"I will live under a freeway overpass before I vote for a baby killer."
"I was doing fine until you called."
These are just a few of the things said yesterday to campaign volunteers for Oregon Democratic hopeful for the U.S. Senate, Jeff Merkley. But there were a lot of nice people too. Jim and I went down to volunteer yesterday evening for the first time -- we've been contributing $$s, but feeling like, considering our constant state of anxiety over this election, we really need to do more. So, last week when we were down at Obama's Oregon HQ to hear Howard Dean speak (yay!), we signed up to do some phone-banking. I was nervous!
There was a brief training, and there's a script and an automated phone system that puts you right on the line with live callers. No dialing, no waiting. We were contacting undecided, unaffiliated voters to ask them who, if the election were held right now, they would vote for for U.S. Senate: Democrat Jeff Merkley or Republican Gordon Smith. And then we had some "cheat sheets" to talk about specific issues if folks engaged with us and expressed any concerns. How did it go?
- Lots of hang-ups or dead air.
- A few rude comments, but I didn't get many. The one above -- "Fine until you called" -- came from an older guy, and that was really my only rude response. A lot of people sounded tired and jaded and said semi-rudely that they weren't interested and hung up. There were some crying babies in the background, some people who said they were sick or in bed. A lot of general disinterest.
- A lot of people are totally fed up with the nasty ad campaigns. Gordon Smith, the Republican, has launched some of the nastiest and also stupidest political ads I've ever seen. One of them, get this, has no issues at all, and just shows a close-up of Merkley eating at a backyard BBQ! I know I would not want video of myself eating BBQ shown to the whole state. It's just that Smith can't talk about issues, because he's voted with Bush on everything and he knows how Oregonians feel about that right about now.
- People expressed concern with the claims made in Smith's ads, which are lies. So, it was really great to be able to talk to some people and tell them the actual facts about Merkley's voting record and put their minds at ease about certain issues. Mostly it was older people who were really willing to talk. Bless them.
- A lot of people don't know who the candidates are for the Senate race. This isn't a shocker to me or anything. It's pretty easy for me to remember back to when I was in college and only voted for the President. I didn't know the other issues or races, I didn't know how important they were. So again, these phone calls are an opportunity to get a few voters to look down the ballot and check some more boxes than just "Obama" by reminding them how important it is that Obama have as many Democratic Senators working with him as possible. And this race is really tight right now. Every vote counts.
- There are people whose only concerns for their whole nation are: abortion and gay marriage. I have heard these people call in to CSPAN, and I talked to one last night. He's the one who would rather live under a freeway overpass, and what's more, he would rather live in a war-ravaged, economy-collapsed world than a world with legal abortion and gay marriage. I do wonder, if he had two buttons to press and genuinely had to make that choice for himself, what he would choose -- if he had to choose, for example, between living in Denmark and living in Afghanistan, what would he choose? -- but no matter. The thing is, he will vote that way. I understand that abortion is an extremely important issue to many. I wouldn't bother trying to talk someone out of believing abortion is wrong. I am pro-choice, but I don't *love* abortions, and neither do other Democrats. But they need to be safely available, because history has shown that desperate young women will get them anyway (especially if they have no education about birth control, as the Republicans would have it) and this hellfire judgmental attitude that they somehow deserve to die painful deaths from botched abortions, well. . . it's not very Christian of the Christians, is it? As for gay marriage, what possible argument anyone could ever have against it, I do not know. But especially in today's world, to put that issue above the economy, healthcare, the war, job outsourcing, corporate ownership of our leaders, the environment, all of that, you're willing to endure all of that, just so that two people who love each other can't get married? Please.
If you're still reading, I suppose my point here is that if you don't know your local and state candidates, it's easy as pie to find out. And what's more, they probably need your help, making phone calls, stuffing envelopes, registering voters. Especially if you live in a swing state, if you could give a few afternoons to voter registration, you could help. Things are going to be really really close, and it's kind of fun to volunteer. In Oregon we have vote by mail, which is very efficient and makes our voter "turnout" very high, but as a result there's no trip to the polls on election day, and no feeling of doing one's civic duty. So going to a candidate's headquarters to work, it kind of fills that void.
If any of you are Oregonians and want to know more about Merkley, HERE is his website. He has a very interesting story which includes three years as president of Oregon's Habitat for Humanity. His wife is a nurse, and when she was younger she worked at Kalighat Home for the Dying, Mother Teresa's hospice in Calcutta, and has since traveled with Northwest Medical Teams in Mexico, on a mission to do cataract surgeries for the poor. Check it out.