Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Canvassing in NY to help take back the house, stuck in the car with a pill

Better days: In Keene, with Connie Britton, fall, 2016
In my desire to do something about the disaster in the White House, a while ago I got interested in Swing Left.  From the website: "Swing Districts are places where the winner of the last House of Representatives election was determined by a thin margin. Swing Left helps you find and commit to supporting progressives in your closest Swing District so that you can help ensure we take back the House in 2018."

It is pretty nifty. You can put in your zip code and find the swing district nearest you and then you find out what to do to either keep it Democratic or flip a Republican seat. Every week I get emails with links to either drive or carpool to our swing districts, New York's 19th Congressional District and New Hampshire's 2nd.

I dragged my feet but finally did Sunday. Since I had already been to New Hampshire's second in 2016, I decided to go to New York to canvas for Democrat Antonio Delgado. The Republicans are running a racially charged attack against this (black) Rhodes scholar for some lyrics he used during a brief career as a rap artist. According to this story in the New York Times, "The video ads have injected elements of race and identity in a contest already fraught with national implications: The race between Mr. Delgado and the Republican incumbent, Representative John Faso, is thought to be a tossup, so both parties are heavily invested in the district, which covers much of the Hudson Valley and Catskills regions."

Some of us met at 10 a.m. at Sheldon Field in Northampton. I drove with Robert Freedman, whose organizing efforts were featured in this Gazette story. We go way back; I interviewed him about a play he directed in 1991. We know a lot of the same people and had plenty to talk about. The drive over, with another volunteer, was a quick hour and 45 minutes to Hudson, N.Y. At the appointed time, noon, volunteers from the area and further away crowded into a cramped office. It is all done by app now, unlike when I went to New Hampshire in 2016 and we got clipboards with addresses where we were supposed to go. A crush of people descended on the one coordinator who was giving out location codes to put in the app. Somebody said they probably were not expecting so many people. Perhaps the Kavanaugh disaster had gotten them out.

In New Hampshire, they had separated experienced canvassers from new ones. Since I hadn't done it with the new system, I said I was new. A woman said she would go with me. The coordinator started giving an explanation of how to use the app, but when I lingered to hear it and to check in with Robert and tell him I was taking off, she walked towards the door and gave me a dirty look.

As soon as we got in her Volvo, the problems began. I've written about crazy drivers to and from Boston, and now I'm about to write about another type of crazy. I seriously don't know what was wrong with this woman. I looked at my phone screen and saw the addresses. Then I asked her what to do next. She said they were explaining all this back in the office. But she had wanted to leave!

She has a summer home in Stockbridge and lives in the 60s on the west side of New York. Perhaps she is a generally snooty person.

In any case, you swipe to the next screen and get the names, ages, and their party, and then to the next to say if you were able to connect with them.

Not too far into the farmland, we lost service, meaning we couldn't get directions to the houses. I had said earlier I thought it was easier with paper, but she had she didn't think so. Right around when we had to stop at an apple farm to ask for directions, she might have changed her mind. I can't even begin to get into the various times she snapped at me or ordered me around. She has been working on this campaign since April, so maybe she was annoyed about the carpetbaggers.

I opened the window to let in the fresh country air, and she said to close it because she had the AC on.

A highlight was getting some apples that were so crisp and tasty, they must have come right off the tree. A couple of times I commented on how beautiful the area was, but she didn't answer.

Very few people were home. I only talked to one person. It was from my driver's list, so she showed me the name on her phone. She asked me to walk to the house while she sat in the car, and I said OK. She wanted me to take her phone so I would remember the name, but I said I didn't need it.

A woman who looked like she was 40-something came to the door. She had a Bernie sticker on her car. That was encouraging. I said that Delgado was a good candidate who cared about issues important to people like us, and that although most of us don't vote in the midterms, this was an important time to do it if we want to gain back some control. She took the literature, thanked me, and said she would consider it. Maybe I got one voter.

When I got back to the car, my canvassing partner said, "Where's my phone?"

I said, "I didn't take it." She said, "Yes you did!"

I said I would call her. The phone rang from between the seats.

She said she was sorry.

About that time, Robert called, looking for me.

I told my driver that we had to head back soon. She said it was only 3:15, and we were supposed to go to four.

I took out the invite. It said, noon to 3.

She drove me back to the office and said she would finish the last few by herself.

I thanked her for driving, she headed back out, and then I got in the car driven by Robert to go back to Sheldon Field.

They had at least had conversations with six or so people who said they would probably vote for Delgado. I told them about my bad experience and showed them a photo from the day that Connie Britton had come to the Keene Democratic Committee's office to get us pumped up to go out and canvas for Clinton.

I thought of the spread they had given us in Keene and the hopes that we had for the election. In the car, we discussed the idiots we remembered saying at the time that they were considering "the lesser of two evils" between Trump and Clinton.

We had been tasked with getting out the vote for the whole Democratic ticket. It included Maggie Hassan for senator, so at least we got that. We had also given out literature for Annie Kuster for representative in New Hampshire's 2nd District. She also won, and she is the other candidate that Swing Left is helping.

By the time I got home, it was dark.

I was hungry. I had a peanut butter sandwich around 11, but only two apples and a donut afterwards. I pulled out a leftover cooked chicken and gnawed on a drumstick. Not a pretty picture.

I texted my friends that I didn't think it was a good use of time...but I felt like I should be doing something. I still have the opportunity to give New Hampshire a try. Maybe I will, maybe I won't.

I had felt so cooped up in the car that I needed to get some exercise. I put on a light colored T-shirt some running pants and went out into the balmy night. I ran on the well-lit paths around Mount Holyoke and on the parts of the street and sidewalk that weren't dark.

With stitches still in my head and stitches recently removed from my leg, I thought it would not be a good idea to fall. I went for about three miles. For most of it I went slowly, but I sped up between some markers to get some of the bad energy out.

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