I have spent the last few days, on and off, at a campaign call center in Santa Monica, making phone calls for Obama, but I don't think I'm going in today.
I am tempted. I want to do something. I want to be involved. I want to help, plus it's fun to be part of the campaign, fun to be there with others, working for something we all believe in.
But when I think about actually sitting down and bombarding the voters of Ohio with yet another volley of calls -- Ohio, where I used to live! I know these people! -- I have to say that I don't think I can do it.
I also submit that this whole robo-call strategy is flawed, disconnected, useless at best, counterproductive in many cased, and has to be rethought, the sooner the better.
Here's the story: Since California is pretty much a given for the Democrats these days, on the national level, volunteers in the Golden State are assigned to call voters in Colorado, Ohio, Wisconsin and Iowa. We are instructed to say "Colo-rad-do," not "Colo-rawdo," and then set up on a computer that dials numbers of pre-selected Democratic voters, to make sure they get to the polls.
Sounds easy, no? And I've done plenty worse in past campaigns, been set to calling "undecided's" who have been known to shout invectives, and accuse me of baby killing and so on.
The problem is, however, that these nice Democratic voters on whom we are set loose pretty much do already support the President -- as they have told the previous callers. Clearly.
And they know where and when they are voting. As they have said before -- some of them ten times already. Some more.
They have had it. "Please, please," the nice ones said to me yesterday, "get me off the list!" The less nice shout and slam down the phone. A few of them have allowed that they will now vote for Romney.
I took my concerns to the aparatchiks who always run these places. You know the types, you remember them from high school. The ones who look busy, with their lists and cell phones -- well, we all have cell phones, but we're making calls on ours. These folks, however, don't make calls.
"People don't like it," I said to a group of them who were gathered over the smoked salmon sandwiches that had just been delivered.
"No, but it works," they said. "Want some of this chocolate?"
"Who says it works?" I asked them.
"Headquarters, in Washington."
Fine. I went back to my phone. The computer robo-dialed. "Hello?" said a shaky voice.
I looked at the name and age -- 90. She lives in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, where there used to be a steel mill, when I was growing up. She had been asleep, she told me, having a nice dream. And yes, she was voting, had already sent in her ballot, a week ago as she told the last caller.
My script told me to ask her if she had voted for Obama, but it seemed intrusive, and all of sudden I wondered who wrote that script anyway?
Clearly a non-caller, one of these campaign-bosses in Washington. But what do they know about these calls? Nothing. Not if they are anything like the folks running the show here, who don't make the calls.
Who have never once sat on the phone themselves, never once had to hear the anger, the frustration, the pleas for forbearance. And in my own three days of calling, I can't say that I actually did anything productive for the campaign, not really. Just reconfirmed that most of the recipients either had voted or will, on Tuesday. And managed to disturb a lot of people in the meantime.
I know the latest theory -- that it takes seven calls to turn out a vote.
But says who? I am now wondering. These disconnected bossy-boots? What about the guy that you take from the football game, the people whose lunch you disrupt? You're telling me I should call them seven times?
"Is there anything you could do to make them stop calling?" the nice old woman in Cuyahoga Falls said to me yesterday.
And I realized there was one thing I could do -- stop calling.
Which is how I plan to serve the Obama campaign from here on in.