Ironicschmoozer’s Weblog

I Became the Thing I Avoid: Phone Canvassing part 1
June 4, 2010, 9:02 am
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , ,

Last night I went to Equality California‘s office
to make “persuasion calls” to people identified as against marriage equality for same-gender couples. This is part of the “changing hearts” campaign so that Proposition 8 can be overturned in 2012.

Thursdays are persuasion call nights; Tuesdays and Wednesdays are nights to call identified supporters of LGBT equality to recruit more volunteers.  In August of 2008 I worked on phone banks to recruit folks identified as LGBT or supportive to join me as a phone-bank volunteer and maybe kick in some cash to help defeat Prop. 8. I was so discouraged by the refusals to help out, the excuses people made–including supportive straight folks who talked of having attended a same-gender wedding, including gays in partnerships but who didn’t care about marriage per se, or who were just too busy, or who didn’t think Prop 8 would pass. So this time I chose to help out not by calling identified supporters but identified opponents. This HAS TO BE less frustrating than facing apathy and evasion, and surely would be a growth experience.

When I got to the office I found another task: canvassing random voters from Alameda County, called through an auto-dialing mechanism. We were to tell them about Victoria Kolakowski who is running to be Superior Court Judge there. If elected, she will be the first transgender woman trial-court judge in the country. I was surprised at how easy the canvassing work was!

Fewer than half said they didn’t have time to talk or otherwise hung up. (I realized that it doesn’t hurt that much to be hung up on because you have to be ready for the beep that tells you another person is on the line and you’ve gotta start talking.)

Very few said they had voted already and had voted against her.  Nobody took issue with “lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality,” which was in my third sentence, or even that the candidate would be the first transgender judge in the country.  Some appreciated the phone call and thanked me for the information.  Some noted that they had just received the Eq CA voter cards in the mail.  Are you sure this was just a random list of voters?

I know it’s Oakland, Berkeley, Fremont, etc., but come on!  There were no non-English speakers on the other end.  The accents I heard most frequently were from East  Coast transplants, not Latinos, Afghanis, Indians, etc.

One person said she didn’t have time to talk but then after I said briefly all I really needed to say she was engaged a bit and we talked longer.  Another woman said she was “so tired” of all the election calls, but at least I was a real person and not a machine, so she stayed on the line long enough for the spiel.  One woman said I was interrupting something and besides what is a telephone call?  She said times have changed and I should tell my supervisors to change with them.  I decided not to try to convince her that real human canvassing still is what swings elections.  I didn’t keep a tally, but it seemed that most of the ones to quickly get off the phone were men, and a few of them asked to be removed from the list (which isn’t possible since the system uses the voter registration rolls).  Maybe those who hung up with no words at all were women, but it was a woman who explained she had 3 kids to put to bed before excusing herself.

All in all, a gratifying experience.  Lots of positive responses and promised votes, and lots of good manners all  around.  And I came to care about a campaign I’d not even heard of before!


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Last night on Bill Maher, Cornel West said that the only way in this democracy to make a difference against the overwhelming political influence of big business: banks, oil co’s, drug co’s etc – is the old-fashioned way: organize, organize, organize…
and the way to organize is to connect with other people let them know what and why you are doing, invite them to join in.

Comment by Abigail Stockman

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