What I Learned Canvassing

Bill George Canvassing

On the weekend before Super Tuesday, I was out canvassing for Warren. On Saturday, I had a partner and on Sunday, I was alone. It’s more fun with a partner but more productive alone. Of course, I wasn’t really doing it to be productive. I knew that Warren was out of the race and that Super Tuesday would likely be her last race in the Democratic primary. To be honest, I don’t know why I did it except maybe to show some solidarity with other Warren supporters.

But what I got out of it was different. The places I canvassed were not Warren areas. There were a lot of Sanders supporters. And it retrospect, that makes sense because one day I was in a Latino neighborhood and Sanders did really well with Latinos in California. But I met a lot of Biden supporters too. This was, after all, at a point in the race where there were really only two candidates.

Bad Experiences

As I feared, there were a couple of unpleasant encounters. The worst was with a Bloomberg supporter. He seemed angry and annoyed. But he was clearly busy. He wouldn’t even shut his vacuum off. So I give him a pass.

And the other one was with a Sanders supporter. It wasn’t really that bad. He was just telling me some things I’ve heard online that, while untrue, were hard to counter without making things ugly. They were sexist, but I thought it best to simply extricate myself as quickly as possible. He had made up his mind and I had plenty of other homes to visit. But that interaction was more annoying than unpleasant.

The Glue That Binds: Donald Trump

Other than this, all the experiences were positive. They were also, to a shocking degree, predictable. Democratic voters hate Donald Trump! They weren’t emotional about it. They spoke of him the way you would a broken sewage pipe that was draining into your drinking water. There was a problem and it needed to be fixed as soon as possible.

Other than the two men I discussed above (and of course they were men), everyone was bound together and ready for the general election. Most people had their favorites but ultimately didn’t care. (There were a few who, like me, bristled at the idea that Michael Bloomberg might be the nominee.) I even spoke at some length to some of them about the nonsense conflict online between Sanders and Warren supporters.

My takeaway from canvassing is that the internecine fighting I see online is mostly absent offline. And sure: maybe that’s just because it’s a lot harder to yell at someone standing in front of you. But that just illustrates the point. It’s easy to vilify abstract people. It’s much harder to say that four more years of Trump is better than allowing Sanders/Biden to be president when you are talking to someone whose healthcare would be on the line because of it.

Thank You for Your Service

There was another kind of reaction that I got a lot — especially from people who had already voted. They were glad to see people out canvassing. I got this vibe of, “Thank you for your service!” And there’s probably a lot to that because many of them also seemed vaguely ashamed because they were not out doing it.

And there is a feeling of pride doing it. If we are going to keep what is left of our democracy, this is the kind of thing we need to do. (But it isn’t nearly enough as I plan to discuss later.)

United Left

Overall, canvassing made me feel a lot better about the state of the Democratic Party. It made me think that we are all a lot more united than it appears. And that was also my takeaway from Sunday’s debate between Sanders and Biden — contentious as it was.

But it’s made me a lot less tolerant of what I read on Twitter every day. It’s coming from both sides. And it’s all nonsense — or a more coarse synonym.


PA AFL-CIO President Bill George by Molly Theobald for the AFL-CIO America’s Unions, licensed under CC BY 2.0.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

4 thoughts on “What I Learned Canvassing

  1. Thanks for writing this! Now I feel guilty I didn’t, myself. It’s going to be important for people to maintain some kind of community connection in the next few months, or we’re all doomed (on a faster scale than we were, before).

    • You shouldn’t feel guilty! I’m trying to refocus on local politics where I can actually have an impact. Regardless, it’s helpful for your sanity to participate. It’s almost like our society was designed to make us feel impotent!

      • And, at the local politics level, some Republicans are genuinely interested in good governance. At the federal level, they’re all varying degrees of crooked-to-outright criminal (as are most Republican governors, hello, Mike Pence). There are a few Republican state legislators and City Council types with a decent bone in their bodies. Still wrong about almost everything, but reasonably honest.

        • That certainly used to be true. I suspect like everything else, things have gone south. When Fox News is the number-one source of information, all get poisoned. But most of what I’m looking at are non-partisan. And thus far, my take is that the people do try to do a good job. I went to a city council meeting recently and was very impressed. We’ll see!

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