Yesterday was a beautiful day for voter registration in PA. I’ve been doing these events every weekend for about a month now. I live in the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh and this territory includes some of Pittsburgh’s most diverse neighborhoods. Yesterday, I was in East Liberty.
East Liberty has been through cycles of prosperity and decline. It’s now on the upswing. Some of the typically hipster stores are there now: Whole Foods. Trader Joes, West Elm. The population is beginning to look like the future: Techies, immigrants, African Americans.
My method is to keep moving and to talk to everyone on the sidewalk, asking them if they’ve registered to vote. The response is overwhelmingly positive even from people who are already registered to vote. I get a lot of support. I’m registering on behalf of PA Dems but my schtick is non-partisan. We’ll register anyone because we have future canvassing events planned to try to persuade even the Trump supporters.
Anyway, I met an African American man on the sidewalk eating his lunch and we started to talk. He was registered and he said there was no way in hell he was going to vote for Trump and I said something flippant like, “Yeah, especially after what Trump said last night”. The man stopped and looked at me and said, “Tell me what he said”
And I found that I really couldn’t. I just couldn’t. I was so ashamed of the whole condescending, ignorant, insulting crap that vomited forth from Trump’s mouth. I just stood there and stammered and said, “Sir, I don’t want to hurt your feelings.”.
But he persisted. He wanted me to say it looking him right in the eyes. So, I gulped and told him what Trump said about jobs and poverty and “What have you got to lose??” It was awful.
Then he must have seen how upset I was so he gave me a hug.
Every conversation is an opportunity. I spend too much time behind a monitor talking through a keyboard and connecting to digital thoughts. But voter outreach is a different kind of digital diet that allows us all to be human.
Another true story: My sister is undecided. I talked to her last night and I was like, “How in the HELL are you UNDECIDED?? Isn’t this an obvious choice? This is not difficult.”
I can’t blame her entirely. People are herd animals. That’s our nature. And she lives in conservative semi-rural Central PA. Probably everyone she knows votes Republican. They might not even remember why they started to vote that way but that’s what their families and neighbors and co-workers do so, you know, vote Republican or you’re not going to have much of a social life.
Maybe I should be relieved that she doesn’t see Trump as an option for her this year. But she’s been marinated in so much anti-Hillary propaganda for so long that even though intellectually she knows there’s no THERE there, the taint of wrongdoing lingers around Hillary like a silent but deadly fart.
I gave her my best stories about Hillary from a personal point of view. Like when I got to ask her a question about infrastructure at YearlyKos in 2007. Infrastructure is one of the highlights of her 2016 campaign so I like to think I was ahead of the curve there. And then there was the time in 2008 when she set up a conference call with all of us unofficial bloggers to thank us for continuing to champion her during the primaries. Katiebird might remember because she got to talk to her while we all listened patiently- for a long, LONG time, but I digress. (I wanted to throttle Katiebird for bogarting the phone call but I’ve given her plenty of reasons to throttle me and we’re still friends.) That was before we went PUMA after the RBC meeting and we were all infuriated with the party for trashing our primary votes.
Anyway, my sister said she might reconsider if she could talk to Hillary personally. And it occurred to me that this was probably a good idea, not that Hillary can have a private conversation with everyone’s sister. But Hillary already has fans like us. We’re going to vote for her. She can put our ballots in her pocket. I won’t be upset if she ignores us for the rest of the campaign. But the thing is we line up and wait for hours to see her campaign events and we are genuinely enthusiastic and like her- because we know her and have had some experience that makes her human to us.
But people like my sister have only heard what comes out of the TV from Fox News and other media outlets that for some reason are desperately frantic to keep Hillary out of the White House and will stop at nothing to smear her reputation. They’re very good at it now. Well they’ve had 25 years of practice.
So, if you’re out there Hillary, consider a small, intimate event in a place like Central PA with a dozen or so undecided Republican women. My sister says she’ll take your call. You know how to reach me.