Sunday, October 28, 2012

American Canvass

Here is one truth that I hold to be unalienable: there are a lot of nuts in this world and a significant number of them live in my neighborhood.  I kind of already knew this, but the last few weeks of election season have made this truth frighteningly undeniable.

I’ve spent many a Sunday afternoon this past September and October canvassing for the Obama campaign in Winter Park.  In fact, I did the same during the 2008 campaign along with my canvassing partner Ashley and our team of dedicated students.

Actually, the first time I canvassed for the Good Guys was in 1972 when I trekked through some of the poorer neighborhoods of Riverside, California, knocking on doors.  The most memorable encounter I had then was with a young African-American woman who responded to my knock by pulling the door halfway open and brandishing a knife in my face.  This wasn’t as scary as it sounds, because she was obviously zonked on something and appeared barely able to hold the knife in her hand.  In my mind’s eye, I see her with her eyes closed, though at this point, I can’t say for certain I’m remembering that detail correctly.  She was, for sure, so bleary and weak that she might as well have had her eyes closed.  At any rate, she wasn’t very interested in my spiel about her need to get out and vote for George McGovern.  Given the way that election turned out (Nixon 520: McGovern 17 in the electoral college), my failure to convince this citizen to vote was probably not the cause of the Democrats’ downfall that year.

George McGovern, who died just a week ago, was one of the most decent, intelligent and worthy men ever to run for president.  I actually became a Democrat largely because of him.  It doesn’t speak well for the sanity or the judgment of the American voter to note that he was soundly trounced by the most nefarious and underhanded man ever to slither his way into the White House. 

What were my fellow citizens thinking in 1972?

George McGovern - Honest, Intelligent, Decorated World War II  Veteran Bomber Pilot, Dedicated to Promoting Peace

Richard Nixon - Devious, Paranoid War Monger and Bigot
 Re-elected in a Landslide

Well, in 2008 Ashley and I discovered what some of our fellow Americans were thinking when we canvassed right around the block from my house.  One gentleman, who came to the door with shaving cream on half of his face, but who nevertheless genially engaged us in conversation for several minutes, will serve as an example.  Mr. Shaveface (as we came to call him) was apparently a lifelong Democrat, but one of those who remember the good old days when Strom Thurmond and George Wallace were the face of the Southern Democrats.  He kept insisting that he had no prejudices, but would follow these claims up with statements about how he wouldn’t want to live in Atlanta these days, given who lives there now, and the Boy Scouts shouldn’t be mixing up black and white scouts together since the black scouts are so sloppy, etc.

You get the idea.  This man lives about two blocks from my house, a fact that Darla found deeply upsetting when we (perhaps foolishly) described him to her.

Living less than one block from our house was a lady who, upon responding to our knock, insisted that she would NEVER vote for Obama.  She was going to vote for “the other guy.”  She couldn’t remember his name.

Since this Anti-Obama voter was somewhat plastered when we spoke to her that Sunday afternoon, we toyed with the idea of leaving a pint of bourbon on her doorstep on Election Day, which I was sure would keep her from making it to the polls. 

This year, the most interesting prospect I encountered was a young man I ran into in a working class apartment complex where I was canvassing alone.  He was wearing a tank top and appeared to be solidly covered with tattoos from the neck down.  I saw him approach as I was coming down the stairs and I asked him if he was registered to vote.

“Do I look like I vote, man?” he asked in an incredulous and distinctly snarky tone.

“Well,” I said, “at least you don’t look like a Romney supporter.”

“That’s true,” he replied.  “Romney is worse than Obama.  But really, I don’t give a fuck.”

OK, so I just continued on my way.  My motto, you could say, was to leave no stoner unturned.

This is not the Tattooed Dude that I saw, but he kind of reminds me of him.

Let me conclude by showing some of the nutty signs that the anti-Obama types in Winter Park have on display in their front yards.  I feel sure that if George McGovern were running against Nixon today, these households would still vote for Nixon, even knowing what they now know about him.

Why do I call these signs nutty?  Well, my criteria for nuttiness include:

a.       Claiming “Obama failed,” even though he stopped the hemorrhaging of the economy in 2009, saved the auto industry, killed bin Laden, made it possible for millions of poor people to afford health insurance, and so on.

Winter Park Yard Sign 1

b.      Claiming that an Obama victory would be the end of America, or democracy, or all things that God loves.  Come on, people, America does not have to be “saved” from Obama.  Let’s face it, if Romney wins (Inshallah, he will not), it wouldn’t be the end of America.  It would mean that unscrupulous rich people would gain more leverage through which they could continue to screw the middle class and the poor, it would almost certainly mean more economic troubles of the type the Republicans gave us under Bush, and it would mean more questionable types a la Scalia would take their place on the Supreme Court – all bad things to be sure, but not the end of America.

Winter Park Yard Sign II

c.       Claiming that Obama is a Communist or a Socialist or a Muslim or a Kenyan or even an Extreme Liberal. 

        Down the Street from Our House - A Romney Household

                  Same House, from Earlier this Year

Welcome to America, everyone, the land that somehow manages to prevail despite the nut cases that flourish within its borders, and the losers and scoundrels that it sometimes sends to the White House.

                   Would you open your door to this canvasser?