Today I reported to Obama headquarters in Manchester, NH, and worked the phone for four hours. I made 231 calls from the senior citizen pile, reached nearly that many answering machines, and persuaded a minority of callers reached to tell me their presidential preference. Nine will vote for John McCain and Sarah Palin, sixteen will vote for Barack Obama and Joe Biden, a dozen were undecided (see below).
I have something to say about getting involved in the presidential election. Two weeks remain. Each of us must do what we can to help Obama win in a landslide, win with an indisputable mandate. It does not matter if you are in a "safe state" like California or New York - phone banks will put you in touch with voters in swing states to convince them and help hone get-out-the-vote ground games Nov. 4th. Even for those of us in safe states, the popular vote counts importantly toward a mandate, and besides, California has crucially important ballot measures, like Prop. 8, which would rescind the right of same-sex couples like James and me to marry. We must defeat it, and recent polls show it leading.
But I want to emphasize a selfish reason for you to overcome inertia, thrift and shyness to donate money, time, or, preferably, both. When I think back on the last four and eight dismal, shameful years - when I think of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, Iraq and the lost opportunity of Afghanistan, the deregulation orgy that has despoiled the environment and eviscerated the economy, the ideological troglodytism that has disfigured the Supreme Court - each of these American tragedies and humiliations, these depredations against conscience, I was helped to endure by reminding myself I hadn't stood by in 2004 and done nothing. I hadn't done so very much, but at least I had overcome inertia, shyness and thrift, gotten on a plane, shelled out money and knocked on doors in Ohio for ten days. Of course it was crushing to lose Ohio then. But having fought for it eased my conscience as an American to a degree that I could not have foreseen. Going to Ohio turned out to be a huge gift - to myself.
This time, donate your time and your money so that when President Obama is inaugurated, you will share in the victory, the accomplishment and satisfaction, and the repudiation of what we have done as a nation and endured as its people. Please do not let yourself off the hook for the next thirteen days. It would be an act of self-robbery.
I have the New Yorker and staff to thank for causing me to double over twice today. From the Oct. 27th issue of the magazine:
Shouts and Murmurs: Undecided
I don’t know that it was always this way, but, for as long as I can remember, just as we move into the final weeks of the Presidential campaign the focus shifts to the undecided voters. “Who are they?” the news anchors ask. “And how might they determine the outcome of this election?”
Then you’ll see this man or woman— someone, I always think, who looks very happy to be on TV. “Well, Charlie,” they say, “I’ve gone back and forth on the issues and whatnot, but I just can’t seem to make up my mind!” Some insist that there’s very little difference between candidate A and candidate B. Others claim that they’re with A on defense and health care but are leaning toward B when it comes to the economy.
I look at these people and can’t quite believe that they exist. Are they professional actors? I wonder. Or are they simply laymen who want a lot of attention?
To put them in perspective, I think of being on an airplane. The flight attendant comes down the aisle with her food cart and, eventually, parks it beside my seat. “Can I interest you in the chicken?” she asks. “Or would you prefer the platter of shit with bits of broken glass in it?”
To be undecided in this election is to pause for a moment and then ask how the chicken is cooked.
And this, gleaned from Alex Ross's blog The Rest Is Noise: