The Repat's Election Diary 2

Saturday afternoon: I’m feeling virtuous after my first canvassing effort, but the day’s schedule has begun to spin out of control. I need to crack the whip on kids with homework, and I said I’d pick up campaign lawn signs for myself and a couple of friends.

I have an address for the signs, and it’s easy to find. This lady has covered her own lawn with campaign signs, and her living room is full of hundreds more identical signs for Clinton/Kaine and a handful of “down-ballot” candidates.

That’s right: the Democratic Party Machine is a nice mom in a modest suburban neighborhood with a living room full of lawn signs. Sign Lady would love to chat, but I have to dash – I want to get down to Boathouse Row in Philadelphia to watch my daughter row in the first regatta of the season.


Sunday morning: I’m up early to run with my friend Liz. She’s a teacher, and, while I was going door to door on Saturday, she attended a campaign rally in West Philly organized by teachers’ unions. She was surprised to see a bus full of New York teachers drive up, but one of the organizers explained: New York is “in the tank” for the Democrats. All possible resources are being deployed to Pennsylvania, where they might be able to make a difference to the outcome of the election.

Monday evening: GOTV (get out the vote) training at the local campaign office. Three young campaign workers and a room full of senior citizens. Where are the younger people? Well, 6:00 pm on a Monday is the worst possible timing for parents with little kids, and the local college students have their own campaign organization.

GOTV will target voters who are registered as Democrats, but who have voted only intermittently in recent elections. (How you vote is secret, but whether you vote is a matter of public record.) There are more registered Democrats than Republicans in our county, so our best chance of success lies in making sure these people get to the polls on November 8th. Knocking on all those doors is time-consuming, but it’s been proven more effective than phone calls. Do people know where their polling place is? Do they have a solid plan to get there on Election Day? We should commit to specific canvassing shifts, but I need to check the family calendar first.

I walk home with my neighbor, a doctor from Germany. He’s married to an American, and they both work at the big children’s hospital in Philly. He canvassed for Obama in 2008 and 2012. “Are you a US citizen?” I ask. “Not yet. I’ve applied, but the system is so backed-up, it’s taking forever.” Extreme vetting? This is what people are referring to when they say the immigration system is “broken”: immigration and naturalization processes that are so slow, even for the most straightforward cases, that it encourages others to bypass the system.

My neighbor asks whether I heard John McCain on the radio. The Republican senator gave an interview a few hours earlier on one of our local stations.  He made the case for re-electing his colleague Pat Toomey. McCain is (finally) disgusted with Trump, but says we Pennsylvanians need to return Toomey to Washington, so that the Senate can block any Supreme Court appointments President Clinton might propose. So there you have it, folks: Split the ticket and vote for gridlock! Thanks for clarifying that, Senator.

Tuesday morning: The parade of celebrities continues. Bill Clinton is speaking this afternoon in the very neighborhood where I grew up! And Cecile Richards of Planned Parenthood will be right here on the Swarthmore campus! Unfortunately, between family obligations and my non-profit work, I won’t make it to either.

Wednesday morning: I’m still trying to figure out when I can canvas on the weekend. The family calendar is complicated…

Out of the blue, my friends Deiv and Merit call from Finland, just to say hello! Merit is worried by stories of Donald Trump telling his supporters to watch polls for signs of irregularities. Is he encouraging the “deplorables” to take the law into their own hands? In fact, he’s been practicing this rhetoric right here in Pennsylvania, and he’s been pretty clear: His supporters upstate in Trump Country should vote early and then come on down to Philly to check on things in minority neighborhoods. Perhaps the real objective is to depress voter turnout through intimidation.

The piano tuner comes by. He’s registered as an independent, but, he says, “last time I pulled the ‘D’ lever so hard, I think I broke it!” We agree vociferously with each other for a good 15 minutes before he heads off to the next piano.

regattaWednesday afternoon and evening: It’s my turn to drive the crew carpool, so here I am, back again at Boathouse Row in Philly. Thousands of mostly young people are out enjoying the sunshine, on and along the river.

Trump describes America’s cities as hell-holes. He doesn’t know (or deliberately ignores) the transformation my beautiful city has undergone in the last 30 years. It’s not perfect by a long shot, but we’re working on it.

Finally, it’s time for the third and final TV debate between Hillary and Trump. I’m ready with a big glass of red wine. Things get off to an interesting start with a question about the Supreme Court. Trump reiterates the GOP platform, more or less. Hillary says just the right thing about abortion rights.

Soon, Donald’s attention span is reaching its limit. Friends keep up a running commentary on Facebook: Is he saying “bigly”? The whole thing becomes almost surreal as it appears that Trump is now impersonating Alec Baldwin impersonating Trump on Saturday Night Live.

The evening ends with the reality TV star declaring he will not necessarily accept the results of the election. And with that he ensures his own place in the headlines for the rest of the week.

Red state?
Red state?

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