This Is What Democracy Looks Like


I want to tell you a story about bravery, about love of country, and about how strongly women feel about this election.

I’ve been staffing the local Get Out the Vote Center.  People show up to canvass or to phone bank.  My job is to call people to remind them of their shift, sign them in when they show up, get them buttons and stickers, and to send them either to the room for canvassers (where they get some training and are given a packet with materials to hand out and a list of addresses to visit) or to the room for phone bankers (where they get some training and are given a list of people to call and a script for what to say).  This starts early in the morning and runs until the final canvassers get back, generally around 6:30 or 7:00 pm.  I also meet them when they get back, collect their materials, listen to how it went — and ask them if they’re willing to sign up for another day.

Today, there was a bit of a crush at one point — canvassers returning with their materials and folks showing up for their shifts and I was trying to move people as quickly as possible through the process.  Are you here to canvass?  Sign this sheet, take buttons and stickers, and go there.  Are you here to phone bank?  Sign this other sheet, go into the next room, and Bob, the man in the blue shirt, will get you started.  We had parents with little children, older couples who’ve done this many times, young women from a local university who were very excited to canvass.  “We canvassed for Hillary and promised each other that we’d do it from then on.”  (I have visions of them as old women, holding each other up and moving from room to room in the nursing home.  Actually, there’s a good story or screenplay to be written there.)

One woman waited until everyone else was gone and I asked her, “So are you here to canvass or phone bank?”  She got a bit weepy and started to apologize.  She was doing that thing we do when we’re crying — and are embarrassed about crying —  where we wave our hands in front of our faces.  She was able to tell me that she knew that she couldn’t canvass, but she’d agreed to come in and phone bank but, now that she was here, she realized that she just couldn’t do it.  She’d thought that maybe if she pushed herself outside her comfort zone, she’d be able to manage, but now, faced with calling strange people on the phone, she just couldn’t, but she had wanted to come in and explain to me why she couldn’t, instead of just not showing up.  (And it was clear that even that had been difficult for her.)  She was apologizing, and weeping, and obviously feeling terrible.  She said, “I was afraid I couldn’t do this, but I feel so strongly about this election, I’m sorry.  I’m sorry.  If I could do it, I would.  It’s so important but I can’t; I just can’t.  I wanted to, but . . . .”

I told her not to worry; we’re all doing what we can.  There’s a reason this old woman with a bad ankle is staffing the center and not canvassing.

I asked her if she’d like to stay and do data entry for us.  (When the canvassers come back, the information they’ve collected gets entered into a database for the next campaign.  This apartment building won’t let people in to canvass; take it off the list.  This house has just been sold and the new owners aren’t Democrats.  The woman in this house said she can drive people to the polls on Election Day and her next door neighbor wants a yard sign.)  She wouldn’t have to talk to or call anyone.  She could just sit in the main room and enter information into a computer and help not only with this election, but with the next one.  (This is Virginia.  We have some election or another EVERY goddamn year.)  Her shoulders dropped, she took a deep breath, and she nodded.  I turned her over to the woman who coordinates data entry and, several hours later, when I left, she was still there, working away.

Because we love America (and because the Nazis scare us), many of us find ourselves doing things we never thought we’d do.  We find ourselves doing things we don’t really want to do.  As @MrsWhatsit1 has noted, she’s gone canvassing more than once, even though she really doesn’t enjoy it.  I’ve driven a local candidate to canvass, even though I am directionally challenged (to put it mildly) and don’t like to drive during rush hour.  Parents with toddlers are canvassing because they want to teach their children how to be good citizens.  One mom reluctantly dropped her teen-age son off at a stranger’s house to phone bank after being assured that we’d feed him and show him what to do.  (Food.  These centers run on food.  One family showed up today to drop off candy — heroes!  If you can’t do anything else, you can go buy bagels.  Fruit.  Pizza.  Show up and offer to make a Starbucks run.  Seriously, the Starbucks run would win you an award. )

But I think one of the things I will always remember about this election, in which I’ve done so many things and talked to so many people, is a woman who was terrified, who pushed herself past the point of tears, and who found a way to help change the world.  She’s doing what she can.  And that’s all that any of us can do.  But we can — and must — do that.

I’d love to hear in comments what you’re doing — and what you will do between now and 7:00 pm on the West Coast on Election Day.  And thereafter.

Gif found here.

15 responses to “This Is What Democracy Looks Like

  1. Good on her.
    All you can do is all you can do.

  2. This reminds me so much of me. I, who will avoid making appointments, or taking care of business, for weeks, because of my hatred for speaking on the phone, just spent five hours calling STRANGERS to GOTV. Me. On the phone. With strangers. For five hours. That’s how important this is. Vote. Make sure your friends and family vote. Help people vote. Drive them to vote. If you see someone being given a hard time trying to vote, stand up for them. Raise a ruckus.

    I called one 85 YO woman. I told her I was with the Michigan Dems & asked her if she would be voting & supporting Democrats? She said, and I quote, “Is the Pope Catholic? I grew up in Washington, D. C., where my parents weren’t allowed to vote. You’re damned right I will vote!”

    Made the whole terrifying, anxiety-ridden day worth it. Thank you, lady.

  3. Teresa Barensfeld

    I can’t do door-to-door because of RA. I do phonebanking and have for every election for the past decade— but much more this year. At first, I did it because it had to be done, then I got better at it and found that I liked it. I ask undecided Voters what their concerns are, instead of reading a list of talking points. I listen and try to say how my candidate(s) is going to help, how they’ll work for us. When I get a voter who is definitely voting for our candidates, I’m truly excited and show that. We’ve been getting more and more strong supporters. I’m in a swing district and we have a real chance of unseating our Republican incumbent (who voted to take away our healthcare, among other bad votes) This year, we have some fantastic Democrats running for Congress and state legislatures offices. Even the woman running for county coroner is head and shoulders above her opponents, an office that is usually not what people think about when they think about voting!

  4. Teresa Barensfeld

    Oh, and postcard parties! We’ve written a lot of cards for our candidate to our state legislature, who is a young, smart woman and will be a great legislator!

  5. I’ve been working for the very brave woman who signed up to run against a Republican in a red red state house district because he was unopposed; I do odd things like edit her FB entries, suggest ways to present her platform, help w/postcards, send her blogs like this one to cheer her up, call her and listen. And, I’ve done lots of postcards for another brave candidate — trying to unseat Joe Wilson in the federal congressional house. Also gave suggestions on how to present his messages to pull in more undecided voters. Routinely attend rallies, especially on women’s issues but also the Poor People’s March local version, Nuns on the Bus — other than providing a body and sometimes a sign, I get way more out of those than I put in. Wearing my BETO pin in SC because he’s become well-known everywhere…Really wanted to canvass but the temp+humidity just got to where I could go outside without breathing difficulties in the late afternoons & evenings when they went out.

  6. I think I’ve done just about everything it’s possible to do. I’ve donated, attended fundraisers (and donated), and hosted a fundraiser (and donated). I’ve written postcards. I’ve phone banked. I’ve text banked. I’ve canvassed. I’ve distributed literature and door hangers. I’ve used my social media profiles/presences/audiences – BOTH of them. I’ve registered voters. Helped organize and then volunteered at debates. Worked the polls (in the primary – and will be again on Tuesday). Coordinated volunteers for all of the above. Move from being a volunteer with to being an officer of the local Democratic party. Y’all have read my blog posts. Worked magic twice a month for two and half (??) years (Hecate will have to confirm the dates).

    I haven’t gone door to door WITH a candidate, and I haven’t done data entry (other than recording text banking results in Hustle). I think those are the only things I’ve missed.

    I’ve left it all on field. Because when history asks, “What did you do to stop TrumPutin and his Nazi stooges?” I want to be able to say, “Everything in my power.”

    • You rock, as your friends and I were discussing today. You forgot to mention arranging hot toddies for folks who canvassed in the rain for Wexton. Exactly what you said. I want to be able to say I did all that I could. Two more days of work at the GOTV center and then placing signs at polling places (Will they be glamoured? Yes, yes they will). And then the Dem Unity lunch on Wednesday to either celebrate or to lick our wounds — or likely some of both.

      • Also, also – I finally convinced the local Democratic party that we needed to do OUR OWN fundraising campaign. Then I ran the campaign for them, which raised over $1200. (This may be related to why I’m now an officer.)

  7. OH! I forgot the yard signs – ALL THE YARD SIGNS. In my tiny yard 🙂

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