On Tuesday, November 8, the country is going to elect the next President of the United States. As I see it, no matter the outcome, a whole lot of people are going to be waking up the next morning wondering how we will survive the next four or, God forbid, eight years.
But for many, November 8th will be a day of celebration. Whether you identify as a Republican, Democrat, Independent or Other, hopefully, you are able to take a step back from the political circus, and appreciate the historical moment that is likely to take place.
On this day, we just might elect a woman to the office of The President of the United States. (Let that sink in for a moment.)
As I sat home one evening watching another negative political commercial (Or was it a pro political spot? They seem to all blur together), I thought about the significance of Hillary Clinton clinching the coveted position, and how watching that historical moment from the boring surroundings of my living room just didn’t fit the scenario. I needed to be at a real party on that night, and what better than the local Democratic Committee Party that will be happening right here in Kalamazoo. But in order to be invited to such a party, you need to either know the right people or pay your dues by kicking in time or money – or as I assume they would prefer, both.
And that’s how I arrived at this spot in time – on Douglas Avenue, knocking on doors on a beautiful day when I would rather be doing anything else.
“Here’s your list,” said the young man, handing me a clipboard and a pile of brochures, and who I suspected wasn’t even of voting age. “You’ll be campaigning today for Paul Clements who is running for Congress. These are all the addresses you need to hit,” he continued, flipping through 300 pages of survey forms. You will need to complete the response information on these forms after every door you knock on, so we know that you won’t really be knocking back Two Hearteds at Bell’s for two hours, and throwing away the brochures on your way out the door.”
OK, he didn’t really say the last part but he didn’t have to. I have never stumped for a politician before, and I had no idea what I was in for, other than an uncomfortable couple of hours of wishing no one is home.
So with clipboard in-hand, and my Hillary button clipped to my chest, I knock on the first door…
There’s a hole where the doorbell used to be so after a couple of knocks, I stand back, and in my head, I go over the script they gave me. “Good afternoon. My name is _______________. I’m a volunteer with the Michigan Democrats here in (Local community name), working to elect Democrats up and down the ticket.”
My knocking ignites a medley of barking dogs, and as the door slowly opens, a snout, followed by a humongous dog head, pushes through the slender opening.
“Satan! Get back!”
As a tiny woman pushes the dog back, all memory of the script flies away, and I stammer something about Hillary and “Please vote November 8th. As the petite woman finally manages to shove the dog back in, she slams the door shut. Damn, I think as I fill out the form. I didn’t ask anything that was on this form. No problem. I’ll get the next one.
It didn’t take long for me to figure out that people simply don’t answer their front door. No one has ever opened the door to a stranger, only to receive a gift. Nope. People who knock on doors are selling something. And I was selling the Democratic Party…just not very well. As the day progresses, I wave to a set of eyes peeking through the front blinds as I wad up another brochure, trying to shove it into the crack in the door.
“Good afternoon,” I say, surprised that someone forgot the code, and actually opened their door to me. “Are you…Chenglei?” knowing that I’m mangling the name printed out on my form, and knowing all too well that the very large white gentleman standing in front of me is neither Asian nor registered to vote. The gentleman stares at me, and since I’m appreciative of the audience, I continue…
“I’m out today reminding people that Elections are Tuesday, November 8th. Not this Tuesday, but next Tuesday. Are you registered to vote?” The large man opens the door a little wider, and I can see that it’s been some time since his home has seen a broom or a dust rag. He continues to stare at me. “OK,” I stammer, unsure of where to go with my pitch at this point, since the script I was given did not include the scenario of non-communicative feedback. “I’m going to leave this with you in case you would like to learn a little more about these fine people who are running for local office.” I stick out my hand, and he stares at the brochure. Finally, he takes it, and stares back at me.
“Have a great day,” I smile as the door slowly shuts, swallowing up the man, and my most interesting interaction of the day.
No one answers the doors, and yet, I can hear people whispering from inside. It’s a humbling feeling, knowing that people just want you to go away.
“Yeah?” the young man asks, rubbing his eyes, and probably finding my intrusion a bit rude so early on a Saturday afternoon. A skunky smell hits me, and I watch as smoke floats past the young man, disappearing into the air behind me. As I launch into my pitch, the young man politely listens, and promises that he’ll be voting on Tuesday, and will be casting his vote for the Democratic ticket.
As I dodge another plume of smoke, I don’t doubt for a moment that he’ll be voting Democratic.
And more empty responses to my doorbell rings and knocks, giving me many creative ways of stuffing brochures into door cracks, under welcome mats and next to empty beer bottles (I’m in a heavy student neighborhood, after all.)
And that was my day as a Hillary Believer spreading the gospel of GOTV – Get Out The Vote. Or as I like to think of it, Getting Off Track with the Vision. Along with the rest of the world, I’m looking forward to November 9th when this political circus is over…for now.
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