The presidential race is now down to the last two weeks and, as a volunteer working for the Obama camp, let me just say one thing “Hallelujah for a good debate performance!”
I can vouch for the fact that no amount of money in the world can make someone take the abuse we’ve taken at the hands of the opponents we come across in our work on the phone banks and canvassing. Of course, I can’t speak for the other side, or even for my fellow volunteers, but in my opinion, I have come to regard political volunteerism as a form of self-flagellation.
I am truly wondering if I am a masochist. How else do I explain the fact that, after my first night of predictive calling, I didn’t go running and screaming into the night vowing never to return again to any phone bank location?
So what drove me to volunteer in the first place? What drives anyone to volunteer to call total strangers during the dinner hour, while their blood sugar is dangerously low, and ask them who they are going to vote for? Civic duty? Belief in the man whom I’m making the calls on behalf of? Hope for a better future? For me, it was none of those things.
Truth be told, I’m still hoping to meet Michelle Obama, but I’ll settle for President Obama if I have to. I’ve got two weeks left to do it, and if I can get anywhere near a pair of tickets to see that woman speak, I’ll climb over burning coals to get them. Hell, I’ll call a whole night’s worth of Republicans…which brings me to just how unpleasant it is to make calls for a phone bank.
First, for those of you who ignored the voices in your head urging you to get on the bandwagon and make some calls to help re-elect Obama, here’s how a phone bank works. You are given a script of what to say to the people you are calling. Attached to that script are a few pages of names of the people you will be calling and their information such as telephone number, political party affiliation, gender, and age.
In the beginning, the people we were calling were pretty much a mix of Democrats, Republicans, Independents and undecideds. It was tricky getting through a night without getting cussed out at least once by a Republican who (a) didn’t appreciate me interrupting the Bill O show and (2) being so bold as to ask them if they were still planning on supporting Obama for re-election, to which the answer was a resounding “Oh hell no!”
The night I was told I was an effin’ idiot for calling on the Jewish High Holy Days, well that one will stay with me long after the election is over.
So, you can imagine my trepidation as I would show up for subsequent phone banks. Tonight’s phone bank just happened to be scheduled the night after the third presidential debate was handily won by Obama. I had no idea that would be a determining factor in the types of responses I got from the people I was about to call. Past experience told me to hold onto my hat cause it was going to be a rocky ride. The Republicans on the list would be waiting to take their wrath out on anyone who even dared utter the name Obama.
I received my list of names and went to a secluded spot of the home where I chose to make the calls from. I anxiously perused the list.
The first three names were all Democrats. Good, no problem. I called them. No answer on any of them. Even better. Seemed most registered voters finally knew the drill. If it was a number they didn’t recognize, it had to be from a phone bank, and most of them were smart enough to let the message machine get it. I was feeling better about showing up tonight. But then I came across my first Republican call of the night halfway down the page.
John Smith (not his real name)
R for Republican
At first I considered not calling the number and marking it “NH” for not home, but honesty got the better of me…actually curiosity got the better of me.
What would John say? Just how angry would John be after last night’s debate? I had to find out. Besides, it’s not like I was in the same room as him and asking “So, you’re a Romney supporter eh? How’s that working out for you?”
He couldn’t reach through the phone and hurt me. I dialed the number.
Ring, ring, ring…I cowered…ring, ring, ring…then “Hi, you’ve reached John Smith (not his real name). I can’t come to the phone righ…”
I breathed a sigh of relief and silently congratulated myself for not giving up, then I hung up. I marked the name off as not home and looked back at my list. I leapt for joy when I saw the next name. It was a female, age 21, and she was a Democrat! I was invincible!
Soon, I was down to the last three names on the list. They were all Democrats, two of them were at the same number, and I said out loud to the empty space “Yes, I can do this!”
Once I finished marking off the last name, I gathered my bag, bid adieu to the phone bank hostess, and walked out to my car happy to have survived another night of volunteering.
But I have to say. Tonight I left the phone bank feeling a bit unsated. After I had my list in hand and the determination to call everyone on it regardless of their political affiliation, I felt almost cheated out of possibly the last time I would ever hear someone on the other end tell me “For eff’s sake, quit calling this effin’ number,” and I wondered.
When Obama is making some of the very calls I’ve been making on his behalf this week while going from city to city, do you think he’ll get a list with some Republican voters on it, and more importantly, will he get cussed out too?