My mantra this weekend was “college towns are for wimps.” Steve and I were going canvassing in Bedford, about 20 minutes south of Bloomington. When we got to the home base 15 minutes late, though, all the downtown Bedford packets were gone, so it was either semi-rural Bedford, with a lot of driving in between stops (and possibly scary dogs on the loose, that went through my mind, anyway), or the downtown of another town a bit further south, so we chose the latter.
This place felt very economically depressed. It was Sunday, so that may have been part of it, but it also felt semi-abandoned, with a lot of empty houses. We were amazed to discover, when we started to get hungry for lunch, that there seemed to be no restaurants of any sort in town — when we asked someone where to go, he mentioned a McDonald’s and Arby’s on the highway and a Subway several miles back towards Bloomington. (We ended up getting Fishwiches at McD’s at 1:45 or so — they tasted really good by then.)
Steve and I canvass according to whiffleball rules: you keep batting until you make contact, i.e. speak to a human being. There were a LOT of not-homes or, in some cases, a quickly raised blind and then not a peep. So you could sometimes ring the bell for 6 houses in a row before you finally got your contact with an actual voter. We decided that part of the reason the information in our packets often seemed to be way out of date was likely that no one may have canvassed for a Presidential candidate here for decades.
Best line of the day was at one of the first houses. A lady in her 80s was chatting by her front door with a younger man. When we asked for the name on our list, she cheerfully informed us, “oh, she’s probably in jail — she’s a felon.” She went on to explain, “she married my grandson a long time ago. The whole family loathed and despised her. When they got divorced, our hearts rejoiced. You know why she’s on your list? Every time she goes to a dentist or something, she puts down THIS address right here. I’m sure she’s in jail.”
When we’d first approached and asked if she were an Obama supporter, she said “that dirty old man?” which we found really confusing. She did turn out to be for Obama.
Most disheartening exchange of the day was a guy who said “I am voting, but not in the Presidential race.” He said “if that’s the best America has to offer, we’re in trouble” and went on to explain, “I’ve heard a lot of things, like that Obama’s a Muslim and that he might put the country under Muslim law. Now, it may not be true, but….” I felt I had to say, “you know, that really is not true, he’s not a Muslim, that’s just an invention people are spreading to raise suspicions about him” (even if in saying that I felt as if I was at some level buying into his logic that Muslim= bad; didn’t feel I had the luxury of making a more nuanced point). He kind of nodded and said something like, “maybe so, but there’s a lot of it out there.”
Difficult to know how to interpret this. Was he really saying, “yes, it may be lies, but hey, it’s out there?” Perhaps he meant to be saying something more like, “well, you say it’s lies, but I’m not sure.” Anyway, it was depressing, though I chose to take an optimistic view that this guy would have been a sure Republican vote in any other year.
There were actually more Obama signs and enthusiastic Obama supporters than I expected. More Obama than McCain signs for sure.
We’re going to Bedford itself on Tuesday for one final shift. Really would like to help (in our tiny way) to push Indiana blue.