Campaign Diaries

Meeting the People – 50 Days

18 September 2016

King Street is a pulsing artery of pedestrian traffic. It was Art Festival weekend in Alexandria. The weather, while still warm and humid, has turned comfortable and inviting.

We had been pushing hard to get volunteers into shifts for this Weekend of Action and a good crowd turn up tonight for our “Pub Crawl Voter Registration”.

We’re not drinking while doing voter registration but working the crowd wandering up and down King Street at pub o’clock and, after we’re done, we get a beer.

Here are a couple of stories from the night:

As my colleague was briefing our volunteers a fellow approached. He said he was impressed with our ground-game – that the Democrats could have so many people out registering voters on Sunday evening in September. He’s a Republican and a government worker. We had a very interesting chat in which he said he fears the Republicans may never again win a national election, that the math just doesn’t add up. He also knows, or at least has met on several occasions, Donald Trump – and is voting of him.

We had a very pleasant conversation about the state of American politics. I told him my story, that I live in Sydney and came over to help and am doing some writing about what I see here. I asked if we might have a coffee sometime and continue the conversation and he said sure and gave me his contact details.

I’m very much looking forward to following up with him, should be fascinating.

Later, I was standing with, Christalyn – who I mentioned in an earlier post about door-knocking. A slightly (or more) drunk man in his late 50s, clearly military, came over for a chat. He was on us, saying we were voting for Trump and other kind of nonsensical Trumpish things. As I am now Australian and pretty well trained at spotting when someone is taking the piss I could tell he was taking the piss. But poor Christalyn just couldn’t be sure and couldn’t help but take the bait. She admitted later that this is, generally, a problem for her.

For a while I left her to it as I tried to answer a man’s questions about early voting. He was North African, I’d guess. His English was fine but not great. He needs to register and do early voting as he’s soon travelling to Saudi Arabia and will be there for six months. So I was focused on trying to give him easy to understand information about what he should do while poor Christalyn was arguing with a man who, really, was just taking the piss.

My North African friend shook my hand in thanks, the drunken military guy’s Uber came, and we got back to asking the passing traffic if they were registered to vote.

A trio of women approached saying they were so glad to see Hillary people out, that they felt like they hadn’t seen enough people working for Hillary. So I asked if they’d like to volunteer. Turns out one lives in DC – she’s working for the new, just about to be opened, Smithsonian African-American History Museum. I signed her up for a shift of voter registration after the official opening. Her companions were her mom, who lives in Florida, and her roommate from law school, visiting from Arizona. We wouldn’t end the conversation until they’d promised to volunteer as soon as they get home.

I also met a woman named Happiness – who said, as I took her name, “I couldn’t make that up.”

Michelle Obama tomorrow.

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