Now that we’re in the thick of election season, I’m guessing there are some people you’d really rather not talk to who would very much like to talk to you. You know, the people who call you on the phone while you’re trying to make dinner. Or who knock on your front door just as your sitting down to put up your feet and chill. They’re the canvassers who are volunteering their time to help support a candidate they believe in. And I really want you to give them the time of day.
Talking with canvassers is your chance to literally have a conversation with democracy. It helps you make your concerns and questions heard. And it gives you a chance to learn more about the candidates who would like to represent you in government. Also, it gives you the chance to talk to someone you might not ever talk to. And all you have to do is pick up the phone, answer the door, or read the postcard.
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I Know What You’re Thinking… But Hear Me Out
If you think about talking to canvassers and every cell in your body thinks, oh hell no, I get it.
I remember several election cycles ago, I was enjoying a rare moment of solitude on the couch we have on our porch. (Which is my very favorite place to be during the summer.) And I heard someone come up our front steps and call “Hello???” And I thought, “Oh lord have mercy just please leave me be!!!” So I want to tell you that I get the instinct to just want canvassers to go away already.
(Incidentally, that instance happened to be the candidate herself, and not a volunteer representative.) And once I got over my initial reluctance we had a great conversation about schools and discovered that we shared a mutual friend!
This was in the way back, probably 2014, when I was fairly checked out of politics and didn’t really think whoever was in office made that much of a difference. Fast forward a mere six years and it’s so very clear to me that who we elect matters so much. And not just at the federal level, but especially at the local level.
Become More Politically Aware (Especially at the Local Level)
One thing that really got me more politically aware was being the writer who helped Shannon Watts, who founded the gun violence prevention group Moms Demand Action, write her book, Fight Like a Mother. In it, she told the story of how she went from stay at home mom to the head of a grassroots organization that has millions of mothers and others in it. And how, along the way, she was shocked to learn how many elected officials were a) not smart and b) not good people. I mean, we are facing some big challenges, we need some smart, decent people working to enact our laws and we need them to be folks who listen to voters.
Hearing her story inspired me to get involved on the effort here in Rhode Island to pass a law that would protect reproductive rights in our state in case Roe V. Wade gets overturned. I know you may not feel the same way that I do about this, and that’s OK; we all have our issues that light us up and can inspire us into action. This was mine. I was also extremely lucky that I live 10 minutes from the State House and the legislative session was from 4 – 6 every day, which meant I could work a full day, take a little break and be home for dinner. It was so convenient for me to participate, and I’m very thankful for that.
Making An Impact On Your Community
But spending all the time at the state house REALLY opened my eyes about some of the folks who hold office in our state. People who quoted Satan in their speeches (and to heck with the separation of church and state), or conspiracy theories, or who spewed hate. And these were people in office. I saw that something I could do that would have a huge impact, beyond the fate of that particular bill I was lobbying for, is to help elect lawmakers who were adept at understanding facts and entertaining other points of view. So I started canvassing for them.
(Also, I have to point out that the Reproductive Privacy Act passed! After 26 years of trying, it finally passed that year. Yes.)
The first day I went out to knock on doors for a candidate I believed in I was definitely nervous. What if someone slammed a door in my face? But 99.5% of the time, either folks weren’t home, or I had a really nice exchange with one of my neighbors whom I otherwise may have never talked to. I heard what people cared about. And even though I’m an introvert and being around people can take it out of me, I felt really energized by the whole thing. I’m not canvassing now, thanks to Covid, but I am phone banking from my home and it’s the same story.
When Canvassers Call, Answer
So when canvassers call you, this is your chance to have a dialogue with the candidate. Find out where they stand on the issues. And they are coming to you! Of course, volunteers aren’t the same thing as the candidate. But I can tell you, they are taking notes on what you say you care about and if you have a question or a concern they will relay that to your candidate. A good candidate has good canvassers. And you can learn a lot from taking the time to talk to them.
Daily Tiny Assignment
Your tiny assignment then is to to pick up the phone or answer the door. You may be reluctant, or skeptical. But remember, this is a powerful opportunity to participate in democracy that doesn’t require you to go anywhere. It’s just a little bit of your time but it matters so much. And it will leave you feeling like your voice matters. Which is totally, totally does.
And, I’m sure I don’t even need to say this, but make sure you vote. Pack a lunch, bring an umbrella, clear your calendar, wear a hazmat suit, but please, vote.