Tag Archives: politics

Happy Primary Election Day, PA! (A Canvassing Tale)

24 Apr

Photo Credit: Beezwaxxx on Flickr

Hey, I’m posting on a Tuesday.  What could that possibly mean?

It means it’s Lollipop Tuesday y’all.  Strap in, cuz this one’s uncomfortable.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, jump on the bandwagon by clicking here.  Or just be lazy and keep reading.  You’re bright; you’ll catch on.

I must admit I’ve been rather lax about my Lollipop adventures as of late.  Last I checked in, I entered the macaroni and cheese contest (and surprisingly, took first prize).  But that was quite some time ago and without the challenge to do something new and uncomfortable, I’ve been getting settled in my old, hermity ways.   That’s probably why the idea to go Canvassing scared the bejeezus out of me.

You want to know what Canvassing is.  Basically, you go knock on people’s doors and ask them a few questions keyed toward the campaign you’re representing.  You can also call, but I went balls to the wall on this one.   I went representing the Obama campaign and the Obama folks wanted an answer to four questions: are you going to vote in the primary, who will you vote for, do you have a valid ID, and are you interested in volunteering.

To understand the sheer terror coursing through my veins at the thought of such a task, you have to understand that I don’t even answer my own front door.  When I order food, I ask Dave to answer the door and pay.  When the the adorable 3-year-old boy upstairs comes to knock on my door to ask Dave to come out to play, I don’t answer it.  True story: I saw my landlord pay the complex a visit last week and since Dave wasn’t home, I ran to my bedroom and turned the music all the way down on my laptop.

Needless to say, it was going to take some serious willpower to work up the Jackie Mojo to knock on the front doors of 60 strangers’ houses and try to hold a conversation with them.  I had no idea what to expect or what I was doing.

I showed up at the location at 11:00am and was greeted by some Obama enthusiasts (let’s call them Obamathusiasts). I signed in and was given a packet with a map of the neighborhood that pinpointed houses of registered Democratic voters.  It also contained a script and a list of everyone’s name, age, gender, and address at those houses. Creepy.

Before I knew it, I was seated and talking to a Obamathusiast veteran who was role-playing a front door scenario with me.  I was pretending she was Cara Brentley, Female, 48 years old.  I got the main points of the script and improvised my way through a pleasant conversation in which I answered the questions required of me and everything was glittering with unicorn sparkles throughout.

It’s times like these that Acting degree really pays off.

But I knew it wouldn’t be all unicorn sparkles out in the field.  People are mean.  And they don’t want to be bothered.  And they certainly don’t want to talk about politics.  Did I mention this was on a day the Penguins had a crucial playoff game? I was going to get stabbed by some anti-patriot hockey mom hermit and never going to be seen again.

When you’re afraid of the outside world, every encounter with humanity has potential to end in your death.

The Obamathusiasts broke us up into teams (one for the even side of the street, one for the odd), generously loaded us up with granola bars and water bottles, and drove us to our starting locations.  They were very generous with the food.  So generous, in fact, that I started to wonder if I could get stranded and die out there.  My volunteer shift was only four hours.  Why did I need so much food?  I chalked it up to the likelihood that someone would kidnap me and torture me with hunger in their basement and headed out into the Great Blue Yonder.

Only about one third of the houses actually have someone answer the door.  One was a 92-year-old lady who told me she wouldn’t vote because she’s too old to get out of the house.  I reminded her to get an absentee ballot for November, but she was mostly just concerned with me being sure to close her gate when I left.  I didn’t blame her: leaving it open would eat up at least an hour of her day.  

Surprisingly, for every person who wanted to kick me off their porch to get back the Penguins game or wanted me out of their face because they’re tired of what a joke the political race has been so far this year, there were people who were truly grateful people were volunteering their time to make sure people go vote.

I was about to leave house number 1494 and leave a peel-off sticker to show I’d visited when a woman shouted from her balcony that she was indeed home. I told her I was there with the Get Out the Vote Campaign and that I just wanted to make sure she had all the information she needed to vote in Tuesday’s primary.  She said she planned to vote, we discussed what to do about her concerns with updating her address, and I reminded her that in November she’ll need a valid ID to vote so she’d better bring it along Tuesday to work out the kinks.  She thanked me wholeheartedly and told me I was doing a good thing by giving information to people. I thanked her,  reminded of her polling place and the hours it was open and went on my merry way.

Glittering with unicorn sparkles.

We headed back to the staging area, and I tallied up  my total number of houses versus conversations held and added my sheet to the stack to be reported to the head office at 4pm.  While I sat around wondering if I was done for the day, the Obamathusiasts closed in, trying to get to know me and pushing for me to come out and volunteer again. I stressed that this was a one-time thing and that I just wanted to know what it was like.  But after politely declining several times, I decided it was best to just come clean.  I fessed up to having a blog where I try new and uncomfortable things and that I ventured out that day because the idea of it sounded like death.  I emphasized that this was something like my 60th new thing and if I joined every team I happened upon, I wouldn’t have been able to come Canvassing because it would have conflicted with Scottish Country Dancing up on Mount Washington.

They were surprisingly supportive and lovely.  They asked all about my blog, and told me how to get involved by signing up online in case I ever felt like revisiting this adventure.   And then they all stuck around to pull another shift.

The thing is, they don’t have a whole lot of volunteers.  It’s hard to get people to go outside their comfort zone.  It’s especially hard to get them to give up four hours of their time on a Sunday when they could be home watching the Penguins game.   And though I may not repeat Canvassing, I’ll probably repeat getting involved in a campaign.  There’s something really cool about seeing where polling results come from and there’s something uplifting and encouraging about digging in to the political process and doing work on the ground that gets reported in the media.

When I got on Facebook later, the Obama Campaign’s Facebook page uploaded pictures of volunteers all over the country who knocked on doors to remind people to vote in the Primaries Tuesday.  I also got an email from the Obamathusiasts, thanking all of us for our time and individually noting everyone by name.  My shout out?  To have a Happy Lollipop Tuesday.  They even included a link to my site so everyone could tune in to see what I thought of the day.

Free advertising, a group of nice, enthusiastic folk to try something new with, and I didn’t get murdered?

That sounds like a win. 

Hey! If you’d like to volunteer, you can go to barackobama.com.  Mouse over “Volunteer” to see a list of options.  Just sign up online for an event that you choose, and everything works like clockwork from there.  Turns out these grassroots deals run a pretty tight ship.  And to be fair, if you’d like to speak on behalf of another campaign, head to mittromney.com and mouse over “Get Involved” or ronpaul2012.com and  click on “Volunteer”.  Hey: vote for whomever you like.  Just vote. 

The State of the Union in Awkward Pictures

25 Jan

Ah, the State of the Union Address.  It’s a time for hope.  A time for reflection.  A time to play drinking games with your friends based on the number of Applause Pauses and Standing Ovations.  

I like to watch the SOTU (that’s State of the Union, for the not-trendy-acronym-inclined) because I like to know what the forerunners in the President’s policies are after he’s had some time in office.  I’ve also watched a lot of action movies centered around killing the President so every time all the important people in the national government pile into a room with him, I like to watch just in case one of the Congressmen is actually John Malkovich and he’s there to assassinate people.

But as much as I like to consider myself both politically invested and an action film fan, I have to admit that the main reason I watch the State of the Union is because it’s one of the most deliciously awkward things you can watch in the comfort of your home.  

I don’t ever tune in until 10 minutes after it’s supposed to start because that’s how long it takes for the President to make it to the podium.  But if you want some extra time milking the awkward, you can tune in right on the hour and watch people try to shake his hand that aren’t on his list to stop and shake hands with.  Or you can take careful note of the folks that pull him aside and point to all their friends so that the President has to do an obligatory wave.  You can let your stomach twist as you imagine how these people are trying to ration their hand-clapping power because it’s going to be a long hour and a half, but they can’t possibly stop applauding when the President is still in the middle of his ten-minute-long entrance.

Instead of spending a lot of time discussing the variety of awkward experiences that take place in less than 90 minutes, I decided to take some screenshots for you of the live broadcast I watched online so you could see for yourself where to look for these treasures the next time we’re due for a dose of SOTU.  Enjoy.

This one wasn't so much awkward as it just made me want to tear the tie off his neck. He kept adjusting it throughout the President's speech, which made the lines go all willy nilly and made me want to scoop out my eyeballs with a spoon.

I don't know about you but I always feel awkward being the only one sitting while everyone else is giving the ol' Standing O. The SOTU is full of strongwilled half-souls, though, and you can always find people who will ignore every single idea that is offered up that evening.

After about 20 minutes, you can start to locate the sleepers. It's a bold move, sleeping during the President's speech. Bold indeed.


Ever have to sit by the boss during a company meeting? I can't imagine how much more awkward it is to have to sit here.


By far my favorite awkward moment of the night was when Obama made a terrible, terrible joke about crying over spilled milk.  It was the most tweeted moment of the speech.  After it received no love from the audience and an eye roll from the First Lady, even Obama had a look that made one wonder who he just fired.  Here’s a look at the audience reactions.

So there you have it, folks: the State of the Union in awkward pictures.  Now you won’t ever have to watch a Presidential Address again without taking time to appreciate the subtleties.  

After all, that’s where all the fun is. 

10 Reasons You Should Give Obama a Break

26 Jan

Last night, President Barack Obama delivered the State of the Union address.   Today, millions of Americans will attack him.    And  so today I present to you a common-sense guide entitled:

Reasons You Should Give Obama a Break

1) The man spends his workdays genuinely attempting to solve issues for not only America, but the world.  Big things.  Things like immigration, foreign policy and international relations.  Things like education, the economy, job growth, and sustainable energy.  Now think of what’s on your daily to-do list.  I don’t know about you, but some days I have a hard time just convincing myself to take a shower.

2) Chances are, he’s not the one you should be mad at.  It isn’t just the President who runs the country, folks.  He’s just one branch of a three branch system.  And by the way, we vote for those people.  Well, kind of.  Quite frankly our voter turnout is pretty pathetic.  About 30% of Americans don’t even bother.  Malta rocks a 95% turnout.  Malta! Do you even know where that is?!  And for non-presidential elections, that number is even more frightening, in spite of the fact that it’s our local legislatures who make the most difference in our daily lives.

3) He’s just one guy.  Yes, a big important guy that we expect to perform when we put him in office.  But one guy nonetheless.  It takes an entire government to make legislation.  Even if Obama agrees with every single belief and agenda that you do, he is unable to get those things accomplished without the help of others.  And those others tend to argue.  A lot.

4) We have a lot of problems.  And we can only work on so many at one time.  Yes, immigration needs addressed.  Yes, we need better education and a higher percentage of high school graduates.  Yes, we absolutely need sustainable energy and jobs and infrastructure and lower national debt and on and on and on.  Unfortunately, we can only do so much at once.  Think about all the things you need to improve about your life and all the things on your to-do list.  Aren’t you incredibly overwhelmed and amazingly ineffective if you go at them all instantly and with equal fervor?  Now increase the urgency on them by 1000%, add millions of people who think you should start their action item first, and only give yourself 4 years (minus campaigning) to accomplish all of them.

5) He has an incredibly difficult job.   Have you ever considered that in the midst of all this, he’s just a human?   He’s just a dude.  A regular dude trying to solve the problems of an entire country and somehow find time to be with his family.  Every single thing he does is scrutinized.  Even his iPod playlist.  That’s right: We got on Clinton for sex in the Oval Office, and we go after Obama for his affection for Lil Wayne and Nas.  

6) He has to know a lot of stuff.  Because we pretty much expect him to know everything, don’t we?   Think about how much you paid attention in your Civics, World History, and Politics classes.    Everything you ignored you expect him to know. 

7) He can’t fool around.  If he doesn’t do what the President is expected to do, no one else can step up and complete the task for him.  Think of all the things you put off at work.  Think about the time you spend browsing on the Internet or checking your phone or having a headache or being cranky.    Think about the tasks you are assigned that sit on the back burner or hide in a drawer or you convince someone else to do.  A lot of those things just simply aren’t options when you’re the leader of an entire nation.

8 ) He can’t stutter.  How are you in front of crowds?  How about big ones?  How about big ones full of important people, some of whom hate you before you even speak your mind?   The number one phobia in America is still public speaking, and that typically refers to speaking up in small crowds, standing in front of auditoriums, or simply stating ideas aloud for criticism.   Now think about all the words you mispronounce, the pressure you feel when you have to answer a tough, unexpected question, and how difficult it is for you to write a speech.  You don’t expect him to have those problems.

9) Americans aren’t doing much to help.  Well, some are.  Are you?  When you were upset about health care reform (either its enactment or its repeal), did you complain to your friends and neighbors or did you call your representative?  If you think illegal immigrants should get the boot, have you done any sort of research to realize what that entails? Have you come up with any ideas? Because I don’t know if you’ve been listening, but the President has been asking for ideas ever since he entered the office. 

10) No, really – Americans aren’t doing much to help.  Not just with ideas, but with doing our part.  Volunteer locally.  Donate or rally for causes you support. Go get some exercise and help cut down your state’s disgusting obesity rate (which is hanging at above 20% unless you’re from Colorado or D.C.).  Pick up a piece of litter.  Recycle.  Don’t drive somewhere if you can walk there.  Help someone.  Encourage others to do the same.  We’re all suppose to be trying to make things better, not just staring at a bunch of old farts on Capitol Hill and waiting for one of them to turn into our nation’s fairy godmother.  


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