I went canvassing with our friend Steve on Sunday afternoon. About half of the names on our list were in this huge, bleak development of apartment units southwest of town. A lot of “Not Homes” although sometimes we could hear someone there, and one “Refused” (a guy who slammed the door in our face). But there were two gratifying encounters. One was a self-described 33 year old mother of three who has never voted before and is gung-ho for Obama (although is also planning to vote for our incumbent Republican governor Mitch Daniels — there’s a lot of this, apparently). She was really fired up and told us about how she convinced her mother that maybe it wasn’t a good idea to vote for another rich Republican born with a silver spoon in his mouth. “Obama was born with nothing, so he knows what that’s like.” She was happy to learn about early voting, so we felt we’d accomplished something, albeit minor (the Obama people are very eager to get people to vote early in order to reduce lines on Nov. 4).
The other memorable one was deep into the depressing complex. This shirtless dude entirely covered with tattoos and with peeling skin on his back answered the door and got his wife, also extensively tattood in what seemed an especially unsystematic/piecemeal way. She said she’d never voted before but had registered this time, and is going to vote for Obama. She said she was really glad we’d come by, because she didn’t know where or how to vote. It came out that she had no idea what Democrat or Republican means, basically did not have any sense of what a political party is. I got the feeling that she was worried that the process of trying to vote might be somehow embarrassing or difficult (I actually wish we’d explained the process in more detail). Steve did a great job of trying to explain the party system concisely and sort of nudging her towards voting the Democratic ticket, although she too seemed inclined to vote for My Man Mitch (she had no sense that there’d be anything strange in doing so). We left her with a handful of campaign leaflets. Steve mentioned afterwards that she’d made a reference, which I’d missed, about “not caring what religion” Obama is, so she’d clearly gotten some of the emails claiming he’s a Muslim.
We got canvassed the other day, and I had this visceral sense of how that experience of chatting with a stranger who’s come to your door about the election does make it seem that much more concrete and not in a realm of media abstraction, even for someone like me who is thinking and talking about it all the time.
Here’s one way to do some canvassing, start here at the Obama/Biden site.