If ever there was someone who ought to volunteer, it is me. I'm a US merchant mariner, and so I'm just spending the days literally waiting for my ship to come in, waiting for my girlfriend to get off work, reading Daily Kos... just generally wasting time.
Yet somehow, I had never volunteered for anything.
All that's changed, and from now on I'll be volunteering every chance I get. Here's why:
Living in the very blue state of Maryland, I've never really felt like any campaign actually needed my help. In the local races, the primaries are often tantamount to the election, and its between the guy you like, and the guy you like a little more. Not really a big deal.
I've always recognized that the national picture is the most important piece of an election, but of course volunteering for a presidential campaign could easily mean sitting in a carpool and going into Amish country PA every weekend, and I'm just not prepared to do that. (Besides, I once worked as a paid door-to-door canvasser and hated it).
And even with my (wide open) schedule, I'm not at all willing to wake up early. The right to sleep in on vacation is one of Americans' most sacred rights.
But there's something different about this year.
Its not that Barack Obama is a transformational, once-in-a-generation figure (which he is), Its not that I feel this year is more important than the last 2 elections (Its equally important.) And its not that I'd rather give time than money (I'm a liberal, duh, and Love throwing money at things. Its not even that the union put me to work. (I wish they had.) No. This year, all politics is local.
I live in MD-01, which has been Wayne Gilchrest's district for the last 18 years. We all know how hard it is to unseat an entrenched incumbent, but in this year's primary the relatively moderate Gilchrest was ousted in a filthy dirty primary campaign by a right wing ideologue candidate sponsored by the Club for Growth. So Gilchrest went ahead and endorsed Democrat Frank Kratovil and now the race in this right-leaning district in a blue state in incredibly close.
So this is probably a once in a lifetime chance to get a "D" into this seat. After watching the race stay close and realizing that in 2 years any Republican in a minority could come home under political cover (Most of the district is the eastern shore.) I had to jump into the race.
So I went online, and found that I could sign up to get a list of 25 voters to call from home. Now, when I talk politics with strangers, its usually in a barroom, and it usually turns into an hours long discussion in which a Republican will yield the academic arguments, and then agree to disagree based on nothing more than his big fat American gut-feeling. This is what I half expected when I signed up online to call people.
I never did get my list of voters to call. Instead I got talked into going down to Main Street (yes, that Main Street) to the campaign office; a non-descript, hollowed-out tiny little law office. I was the first one there.
I met some campaign staffers, introduced myself, and was quickly set up with an auto-dialer. I was actually kind of nervous. No practice call, no tips and tricks, just "Here's the script, good luck".
And then I found out something amazing... I have a natural talent for cold calling voters, and I actually fucking enjoy it! The script I had to read was a mouthful, packed with stupid buzzword phrases like "reach across the aisle" and "clean up the bay" Impossible to get through. But I almost didn't need it at all.
In fact, it wasn't long at all before I heard other volunteers stealing my lines (no brainer lines like sending people to kratovil.com, and "We hope we can count on your support on election day.") The response of the undecided voters has been overwhelmingly positive and encouraging. The folks who are running the campaign have become fast friends, and tonight I even found myself sitting elbow-to-elbow with my county council representative, down in the trenches with me.
But the point of all this is this... a couple of weeks ago, I thought I would hate cold calling voters, and now I only wish I had started sooner and could do it longer. If you've ever thought of volunteering, do it. Its not too late this year, and you can pick your own hours. Even if you can only spare one day between now and the election... DO IT! When I walk out of that office I really do feel better about myself, main street, my town and my country, and shuffle down to Sean Bolan's to reward myself with a pint of ale, and maybe a little more political talk.