Election Diary 6: The Homestretch

Friday morning: I drive to Berwyn to meet a friend. This is the affluent Main Line suburb where Melania Trump spoke last night. Lawns in Marion’s neighborhood are now bristling with Trump/Pence signs that people took home from the rally. It’s a very prosperous, well-educated area. I don’t understand how Trump’s angry, xenophobic, misogynistic, Democrats-wrecked-my-life message can appeal to people here.

Saturday morning: Anne and I are going to canvas again. This is the final weekend of the campaign, and the get-out-the-vote effort is in high gear. The campaign office in Swarthmore is a hive of activity.

trump-supporterAdding to the excitement, there’s a Trump supporter walking around on the pavement outside, holding up a sign. Make America great again. He seems to be yelling at people occasionally, but mostly he’s just walking around quietly. I ask if I can take his picture, and we get into a conversation. I try to keep it friendly, and the more he talks, the less hostile he becomes. He’s not a bad guy. He admits some of Trump’s remarks have been outrageous, but believes he’ll tone it down once he takes office.

Parked along the street and in the steady stream of cars drifting by are many with out-of-state plates, mostly from Washington, DC, and New York. A couple of drivers roll down their windows and ask where the campaign office is. These are Hillary supporters coming to help with GOTV, alarmed by just how close the race has become in Pennsylvania. Their home states are “safe”, so they hope to have a greater impact by canvassing here.

Out-of-state plates outside campaign HQ. Photo credit: Anne Tallent
Out-of-state plates outside campaign HQ. Photo credit: Anne Tallent

Among the out-of-towners are Anne’s friends Brenda and Vicky from Washington, two highly accomplished scientists and experienced canvassers. They pull up in their Prius and position their Hillary buttons on their jackets. Love Trumps Hate. After two-and-a-half hours in the car, they’re anxious to get to work. We take two canvassing packets, get a quick briefing, and we’re on our way.

Gotta get a picture of that one! Photo credit: Brenda Ekwurzel
Gotta get a picture of that one! Photo credit: Brenda Ekwurzel

So it’s another gorgeous fall day, and here I am, walking around the neighborhood surrounding my kids’ middle school with one of our nation’s top climate scientists. Wow! Canvassing seems to go better this time: more people are at home, and more of them understand and support what we’re doing. Many on our list are young voters; most of them aren’t home, but their parents assure us they have a solid plan to vote.

One lady is new to the neighborhood, but couldn’t be better prepared for Election Day. She’s a graduate of both Wellesley College (Hillary’s alma mater) and the University of Chicago Law School, where she was taught by President Obama! Now and again, however, we get a glimpse into more complicated family situations and divided political leanings.

Saturday afternoon: Following a lunch break at home, I’m back at the canvassing staging location on Chipmunk Lane. My friend Linda needs me to fill in again on Monday, and I need to get a better understanding of how they do things.

Things are buzzing here, too. In addition to the local folks, they have people coming over from nearby Media, where the campaign office had more volunteers than it could use.

Except for one paid organizer, everyone coordinating and participating in this canvassing effort is a volunteer. Some are more effective than others, but Linda is relentlessly positive, thanking people for showing up to help and praising their efforts. It seems chaotic, with canvassers returning from the earlier shift at the same time others arrive for new assignments. Fortunately, the underlying system is pretty straightforward.

Saturday evening: At a neighborhood cocktail party, I talk with an acquaintance in the catering business, and she confirms that voting on a workday will be a real challenge for many people in the city – all the more so thanks to the transit strike. One of her employees is scheduled to work on Tuesday from 6:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m. (The polls are open from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.) She plans to relieve him for a couple of hours in the middle of the day and lend him her car, so that he can drive to his polling place and vote.

It’s maddening to think that the SEPTA strike could affect the outcome of the election. German friends have often asked me whether the German system of holding elections on Sundays isn’t better than mid-week elections. I’ve always said that everything has its pros and cons, and I could think of some arguments for each approach. Now, in light of the strike, I think we’d absolutely be better off with weekend elections.

"Even if you really like this sign, you should buy one of your own and not steal it."
“Even if you really like this sign, you should buy one of your own and not steal it.”

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