of losing a pregnancy since I had miscarried a son. The difference is the right of all Americans to be able to choose and not dictate whether to abort or keep a baby. She fully understood. Then she said, "he wants gays." Again, I explained, he does not promote being gay, as an American and by the spirit and letter of our constitution, he believes that all men are created equal. As Christians, we should love our fellow men and women, regardless of creed, sexual orientation or race. She, once again, agreed with me.
Her frustration was reflected in this statement: "Oh dear, I hear so much terrible stuff about him from Republicans." This lovely lady admitted that even in her own family life had become difficult, her nephew had lost his job, times were tough. Again, I asked her, "Are you better off now than you were eight years ago?" I asked her who her nephew was going to vote for and she said "My whole family is for Obama" to which I answered, "Then do not take it from me, listen to your loved ones, I am just a stranger." She laughed and said that if she did not vote for Obama, her family would kill her. I answered " Please do not vote for Obama because of fear of your family, vote for him because, in your heart, you know he is the right choice." Before we said goodbye, she asked me to join her in prayer for my family, her family and for the country...we prayed together.
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