And what do you have to do when you’re a campaign volunteer? Make phone calls. I hate making phone calls. It puts me in a panic. At this point in life, I would rather talk to a room full of strangers than call one person on the phone. Why can’t I just text voters? What happened to the good old-fashioned campaigns of envelope stuffing? I could do that.
I have dialed the phone for other campaigns, such as Obama’s in 2012, and I find I can do about four calls before scurrying away. But I’m a Hillary believer and supporter, so I have decided to bite the bullet. What helps is that I have found the key. I show up with just 50 minutes left before the campaign office closes so there is a built-in time limit.
If I had to pick my favorite part of cold calling, it is when a voice mail comes on. Then I can just mark “not home,” not have to speak to anyone, and still feel like I’m doing my part for the cause. My second favorite part is simply when the phone is dialing. But sometimes you do get that dreaded “hello” and you’re on.
What do I worry about? That I won’t have the best arguments to present to them, that I won’t have the right things to say, that they’ll say something “fu– that bit–.” But I find that’s only what Sanders supporters say on Twitter.
The truth is, if you get someone on the phone, they just want to give their points of view. I interjected one time to address a woman’s point, and she said, “Are you talking or am I?” They need to express themselves and as a fellow human, I am there to give them that opportunity. This is especially the case with older voters, as they are not on social media all day like many of us are. So I become their Facebook. They just want to post. You find this dynamic time and again. One time in a room full of callers, I heard another one say, “I’m going to let you go now” after listening to man’s literal life story. Who knew as a cold caller, you would be the one begging to get off the phone?
I have been happy that Hillary has been very doing in many states. But this past weekend was a tougher one for her campaign. And we knew it would be. Voting took place in whiter states like Washington and Alaska in the dreaded caucus format, which favors highly organized, motivated, and yes, younger voters who have time on their hands and can stand there for hours. The Clinton campaign has not even been devoting as many resources to those, knowing their shots fair better elsewhere. But in hoping she would get some delegates in these contest, I decided to go into one of the satellite New York City campaign offices. And frankly, it was a Friday night and I needed plans.
There is always a script provided for you when you make such calls. But at that moment, I wished I could go off of script and say what I really thought: “Hi, is this Linda? I’m a volunteer for Hillary for Washington State. Listen, tomorrow is the caucus, where there will be a lot of young bearded guys in flannel shirts. Many are named Zach. We both know what we’re talking about. Sander’s dudes. So anyhow, Linda, I’m asking more, shall I say, mature voters like you to show up for Hillary so she can get a few delegates until we get back to places like Maryland and Delaware. What do you say?”
What helps is that the campaign has done a wonderful job selecting staff for their offices. They are relentlessly positive. They say things like, “Isn’t this fun?” As committed as I am, I know that is not the role for someone like me. I can just imagine volunteers skipping in, while I sit slumped in the chair with my head in my hands, breathing heavily while reading aggravating posts on Twitter. “How’s it going,” these innocent campaign supporters would say. I’d answer, “It’s awful. I’m completely worried and deeply despise everyone. You?”
One thing I am positive about is the diversity found at the Hillary campaign. Young and older are present, from a wide variety backgrounds. One day, I even spotted making a calls: a real live young white man. Yes, I saw it with my own eyes.
But in between the fingernail biting, the rocking back and forth with anxiety, the praying that no one answers the phone, there are calls that make volunteering worth it. A woman in Hawaii said, “If my mom were alive, I know we would be talking about supporting Hillary.” It was beautiful. I was so engrossed, she was the one who had to say, “Okay, I’m going to have to let you go.”