Democracy in my heart


Today was rough. My first shift was in a rural town outside of Fayetteville, and today I was really thankful I had an SUV. Lots of dirt roads, lots of sand (?!), and on one occasion, a house at the end of a long, sheltered driveway that I couldn’t reach, but I realized this only after I had already driven well into that driveway, which was surrounded on one side by a forest of trees and on the other by a deep, wide ditch. Took me fifteen minutes to back out of there.

Lots of long walks under the afternoon sun down single track dirt roads, only to find that no one was home. (Still worth making the trek, though. You never know what’s behind every door — could be the vote that calls the election.)

People are clearly tired of this election because I had plenty of irritated folks who refused to speak with me once they saw my Hillary shirt. One man yelled at me as I walked down his driveway. (I wasn’t sure how he ended up on my list, which is supposed to consist of Democratic voters and Democratic-leaning independents/unaffiliateds. And no, I did not engage. I just waved goodbye and left.)

I took one more shift later this afternoon that lasted well into the evening. (The campaign office had to call me back to the office. There’s always one more house to visit — it’s hard to stop!) I had to make up for what I felt was a dispiriting afternoon shift. I felt like I had to end the day on a high note.

One of my last houses was on a quiet, poor, and dimly lit street in a working class neighborhood. As I got out of my car, two girls walked up and asked me if I was the landlord. I said no, and they silently kept walking. I imagine not a lot of people — let alone women traveling solo — drive up to their neighborhood after dark in a new, shiny SUV.

The house had a rickety front porch, with floorboards that creaked under every footfall. I normally would not visit a house at night with a dead porchlight, but I liked the warm yellow light peeking from behind the broken Venetian blinds. I heard yelling inside, and then a face at the window.

When people visit neighborhoods like this at night, the residents likely have more to fear of the person at their front door than the person actually at the front door. Their expressions when they see me never fail to amuse me.

I asked for each person on my list — there were five listed as living at that address. The young twentysomething man in a Chicago Bulls shirt mumbled that he was the guy I called last, so I launched into my little speech about getting out the vote. I asked him if we could count on him to vote for Hillary Clinton for president.

You should’ve seen the look on his face. Sort of a “Wait, you’re here at 7:30 at night, and that’s what you want? My vote?”

Well. Yeah.

He nodded with a smile. “Yeah. I’ll vote for Hillary. I ain’t voting for no Trump.”

“Wonderful! What about Roy Cooper for governor? Can we count on your vote for him?”

Bigger smile. “Yeah.”

“And Deborah Ross for U.S. Senate? Can we count on you to vote for her?”

He’s laughing now. “Oh yeah. I only vote Democratic. I’ll vote.”

By then he was joined on the porch by two women, whom I assumed were his sister and mother. They were smiling, too. They chanted that they could never vote for Trump, that they would absolutely make it to the polls on Tuesday, that they will definitely vote.

I reminded them of their polling station, and I was happy to know that they already knew where it was. I handed them the little slip of paper with the polling station hours, which they happily took. They promised they would vote, that they would take time out of what was surely a challenging week, to exercise their right as US citizens.

That’s one of the things that most inspiring to me about this work. It’s not always going to be a party on every front porch. People have been mostly friendly, but not always. It’s clearly been a hard-fought, incredibly negative, and at times brutal campaign, and people are tired. In a battleground state like North Carolina, I can only imagine how many times each resident gets a visit, a phone call, another piece of campaign literature, all in a single day, several times a week.

But I visited both well-to-do and desperately poor people today. I knocked on fancy, polished doors, and doors that were barely hanging on to a hinge. I talked to people with shiny cars parked in their driveway, and people with no cars at all. I talked to people to whom the country has been very generous, and people who clearly have been let down and forgotten by their government, even their city and their neighborhood.

What struck and inspired me as I knocked on all of these doors is that, no matter how much they were given, or how much had been taken away (if they ever had anything), every single person has one vote. No more. No less. Every single person on my list had the right to choose their representatives in government. Wealthy or impoverished, everyone has a right to vote.

I know it sounds super corny, but I really did feel privileged to be asking these folks for that vote on behalf of “my” candidates. I felt especially honored to ask for that vote from people who feel they don’t have a voice, because it reminds me and them that they do.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to destroy this brownie.