a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew


Posted by Thomas Nephew on 2nd November 2004

Ever see “Hunt for Red October”? The part where the USS Dallas saves the day by diverting the attacker’s torpedo — “WAY TO GO, DALLAS!” Not a great analogy, but I felt that way when I read this, via the Washington Monthly’s Kevin Drum via Red State:



October 28, 2004

To all Republican Party Election Day poll watchers:

Your name has been filed to serve as a poll watcher on Election Day, on behalf of the Republican Party or a Republican candidate. The Democratic Party recognizes the legal right of poll watchers, under Florida election law, to perform their lawful duties. […]

You should be aware, that, under Florida law, a poll watcher must explain in writing and under oath the basis for a challenge. This affirmation requires that the poll watcher have personal knowledge of the facts upon which the challenge is based. […]

Florida law provides that a challenger is to be removed from the polling place if his or her activities slow down the voting process or intimidate voters. Indeed, it is a crime under Florida law to be in a polling place to “intimidate, threaten, or coerce, or attempt to intimidate, threaten, or coerce, any other person for the purpose of interfering with the right of such a person to vote.” (Fla. Stat. Paragraph 104.0515(3)). Therefore, should a challenger make a knowingly false challenge, that person could be subject to criminal prosecution.

Please be advised that the National Democratic Party and the Florida Democratic Party will insist on strict enforcement of the law. You have now been provided notice of the law, and thus, please govern yourself accordingly.

Emphases in original! The DNC legal cavalry thundering over the hilltop, God bless ’em. (Mixing all kinds of metaphors now: I see the crusty but good-natured old DNC sergeant telling the scared tenderfoot just before the charge, “Use all the commas you’ve got, son, it confuses ’em.”)

Meanwhile, that whining sound you hear is coming from ticked-off “Red Staters” — how dare Democrats threaten Republican pollwatchers by… citing election law! Outrageous! Unheard of!! Their complaints prompted a great comment on Political Animal: “Wahhh! Mommy! Billy won’t let me poke him in the eye with this stick! Wahhh! Make him stop stopping me!”

Also: WAY TO GO, BRETT! … for all your work today in Cincinnati.

Non-news: it took me about an hour to get through the line this morning… but that was because some poll workers didn’t show up. I had to go ahead and use the Diebold electronic voting machines. The reason was Maryland absentee ballot regulations; the only way I could truthfully fill out the application would have been if I’d been out of county on Election Day — and I couldn’t take the day off and do GOTV work in Pennsylvania or something because I’m absolutely out of vacation time. There were no glitches that I noticed when I voted, but then I wouldn’t know, would I.

Well, I’m off now to see if they can use me at the AFL-CIO, I was told there’s no room at Kerry-Edwards tonight: 9-1-702-blah-blah-blah-blah-blah-blah-blah. Good luck…


UPDATE, 9:20pm: The AFL-CIO had lots of phoners and lots of phones and I put in some calls to Colorado and Wisconsin — but none to Nevada, the big project over at Kerry-Edwards. But they’re calling Alaska now, and I am done. This place is great; lots of people, some food, computers, and lots of TVs going. Good place to be.

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Canvassing for Kerry in Harrisburg, PA

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 1st November 2004

This past Saturday I went canvassing again. Last time I went, there were two busloads of us, which I thought was pretty great. This time, there were seven buses growling along McPherson Square, a TV camera crew, two or three hundred volunteers boarding, and a palpable sense of excitement and resolve; it was a real high point of the campaign for me.

I picked a bus queue at random, thinking it was headed to Lancaster, PA, and learned on board it was actually destined for Harrisburg, the state capital. Whatever. I think a couple of buses left for Ohio as well, although that might have been even earlier in the morning, it’s a longer trip. Later on I learned that some people on the Ohio buses were actually put to work making phone calls from the bus on their cell phones!

Harrisburg patriotThe Harrisburg Democratic headquarters occupies three floors of a downtown office, and every one of them was humming with activity when we arrived. There was a crowd of local volunteers on hand to join us for the day’s work, including one man dressed as a colonial patriot carrying a “Don’t Tread On Me” flag. As we’d been told on the bus, we would be contacting Kerry supporters identified over the previous weeks, and also likely Kerry voters judging by their voting attendance and party registration. The idea was simply to show ourselves, remind Kerry supporters to vote and where to vote, find out if anyone needed a ride on Election Day, and leave some pamphlets about Kerry and local races behind. We paired off with local volunteers, and headed off to our canvassing areas.

Mine was a suburban area on the northern outskirts of town. It was a mixed bag of neighborhoods: one street seemed like it was all rental units for lower and middle income levels, the next a freshly minted development, the next an older neighborhood with big trees and old cars.

Politically it was a mixed bag as well; I’d say Bush signs outnumbered Kerry ones by 3:2 or so. No matter; I was after the folks on my side, I just had to walk a little further for them. My partner D. and I would do our halves of a neighborhood and then reconvene at his pickup to get a new list of names, replenish our supplies, and move on to the next area. We were knocking on doors from around 11am to about 4:30pm, when we got through the last of our lists of names.

Not everyone was supportive; one address on my list was a single issue pro life couple — “nothing else matters” the wife told me. There are some undecideds out there, too. One man listened patiently with an enigmatic smile as I gave him the short version of why I thought Bush should be fired. Maybe he wasn’t really undecided after all, and just wanted to waste some of my time.

But there were nice experiences too. A little seven year old girl was thrilled to get a Kerry window sign from me — almost as thrilled as I was to unload one, carrying a dozen of those things plus a variety of campaign literature gets tiresome after a block or two.

I gave away two more signs at a house I’d almost given up on. Just as I left, a guy drove up and asked for a sign; his had been stolen. “You’re going to have a tough time around here, this is a Bush neighborhood,” he told me. I thanked him and left. Just then a neighbor across the street — and not on my walking list — hollered “Hey, I want a couple of those!” He wanted to know how I was doing. I told him things were going fine, and he said with great conviction and satisfaction “we’re going to kick their a**.” I guess we’ll find out soon.

When I came back up the street ten minutes later, he had taped one sign to his house wall and one inside a window. What’s more, he was talking with stolen-sign-guy across the street who had immediately taped his inside his pickup truck shell window. I suspect stolen-sign-guy hadn’t known his neighbor was a fellow Kerry supporter. And that’s how a Takoma Park contrarian may have brought two suburban Harrisburg Democrats together. I hope that’s also how parties are maintained — and how elections are won.

And that just might be the case. On the way home we were told canvassers like us had contacted 14,000 Pennsylvania voters that day.

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John Kerry for President

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 28th October 2004

There have been a number of excellent “Kerry for President” pieces over the last few weeks. The most notable and surprising one was by erstwhile Bush-fan Andrew Sullivan, which you should read immediately if you haven’t already. But other evaluations by Dan Drezner, Phil Carter, and Matthew Yglesias stand out as well (several links via Gary Farber). See also the Slate staff endorsements and Matt Welch‘s admirably brief statement, which ends simply, “I think Bush needs to be fired.”

Needless to say, given the button at the top of this blog and my posts about volunteering for Kerry, I agree with them. My top 10 reasons, off the top of my head:

10. I’d like an administration that doesn’t just pretend to be compassionate towards the sick to score political points, and doesn’t choose health programs for their political correctness. Also, I like Kerry’s health care plan.

9. I think the alliance between Bush and the religious right poses a threat to American democracy and civil rights, from the FMA to jurisdiction stripping to the right to choose. It’s time to take them both down a couple of notches.

8. I think Bush will continue to be a disaster for the environment, for labor, for education.

7. I’d like the phrases “arrogance” and “United States foreign policy” not to be synonymous any more.

6. Abu Ghraib — don’t get me started.

5. The Supreme Court and the future of the Constitution.

4. I want a President who doesn’t seek untrammeled power, and doesn’t hire advisors to split hairs about torture.

3. Stand up for democracy — the Republican Party leadership barely understands the idea any more … and I’m not so sure about a lot of the base either. (Oh, and while I’m at it, Karl Rove is a prick.)

2. John Kerry is a man I trust to seek out expert counsel and differing viewpoints to get to the truth, and a man I trust to take responsibility for mistakes made on his watch. George W. Bush is not.

And finally:

1. If over a thousand Americans can die for a screwed up war waged on false premises, at least two should be fired for it.

I’m sure I’ve left out stuff, and could have said it better, but it’s a start.

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A screwed up war

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 28th October 2004

Absent the two main legitimate justifications for the war, it could only be hoped that the occupation and reconstruction of Iraq would be run professionally, competently, and successfully.

Wrong again. Before this administration, I would have had that confidence; even in this one, whole departments like the State Department labored toward this end, only to have their advice ignored. But the primary fault lies again with Bush and Rumsfeld, who failed to support the occupation with anything near the troop levels it needed early to succeed. My authority for this is again someone who ought to know — Paul Bremer, chief of the Coalition Provisional Authority. From the New York Times article “Bremer Critique on Iraq Raises Political Furor“:

At DePauw University, Mr. Bremer said that “the single most important change -the one thing that would have improved the situation – would have been having more troops in Iraq at the beginning and throughout” the occupation. He said that he raised his concerns a number of times within the administration, but that he “should have been even more insistent.”

In August of 2003, George Will noticed:

Paul Wolfowitz, deputy secretary of defense, was wrong in congressional testimony before the war. Although he said “we have no idea what we will need until we get there on the ground,” he insisted that Gen. Eric Shinseki, a veteran of peacekeeping in the Balkans, was “wildly off the mark” in estimating that several hundred thousand troops would be needed in occupied Iraq.

Fellow traveller Andrew Sullivan made a good point a couple of weeks ago:

We were lucky in retrospect that Saddam didn’t have any WMDs. The way this war has been run, it would have actually increased the chances of such weapons getting to America via terrorists rather than reduced them. At least, that seems to me to be the logical inference. Am I somehow wrong? Why did the administration leave weapons sites unguarded for so long? Why did they not send enough troops to secure the borders?

And that was before this week’s revelation of the missing 300+ tons of high explosives at the Al Qaqaa site. I see now that George I. (“Idiot”) Bush is arguing at least Saddam doesn’t now “control all those weapons and explosives.” No, probably a bunch of insurgents, decapitators, and God knows who else control them. Nice work, moron.

Pentagon/Bush administration fecklessness with arms sites was obvious from the beginning — the looting of uranium back in the early aftermath of the war should have triggered Rumsfeld’s immediate firing or resignation by itself. The attitude was pervasive; in June Patrick Graham reported Iraqi insurgents telling him they practically had permission to loot their weapons. “[The American soldiers] thought we were thieves. They watched us taking RPGs [rocket-propelled grenades] and other weapons and said, ‘Are you Ali Baba?'” This was what the G.I.’s called thieves and looters. “We said yes, so they let us in. They thought we were destroying the Iraqi army.”

This kind of operational cluelessness is a failure of planning, not of the soldiers on the scene who had enough on their plate without creating new security objectives on the spot. It’s no wonder numerous military experts inside and outside the armed services feel Iraq is now a disaster. In a September Guardian article with the cheery title “Far Graver than Viet Nam,” Sidney Blumenthal quotes retired general and former NSA chief William Odom, among many others:

“Bush hasn’t found the WMD. Al-Qaida, it’s worse, he’s lost on that front. That he’s going to achieve a democracy there? That goal is lost, too. It’s lost.” He adds: “Right now, the course we’re on, we’re achieving Bin Laden’s ends. […]

“This is far graver than Vietnam. There wasn’t as much at stake strategically, though in both cases we mindlessly went ahead with the war that was not constructive for US aims. But now we’re in a region far more volatile, and we’re in much worse shape with our allies.”

But even if the reasons for the war were mistakes, and the war itself was being waged incompetently and even counterproductively in the short term, I was at least confident that the coalition occupation would bring reliable decency and fairness to a dark corner of the world, and set an example recommending our system and our values to Iraqis. And then came Abu Ghraib.

As I wrote at the time, I have rarely been so ashamed of this country, and I will never, ever forgive this commander in chief or his advisors for it. Even Karl Rove was reported to think that it will take decades for the United States to recover. Once it became clear there would be no consequences at the top, I finally and irrevocably parted ways with this administration and its supporters; I believe that if you’re considering voting for Bush, regardless of your party, this should be the final straw.

Believe it or not, I’m as much of a patriot as anyone — I just seem to be more willing than many so-called patriots to see when we’ve done wrong; that’s part of the deal, I think. And there are no two ways about it: Abu Ghraib was a stain on this country and on the administration that oversaw it. Rumsfeld and Bush signed off on policies at Guantanamo, signed off on their transfer to Abu Ghraib and elsewhere in Iraq, fobbed the whole thing off on the insufficiently staffed and trained units they sent over to do these jobs, and then pretended it was all just a few bad apples when the chickens came home to roost.

Even if you think — against all evidence — that Bush and Cheney are the best terror fighters in the world, this should make you wonder about their character and their fitness to serve this republic.

I don’t know what should be done in Iraq. I do know who shouldn’t get another chance to do it.

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Calling Port Charlotte, Florida for Kerry/Edwards

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 6th October 2004

phone bank still life; yep, I'm a latte-drinkin', globalizin' liberal.On Monday evening I tried my hand at phone bank work at the Kerry/Edwards campaign office in downtown DC. The plan was to call voters considered undecided, ask them to support the Kerry ticket, and record their preferences.

I arrived at the building around 6pm and signed in as a visitor (company: “Kerry”). I was directed to the 7th floor, and from there to the 6th floor where phone banking was already underway. I was given a short “persuasion” script that provided a few suggestions about why I, the caller, was supporting Kerry/Edwards, but was encouraged to use my own words instead. After that explanation, the script read “Can we count on your to vote for John Kerry and John Edwards on November 2nd?”

The list of names I was given were all from Port Charlotte, Florida — one of the towns hard hit by at least one of Florida’s hurricanes this year.

By 8:30 or so I’d attempted 61 calls. Of those, 11 were strong Kerry supporters, 9 were strong Bush supporters, 3 were undecided, and 1 each were leaning to Kerry or to Bush. So not many undecideds — even less than it seemed because I recorded a couple of “I don’t want to tell you” as “undecided.” There were also 20 “not homes”; I left a brief message on the answering machine when this happened. Finally, there were 16 cases where I couldn’t even leave a message — “not in service at this time,” or no answering machine. That seemed like a lot — possibly a hurricane effect? I hope not.

The dangers of straying off script: when I told one Bush supporter “well, sorry to hear that” (instead of just “thanks for your time“), I got a “well, I’m sorry you’re working for Kerry, a**hole!” That was mean! I’m going to cry! On the other hand — ulp — that might have been the election right there. Sorry, everyone. Seriously, stay loose but respectful if you do this, I should have stuck to the script in that respect.

Try it yourself
Sounds fun, right? Right! Call (202) 712-3000 for information about volunteering for the Kerry/Edwards phonebank operation in the DC area. They’re open 9 am to 10 pm Monday through Thursday and 9 am to 6pm Friday for the duration — out-of-time-zone calls and other work once it gets late — and from 10am until 5pm Saturdays and 12pm to 5pm on Sundays. Alternatively, I’m told there’s active phonebanking for Kerry/Edwards and other races as well at the DNC down by the South Capitol Metro stop, at 430 South Capitol Street, SE — a little out of the way for me. I don’t know what their hours are, but their phone number is (202) 863-8000.

EDIT, 10/6: Kerry campaign hours updated.
A note to faithful readers
Preparations at the Nephew manor and estates have reached fever pitch for our upcoming trip to sunny Germany, from October 8 through October 18. My promised reassessment may have to wait until after that — a huge disappointment to all of us, I’m sure. Also, blogging will be sparse to nonexistent while we’re gone.
Apres moi, le deluge — I want everyone else’s readership to decline, too! If you’re blogging or reading blogs a lot, consider cutting back for a while and joining the real world: volunteer for Kerry/Edwards, for the Democratic National Committee, or better yet at your local Kerry/Edwards or Democratic campaign! They’ll need your help with phone banking, canvassing, and “get out the vote” efforts on Election Day.

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Edwards-Cheney debate reaction

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 6th October 2004

Edwards did fine, and hit Cheney on most of what Cheney deserved to be hit on — Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, and a long resume does not equal good judgment by any means.

With some exceptions. For Dick “F you” Cheney to sit there and sadly shake his head about the loss of bipartisanship and collegiality was pretty rich, as was trotting out Zell Miller as ‘reaching out’ to the Democratic side. Edwards missed a chance, I think, to really put Cheney away late in the debate with any number of examples of Republicans’ — and Cheney’s own — brass-knuckles approach over the last four years.

Neither vice presidential candidate imploded — so what we have is an aging vice president not sinking his befuddled boss’s campaign, and an energetic opponent who proved he was up to the challenge of meeting the old codger head on. I’ll take it. I think this is a close race, but one with some Democratic momentum, from the Kerry debate to the huge voter registration numbers being reported around the country. Edwards didn’t need to win it by himself tonight.

But returning to bipartisanship: I’ll foreshadow at least one “why” in the reassessment I’ve promised. That is the unfounded, really naive faith I had that there was a professionalism and patriotism in the halls of government that would trump partisanship, that would prevent tragedies and challenges being parlayed into partisan gain. I thus found it hard to credit that respected figures, even ones I opposed politically, would twist and misrepresent what they knew and what they did not know about Iraq as effectively as it turns out they did.

What was I thinking? How stupid could I possibly be? I really should have known better by February 2003, given the 2002 elections that saw, for example, a zero like Saxby Chambliss replace a hero like Max Cleland in the Senate. Instead, I literally took the issue of Bush administration’s partisanship and strained relationship with the truth off the table — “argument dismissed.” But that’s never an argument to dismiss, and I won’t make that mistake again.

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61 to 19

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 3rd October 2004

Wow. Bush campaign pollsters probably won’t tell their guy, but the technical term for a result like this is “getting your ass kicked into orbit.” From the Newsweek poll writeup, via “Swing State Project“:

Sixty-one percent of Americans who watched the first presidential debate on September 30 say Sen. John Kerry won; 19 percent say President George W. Bush won and 16 percent say they tied, according to the latest Newsweek Poll which was conducted after the debate ended. Fifty-six percent say Kerry did better than they expected; 11 percent say so for Bush. Thirty-eight percent say Bush did worse than expected; 3 percent say so for Kerry, the poll shows.

The debate erased the lead the Bush/Cheney ticket has held over Kerry/Edwards in the Newsweek Poll since the Republican convention. In a three-way trial heat including Ralph Nader/Peter Camejo, among registered voters Kerry/Edwards leads Bush/Cheney 47 percent v. 45 percent with 2 percent for Nader/Camejo. In a two-way heat, Kerry/Edwards leads 49 percent v. 46 percent for Bush/Cheney, the poll shows.

Well, that’s fine, but it needs to get better. Like Yglesias says, overconfidence won’t help, and a lot can still happen– the expectations game in the remaining debates will cut the other way, for one thing. So work, work, work.

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Kerry-Bush debate reaction

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 1st October 2004

On appearances, I actually thought Kerry was crisper and meandered less than Bush, who appeared by turns tongue-tied and desperate, clinging to phrases like “hard work,” and charges of “mixed message” and “wrong war, wrong place, wrong time” like they were life jackets in a stormy sea. And while I don’t think personal appearance foibles should play a big role, Bush had a pursed-lips “just bit a lemon” look whenever Kerry started getting after him that didn’t look all that grown up to me.

Kerry decided — I think unnecessarily — to concede the $87 billion “flip flop” issue by asking whether that was worse than making a mistake about the war. I wish he’d just said that the president threatened to veto those same $87 billion if they were paid for the wrong way, by rolling back the tax cuts.

Bush’s message wasn’t mixed — it was mixed up: over and over again, he conflated the war on Iraq with the war on terror. Now that it’s clear there were no WMD there for the past many years, what little potential connection there was has fallen away. Sure, there are terrorists there now, but that’s more because of Bush’s actions than despite them. Kerry made that point once or twice; I just wish he’d eventually said “there you go again.”

A brief media coverage observation: NBC reporterthings asked Karen Hughes how her candidate did — and then asked the Kerry campaign what Kerry’s weakest moment was! And Kerry spokesman Mike McCurry accepted the premise! Mike: next time, if there is one, you just laugh and say “That’s for you guys to decide, I didn’t think there were any. Kerry was great at saying X, Y, and Z.” I’ll send the Kerry campaign a bill.

Overall, I think Kerry landed a lot of good punches and may have shed his reputation for wordiness — the format may have helped there. And I enjoyed it when he illustrated a number of Bush inconsistencies — and observing to Bush that “your campaign has a word for that.”

Kerry campaign: rapid response

Online Newshour first presidential debate coverage

Fox News debate coverage: transcript and video feed via Natalie Davis, whose question-by-question analysis of the debate is both worthwhile and entertaining. (Relax: she’s not voting for either of ’em.)

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Canvassing for Kerry in York, PA

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 28th September 2004

Last Saturday I joined the Kerry campaign for some ‘front line’ work in Central Pennsylvania: going door-to-door to identify voters who were likely to be Kerry supporters come November.

Following the directions in an e-mail from the Kerry campaign, I arrived at the gathering point in downtown D.C. Saturday morning. We left promptly at 8 a.m. There were printouts with general information about Pennsylvania on each bus seat, which made for some interesting reading on the way up. However, I eventually didn’t refer to any of it during the canvass.

York, Pennsylvania

As is probably well known, Pennsylvania is a so-called battleground state, where the presidential race is fairly close, and a significant number of electoral votes are at stake. York is at the base of what Pennsylvanians call the “big T” part of the state — Republican territory comprising basically everything outside the Democratic strongholds in and around Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Gathering new Democratic votes there might help mitigate Republican strength in the region, and put Pennsylvania in the Kerry column on Election Day.

York is an historic town. Many people don’t realize that it was actually the capital of the United States from September 1776 to June 1777 — the Continental Congress fled there from Pennsylvania one step ahead of the sheriff, as it were, seeking to put the Susquehanna River between itself and possible British pursuit. Despite its brief tenure as capital, York was the site of momentous events; the Congress ratified the Articles of Confederation and the Treaty of Alliance with France there, and it was there that Lafayette famously refused to join the “Conway Cabal” plotting to relieve George Washington of his command.

None of which mattered on Saturday, of course. After some bus difficulty, we finally arrived in York around noon. We were briefed on who and where we would be canvassing by the staff and leadership of the Democratic Party of York County: sporadic or newly registered Democratic or independent voters, living in neighborhoods within walking distance of the York campaign headquarters. We were then paired off and given a folder with a map of our neighborhood, lists of voters to contact — three to a row, and five to eight rows per page — and a script. There was also bottled water and even lunches for those who hadn’t brought their own.

The part of town my partner and I were sent to was a struggling rowhouse area just beyond the central business district. We walked through a nice, renovated looking downtown and tourist area to get there, passing the county courthouse used by the Continental Congress on our way. There weren’t many people about, but that might have had to do with a motorcycle event being held nearby that day — York turns out to be a manufacturing center for Harley-Davidson, and the roar of motorcycles cruising through town was background noise all day. (While Pennsylvania manufacturing may be suffering, Harley-Davidson seems to be doing fine; as of 2002 at least, the company had gone twenty years without a layoff.)


Before approaching the first door of the day, my partner C. and I sat down and went over the script one last time. The gist of the introduction was simplicity itself:

Is _________ there? Hello, my name is _____, and this is _____. We’re with the John Kerry for President campaign; can we count on your support this November 2?

If the answer was yes, we’d ask whether they’d like to help the local campaign or get a window sign. If the answer was that they would support Bush or Nader, we’d say “OK” and end the conversation — we weren’t there to waste time arguing, we were there to move on and find an ally at the next address. If the person was undecided, we were given a scripted answer to start out with, but encouraged to “speak from the heart” with our own best reasons to support Kerry instead of Bush. On the other hand, we were urged not to simply be negative about Bush. I decided to go with “I strongly believe Kerry will be more competent and intelligent about the war on terror and the war in Iraq.” But as it happened, the people we spoke with were generally either strongly for or against Kerry, with hardly anyone undecided.

I took a deep breath before knocking on the first door; I’ve done this before, but it was about twenty years ago. Naturally, no one answered, and in fact “N/A” turned out to be the typical result of the day. One difficulty was that we often had addresses, but not apartment numbers; and the doorbells we’d find inside the entrance were often not labeled. We’d write “sorry we missed you!” and the local campaign phone number on a Kerry flier and slip it through the mail slot or under the door. But often people had simply moved — or in a few cases, had been forced to move: we saw three or four padlocked residences and one that was wrecked and abandoned.

Despite that, the neighborhoods we worked were were pleasant to canvass. There was a block party going on at one street corner and school yard — a DJ with CD’s and loudspeakers, picnic tables in the street, a bouncing tent for kids in the school yard. The people were quite diverse, maybe even parts white, black, and Hispanic. We met one very enthusiastic neighborhood leader type, who was also noticed by some other canvassers as it turned out; I hope she’s hooked up with the campaign headquarters.

We took a couple of breaks over the five hour time span. I should have counted, but I’d guess we tried to contact about seventy or eighty people during that time; of those we spoke to, nine were “1”s (strong Kerry supporters), one was a “5” (strong Bush supporter), and one was “undecided” — well, actually, she was in the middle of a quarrel with someone else and didn’t have time for us, so we ruled her a “3.” As I recall, getting relatively few answers is about par for the canvassing course, so I didn’t feel too bad about it.


One suggestion I’d have for the organizers would be to add up everyone’s “1”s and volunteers and let canvassers know what the totals are before they leave. That way there’s a sense of being part of a group accomplishment, whether you think you held up your end of things or not.

A second suggestion has to do with older people. If I recall correctly, none of the people my partner and I spoke with were over 65 years old, yet quite a few that old were on our list (which gave age and party registration in addition to name and address). That and signs like open windows makes me think older people sometimes chose not to answer the door bell, perhaps out of concern for their safety. It might be worth trying to call the older names on a street list by cell phone shortly before arriving, so they know who’s knocking on the door or ringing the doorbell or buzzer.

Try it yourself

I enjoyed canvassing. It felt good to be out and doing something about the election, instead of just reading and fretting about it. Moreover, as my body has since reminded me, a nice long walk is really excellent exercise.

While I’m at it, let me point out something else that felt good: being among people — both on the bus and in the campaign headquarters — who were undaunted and cheerful about the work ahead. The campaign staff in York had a plan they believed in, and they were sticking to it. I hope that attitude is widespread; I think you’re likelier to find it among people who are working on the election than among those who aren’t.

I’d recommend canvassing for anyone — if you’ve got a partner, you’ve got nothing to worry about and at least one sympathetic listener when you start to talk to someone. You’ll have a good time — and it wouldn’t hurt the Kerry campaign to get a better canvasser than me!

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GOP: No, we have no shame — what is it?

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 25th September 2004

…Will it help us win the election? Well, who needs it, then

The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank provides example after example of the Republican “a vote for Kerry is a vote for terror” strategy:

  • George W. Bush, 9/22: “Kerry’s words can embolden an enemy.”
  • Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), 9/21: “[Terrorists] are going to throw everything they can between now and the election to try and elect Kerry.”
  • Senate candidate John Thune (R-SD), 9/19: “[Kerry’s] words embolden the enemy.”
  • Speaker Dennis “Smear” Hastert, 9/18: “I don’t have data or intelligence to tell me one thing or another, [but] I would think [terrorists] would be more apt to go [for] somebody who would file a lawsuit with the World Court or something rather than respond with troops.”

    (You know, I might just send him some soap in the mail, with a nice note like “One bar soap: use after smearing someone,” or “Here’s some soap to clean up with after a hard day’s work of smearing,” that kind of thing.)

  • Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, 9/17: terrorists in Iraq “are trying to influence the election against President Bush.”
  • Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), March 2004: “If George Bush loses the election, Osama bin Laden wins the election.”
  • (via Unfogged) Milbank also alludes to Dick Cheney’s infamous 9/8 statement: “It’s absolutely essential that eight weeks from today, on Nov. 2, we make the right choice, because if we make the wrong choice then the danger is that we’ll get hit again and we’ll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States.”

    For what it’s worth, the only terrorist-linked statement I’ve found on the subject says they’re with Cheney: they want Bush to win, too. According to reports by the International Herald Tribune and Fox News (Islamists Declare Spain Truce, Endorse Bush), a Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigade release on March 18 stated:

    We are very keen that Bush does not lose the upcoming elections.

    Addressing Bush directly, they continue:

    We know that a heavyweight operation would destroy your government, and this is what we don’t want. We are not going to find a bigger idiot than you.

    I’d never thought Bush being an idiot was keeping me safer — that’s so persuasive I may have to vote for him after all. On the other hand, the Abu Hafs folk fear Kerry:

    Kerry will kill our nation while it sleeps because he and the Democrats have the cunning to embellish blasphemy and present it to the Arab and Muslim nation as civilisation.

    Dang! They’re on to us. But that will only prolong their agonizing defeat by our cunningly embellished blasphemy — it’s that good.

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