I did a lot of Hillary canvassing this year. I had to, in order to stay at least borderline sane. There is something comforting in going door-to-door, with simple questions — Are you registered? Have you decided? Will you vote? Have you voted? — as Election Day approaches.
Grand strategy and weighty policy positions are important. But it’s the ground-game that does the gritty job. In our post-election wake, organizers said that Hillary’s victory margin in Colorado was largely attributable to the canvass effort. Consolation, though small.
At my advanced age, it’s an open question whether I’ll be able to pound pavements and climb stairs four years hence when Elizabeth Warren or Kristen Gillibrand challenges Trump. So, it’s vital to share lessons learned:
Dogs: With a dog at-home ratio of one-in-two, and humans only one-in-six, you are more likely to be bitten than punched. Don’t take the yapping personally. They sound like Trump supporters, but they can’t vote … yet.
Dog Owners: At least they know you’re there, even if the doorbell is broken or your first knock was inaudible. They’re usually apologetic. Use that advantage to press home your message. You may have to shout.
Doorbells: A recent study shows that Democrats’ doorbells are twice as likely to be broken as Republicans’. If you can’t hear the ding-dong, assume the worst and knock. No one’s going to admit they heard you the first time, but ignored you.
Knocking: Since most doors require a hard knock (the majority of Democrats’ door-knockers also do not work), be sure occasionally to give your favored knocking hand a break. The Party wants to shed its bloody-knuckles image.
Holding Your Clipboard: Alternating your knocks means shifting your clipboard from hand-to-hand. Now, your knocking-hand is holding and your holding-hand is knocking. In that confused state, and considering all the rest you have to remember in order not to fall down the stairs, concentrate especially on your name. If you can remember that, the rest is easy.
Holding Your Clipboard in a Windstorm: Your clipboard contains all your contact pages, which you must regularly remove from the top and re-insert at the bottom; plus reams of promotional material you are expected to slide, hang, stuff, or wedge. Your clipboard is briefly very vulnerable. One gust at the wrong moment could get you nine months for littering. Be exceptionally careful; better yet, ask to be reassigned to a large, non-gusty, apartment building.
Large Apartment Buildings: Getting through the lobby door is the challenge. Fortunately, Democrats tend to live in buildings with broken front-door locks and laid-back tenants. If only for that reason, I’m glad I’m a Democrat.
No Soliciting Signs: When canvassers swap stories after-hours, the biggest laugh-getter is the No Soliciting sign, the canvassing equivalent of the Do Not Block This Intersection sign. Ignore it but, on the very slim chance you do get yelled at, apologize and go immediately to a different floor or neighboring house, and continue your rounds unafraid. The Party has very good lawyers.
Keep Yourself Well-Watered: It does the campaign no good to have canvassers collapsing at people’s front doors (though the possibility of a sympathy vote shouldn’t be dismissed). Carry a water bottle. But be judicious. Having finally gained entry to a buttoned-up building, there is nothing more self-defeating than sacrificing it all for a pee.
Keep Yourself Well-Peed: Pee if you must. The Party may be rigorous taskmasters, but they don’t want to lose their troops to kidney failure. Before you start, have a pee-plan — the nearest Starbucks, a gas station, a 7/11. But don’t let your guilt at using their facilities induce you to buy a coffee or a Slurpee, which will keep you on an endless urinary merry-go-round and could cost the Party votes.
Above All, Have Fun: Most people are pretty nice, and some really appreciate what you’re doing. Even if it was only one vote that, otherwise, wouldn’t have gone our way, You Made a Difference!