Reno was hot this weekend. I had high hopes. I imagined when I went out to canvass for Obama that everyone I talked to would say, "I've had enough!" That every Republican would admit their party left them long ago and would get down on their knees and beg me for a voter registration form.
I imagined Joyce next door would want to vote. My God. She's a single mom with two draft-age kids. Isn't she paying attention?!
I imagined that the kind old lady one block over, the one on the fixed income whose husband is now on oxygen, would trust me when I say, "No, the McCain ad is false. I promise, Obama won't raise your taxes." I imagined that the Meeks across the way would finally realize that just because they are registered Republicans doesn't mean they have to vote Republican.
Yes, after a fairly discouraging day of talking to all kinds of voters, and wondering how anyone could be undecided, or God forbid, would actually want to vote for McCain, I landed on the one doorstep that made my entire day.
Here's my story.
I was walking a list of targeted voters - a list that the field organizer had created. I was getting frustrated because the houses on the list were so far apart and sporadically spaced, and it was hot. Wanting to clean up the list and get the stragglers, I walked quite a distance for one house. As I approached, two men were sitting on their porch. One was on his cell, the other was very old. I waved and walked a bit further to allow the man on his cell to finish his call. When I walked back by, they both waved and I approached.
The targeted voter was a registed Republican. He was 22 years old, and neither men fit this description. I asked if 'James' was around, and they both answered, "He's in jail." I explained that I was walking for the General Election and that I would mark him down to recontact at a later date. "James is my son. Whose campaign are you with?" The younger of the two asked. "Obama," I answered. He smiled slyly and put his beer down. I braced myself for a negative response -- again, it had been a long day with many McCain supporters or undecideds -- what Democrat in their right mind can be undecided at a time like this anyway?!.
"Good on you!" he exclaimed. I breathed a sigh of relief, and the elderly man, rail thin and toothless, interrupted loudly, "It doesn't matter who wins anyway..."
"Oh, boy," I thought, "here we go again."
"Jesus is coming and he's gonna make the final decision, and he's coming soon," he said, shaking his fist at me. I politely smiled and responded, "Well, until he does, I will try my hardest to make a difference." I turned toward the other man and he winked at me. The old man got up, shook my hand, said "Good day" and went inside. "Thanks for being so polite to my dad," the man said. "No problem," I said. I had thoughts of ending the conversation right there, but something made me stay. "If your son gets out of jail, he should check and see if he can still vote." "You know," said the man, "I'd like to know how I can do that." I thought he was referring to his son, so I started to explain. "No," he said, "I've never registered to vote and I'd like to do that." "Well," I said, "I have voter registration forms right here. Wanna do that now?"
He did. And he asked a lot of questions, like, when is election day, where he needs to go vote, how the voting is done, etc., questions that so many of us take for granted as seasoned voters. I spent the next half hour telling him how to vote. It felt good, and he was appreciative of me taking the time to tell him how while not passing judgment on him for not ever having done this. We shook hands and he thanked me for the work I was doing. He told me how badly his business was doing, and how poor and ill his father was -- how he had to move in with him to take care of him, and how his father's senility had set in. I said, "Just don't forget to vote," as I walked away. He yelled back "You have my word I'll vote! Let's get these assholes outta' there!"
That was worth all the door knocks -- all the assholes; all the whiners; all the greedy, ill-informed voters; all the pissy people who couldn't be bothered -- that I completed Saturday.
A man in his 50's who had never voted in his life who just needed someone to help him do it.