I’m lucky to engage in many interests and am part of a community to each one. They are varied, and one of them, paintball, tends to sway to the political right side, the other, table top war-gaming, swings left. I wont get into the nuances of each, suffice to say I am passionate about each activity, and my social media reflects it. I hear from the right views and I hear from the left. Like most of us, I tend to shout on social media because of the polarizing politics of post 911 America. Those who either regurgitate (re-post memes), spew, pulpit (virtue signalling), express, state, and declare tend to do it in an echo chamber of like minded people. I’m guilty of that, and I’m proud to state that due to interests listed above, I have followers from both sides, so occasionally a good dialog occurs.
That being said, I am keenly aware that stating your political views on social media may be cathartic, but it really isn’t changing anything. After two years of Trump America, I decided I’d be more involved. Summer of 2018 I discovered a Gen X Texas Congressman who was running for Ted Cruz’s Senate seat, Beto O’Rourke. Ironically I got turned onto Beto by following an article about how Cruz’s campaign sought to demean Beto by posting shots of him when he was playing in a post punk Grunge band and the pics went viral because apparently Beto was hot. I fell down an internet rabbit hole of Beto and learned quite a bit about him. He’s a Texan, I agreed with his platform and the way he expressed himself. I felt a kindred spirit in Beto and shared as much on Social Media. I spread the word, but wanted to do more. My “politik” friend, Justin Heyman and I had long talks. He is a more experienced activist than I, and outlined what could be done; mailing post cards to swing voters in Texas, donating to campaigns, and phone banking.
I committed to all three and am a Beto backer in earnest. I joined a phone bank taking place in a Chelsea design studio, Stonestreet Studios. When I confirmed for the phone bank the option to post on Face Book was offered, my feed motivated two others to attend.
Justin exclaimed, “Democracy is contagious”.
The phone bank experience was euphoric, instead of screaming into a contained cyber space, you are directly connecting with real people whose votes matter to advance an individual you believe in. This particular phone bank was located 5 blocks from my home, and took place from 5 pm to 8 pm. Three hours given to democracy is a meager sacrifice in any estimation, but sometimes actions can snowball into something far larger. On this gambit I set off as instructed, a MacBook air and iPhone in hand. I emerged out of an elevator into a working studio filled with young women, young gay men, and the heady air of hope. We introduced ourselves by stating our names and why we were here. The women where concerned about the right for them to receive healthcare and governance over their bodies. The gay men worried over the homophobic tone of national conversation. I smelled a little fear on a few, but overall the tone was of warriors out for blood and ready to battle. Ted Cruz was detested unanimously and everyone knew what was at stake,
Beto had narrowed the gap and Texas may very well turn blue.
Victory was in sight, but not in hand. The hosts who lead the phone bank explained as much, backed up by being in Texas the week before canvassing. There was an excitement in the air as the process was laid out for us.
This night would prove to be “throw your jacket down on the ground democracy”. We packed couches, crevices, desks and studio floors to make calls.
A script we were told to follow (it was known that you could deviate wording as your confidence in the message grew) that essentially started off as informing the Texan recipient that there is an election on Nov 6th and could Beto count on them to vote for him. Upon a confirmation you would then go into determining from them a plan to vote. How would you get to the polls? Before work, or after work? you know, “the polls are only open from 7am to 7 pm”. One of my 50 calls that night I connected with a woman who didn’t know her polling location. I took her address, located her polling location on line then asked her to get a pen and paper and write it down. Right down to which door to enter. Then you end with asking for a promise to vote. The word of a Texan is no small thing, it is important that Beto supporters actually do vote and posing this question has a positive impact on participation. Rosie the event organizing explained that.
The calling element was quite interesting from a technology standpoint. Integrating your mobile phone and an online interface you followed a flow chart of canvassing and recording outcomes. One dial in with an id and you stay connected as you follow a registered voter sample. In two hours I “called” about 50 numbers and spoke to about 15 who had pre-voted Beto, 15 answering machines (you just hung up and logged as a call back), 5 times chatting with spouses or relations and securing their support, 5 hang ups (Texans are polite what can I say?) 7 wrong numbers, and 3 voting plans. Those last three were the golden ticket you hoped to find in your effort. That’s where you make a difference. One gentleman named Thomas I spoke with was an 84 year old who said he’d vote “for that Beto, he seemed a good honest guy”. I went over the address of the polling location, he waited to till I finished then declared, “Yea I know where it is, I’m gonna walk on over”. He was sweet and it was an honor to connect with Tom from Texas.
The UX of the system was more or less stable, but had an uncomfortable lag that you have to adjust to. Overall I was impressed with the tech. It could identify if the sample had voted in 2016. It worked best with head phones and embellishing your script with enthusiasm increased by how familiar you became with the process. A lovely Spanish speaking woman shared the couch I was calling on. She was extra valuable to the movement as she spoke fluent Spanish and hearing her canvas in soft fluid Spanish was invigorating. My friend Justin and his wife Nadine were diligent as well. Everyone had a laptop perched on their laps and a phone gripped tight in hand. There were sandwiches, cookies and an engaged atmosphere. Will Beto win big on Tuesday? That I cannot say, but I’ll say thirty people spending a Saturday night before the big election in NYC who were calling Texans and doing something proactive and proven to aid Beto’s victory.
It was a lovely feeling and an honor to state, “Hi, my name is David and I’m a volunteer for Beto O’Rourke’s Senate Campaign”.
If you are a patriot, and passionate about your feelings being an American and want to do more, I suggest visiting the website of your candidate and learning how you can volunteer and make an actual difference.
To learn more about Beto for Texas click here.
All images made with an iPhone Xs Max and processed in Snapseed.