Don’t hang up!

As you can probably tell, there is little I like more than humiliating myself.  Repeatedly.  It makes for great stories.

So today I’m going to up the ante.  Go deep into ritual humiliation.  Voluntarily.  With my eyes and my ego open.

Yup, I’m going to phone bank for political candidates.  Barak Obama, Tim Kaine (VA Senate) and Kristin Cabral (VA-House).

I expect a lot of this:

“Hi, my name is Ely …” click.

But sometimes I’ll get through.  And when I do, well, it’s a great feelingI am participating in Democracy.  Helping to make my country a better place.  I am convincing folks that they should vote for the people I think are best for that office.  And I am pretty good at it.

Some people won’t want to listen.  Some will have gotten a zillion calls already.  Some will be in the bathroom.  Some will hang up.

Others will be disillusioned.  Or disappointed.

So why do I do it?  You know why if you read my blog.  I am a bit opinionated, you see.  But the thing I believe in most strongly is our democracy.  Our right to vote.  Because, as I keep saying


And if I can help get a few more votes for candidates I believe in, get folks who need to register, registered, transport folks to the polls who couldn’t otherwise get there, then I’m making a difference.  ME!  I’m taking an active part in the process of making things better in our country.  Because I have done my best to help make my vision of what kind of a country we should have become a reality.

But I really do it for the stories.  I always come away with great stories.

There was the time in 2006 when I was working on Jim Webb’s Senate primary.

The man said “I just want to beat George Allen, but I think both candidates are the same.  I’m just going to flip a coin when I get to the polls.”

“Well then,” I responded, “you’d better take a two-headed coin, with Jim Webb’s head on both sides.  Because Webb is only the one of these two guys who has a chance to beat incumbent Senator George Allen.  If you want to get rid of Allen, vote for Webb.  Now and in November.”

He promised me his vote, both times, of course.  And it was entirely due to my phone call and my coin flip line.  I put Jim Webb in the Senate.  You’re welcome.

I’m sure it had nothing to do with the fact that George Allen showed himself to be a bigot.  (George Allen is running for Senate in Virginia again.  He is still a bigot.)


There was also the call in 2008 when I was working on Obama’s presidential campaign.  I was calling registered voters:

“Hi, my name is Elyse and I’m calling from Obama for President HQ.  Do you have a second to talk with me.”

“Sure,” said the man on the other end.

“Thanks, I appreciate your time. I just have a couple of questions.  First, are you planning to vote Tuesday?”

“I always vote.”

“Me too.  May I ask if you’ll be supporting Barak Obama for President?”

“I’d like to, but I was a mid-shipman with John McCain at the Naval Academy in Annapolis.  I have to give him my vote,” he said.

“You were at school with Senator McCain?”  I couldn’t resist, I had to ask.   “I bet you did better academically than he did!”

The man got a little less chatty just then.  “Well, I was actually a few years ahead of McCain.  I graduated fifth from the bottom, too.

Political work can be fun and fulfilling.  And the stories are the bonus. I will be telling these and other stories to my grandchildren.  Of course if the Republicans continue destroying the education system, I will also have to teach them history.

*     *     *

Have you ever done political calls?  Canvassing?  Worked the polls?  Got a story?  Send it to me at  I will collect and post stories throughout the campaign season.  And if you get a fun call from someone, send that to me too.

And remember — Elections matter.  VOTE.


Filed under Campaigning, Elections, History, Humor, Law, Politics, Voting, Writing

71 responses to “Don’t hang up!

  1. While I wince at the vilification of people with whom you disagree, I greatly admire your willingness to actually DO something to support a cause you care so passionately about.

    Good for you for putting your mouth where your mouth is!


    • It is better to put my mouth where my mouth is than to put my foot in my mouth, although that does happen from time to time.

      Actually Peg, while you and I are unlikely to ever agree on politics, it’s nice that we can remain pals in spite of them.


  2. I live in Wisconsin, so yep, I have done some campaigning and will continue to…although it is at times out of my comfort zone.


  3. I’m ashamed to say that I’ve never done anything more than educate myself and vote every time that I could. But your post has inspired me. I’m going to call the Democratic Headquarters around here and see if they need a hand…or a voice.


    • Education is really the first and most important thing to do. READ! But then we writers tend to care more about that than a lot of people.

      If I’ve inspired you to volunteer, I am delighted. I really do have fun and the people are great and dedicated. Not necessarily the ones on the other end of the phone, though!


  4. Before we decide on whether fifth from the bottom of the class is bad, I’d like to know how many students were in each class. If the answer is 5 of 6, that puts things in perspective.


    • That is a very good question, GG. And I am having unusual trouble coming up with a suitably snarky response. So I’ll just give you the fact, sir.

      McCain graduated 894 of 899 from the Naval Academy. Rumor has it he was a maverick way back. Wikipedia tells me that the average class is about 1,000. So I don’t know if the man I spoke with did worse or better than McCain in terms of folks who did better in class. I’m guessing about the same. The guy is probably an Admiral or a disgustingly overpaid federal contractor by now.

      By contrast, Obama graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School and made Law Review based on his grades. He’s got a pretty good job that I hope he keeps for a while longer.


  5. I have never worked the polls but admire you for doing so – I would be scared of people hanging up in the middle of my opening sentence!


    • Thanks, Christy. But you learn quickly not to take it personally. And then you get some great calls. During the 2008 primaries, I remember having 3 generations on the phone, all wanting to tell me that they were voting for Obama … it still makes me smile.


  6. lftsr1

    A number of years ago I took standing up for what you believe in to the next level and actually stood for office.

    You could say I was a young and some would say naive (but given my life,I was anything but!) and decided to stop complaining about the crop of councillors on my local council where I lived in London and contacted my local Green Party to discover that they were looking for people and because there was no one else in my area who wanted to stand, I was automatically a candidate….now I wasn’t expecting things to move as fast as things did and within a year of deciding to do something about the lack of amenities in my area, I ended up being the Green Candidate for my local ward area (a ward is local election area), and was being put forward as the prospective party candidate for the first London Assembly election in 2000.
    So I went out on the canvassing bandwagon,.and was getting good signals back and come voting day for both the local council, and for the london assembly I was a nervous wreck but at least i done the best I could, and didn’t respond to the other individuals cruel remarks or insinuations over my age and experience….the first results were for the council elections, in the ward I stood in there were 3 seats available, so the three people with the most votes would be elected,
    I was hopeful given the counting between the 3rd and 4th placed vote was going to be close, and as it turned out I was elected to the Local Council with a grand total of 1191 votes,
    I was the first, and so far only Green councillor in the borough.
    In the Assembly election I was surprised, surprised at how many votes me as a fresh faced 22 year old got.out of a total of 119,500 people who voted. I got 21,000 votes, but wasn’t elected.(I came 4th).

    I would love to have stood again but work got busier and I couldn’t devote as much time as I would have liked to so I stood down in 2004. I’d love to do it again I loved every minute of being a councillor, and if i could I would love to stand for higher office, maybe even one day attempting to stand as an MP, who knows…


    • Wow, great Ben. That’s really putting your money where your mouth is. Me, I have never aspired to it. I don’t think I have the temperament — I would love to work in politics, though. Well, when things go back to the way it was when I was thoroughly involved as a spectator. U.S. politics these days is terrible.

      You have had such an interesting life!


      • lftsr1

        My grandmother once said to me “you don’t get the choice to live a boring or exciting life they are just thrust upon you”. She also said it skips a generation. My mum had a quiet life, but my Gran didn’t, so I guess any kids of mine will lead quiet lives.


  7. While I have disagreed with some of your positions on different subjects, Elyse, that in no way takes away from my appreciation for your efforts in standing up for what you believe in. And you’re so right about voting. That is certainly the right thing to do.


  8. No, I hadn’t seen it but will share. She does look at the very big picture and her work for consumers is non-partisan and task directed. Let’s fix this. Yes, simple geometry–the shortest distance between two points is a straight line–no meandering, cronyism. She is easy to understand because she gets it in just two minutes.


    • Obama used this same theme and Romney’s crew edited it down to the “you didn’t build it” ad. They cut the heart out of EW’s and Obama’s message that “you didn’t build it alone. Grrr. Oops. I am in danger of climbing on my soapbox and here I promised myself a day off…


  9. Ohhh Elyse from back East, you are edacious when it comes to vote gathering. If you saw me wave last week, I can see you hover through the phone lines…just kidding. I wish you great luck–they are lucky to have you work for them. Yes, EW is one to definitely watch and suport. Did you know she attended the University of Houston?


    • I didn’t know that she went there. Actually I know a lot of folks who had great educations in Texas. Baylor and UT.

      And Elizabeth Warren really is my hero. She is great. You have probably seen this but I love it:


  10. “As you can probably tell, there is little I like more than humiliating myself.”

    That explains a lot of your comments.


    • Well, you are back with a bang! Hope you are well and enjoyed a nice holiday.

      See how much nicer I am since practicing democracy?


      • Haha. I’m disappointed. I was expecting a good comeback.

        If you’re going to practicing democracy, shouldn’t you be attacking others? That’s what everyone else does…


        • No. I’m a Democrat. The GOP simply falls over itself.


          • Are you implying the Dems don’t attack the GOP?


            • Not at all TwinDaddy. But they use the GOP’s words against them. They don’t need to edit.


              • Attacking is still attacking. And I’m sure they edit. They all do…


                • Oh come one. Have you read the difference between what Obama said and how they are portraying it?

                  Mitt is saying so many stupid things, saying both sides of ever bloomin’ issue, they don’t need to do creative editing. They and he are lying.


                  • Those are hardly the only two politicians out there. They all play the game the same way. And that’s all it is to them. A game. To get (re)elected and to get more power. None of them are serving with anyone’s best interests at heart except for their own.


                    • No they aren’t the only two. They are, however, the leaders of their parties. And there are degrees and there are lines that should not be crossed.

                      Mitt crossed those with his recent series of ads claiming that Obama said that business owners didn’t build their business. He clipped out the part that said that theydid not do it alone. HUGE difference.

                      Everyone tries to claim that both sides do it. But there are degrees. There are lines that the Democrats don’t cross that the GOP does and has for years. They made Max Cleeland, a man who threw himself onto an exploding grenade to save his fellow soldiers look like a coward. They distorted Kerry’s service record for the sake of chicken hawk Bush. they take tru service to our country and make it look bad.

                      And then the GOP convinces folks to vote against their own interests. And they do.

                      I will never understand how they succeed. Never.


                    • Because behind all of their idiocy, some of their core beliefs are held by a lot of people that aren’t held by the dems. And Christians will always vote for the GOP…


                    • Not all Christians vote for the GOP. I consider myself a Christian and I am pretty sure that I won’t be voting for them.

                      The current Republicans tap into our baser selves. We, by which I mean we Americans, are better than that.


                    • “We, by which I mean we Americans, are better than that.”

                      No we’re not. Have you watched the news recently?


                    • Oh yeah. Another shooting.

                      We should be better than that. We can be.


                    • Sure we could. If people weren’t content to be ignorant.


  11. I will tell my sister and brother that when Elyse calls, don’t hang up and listen. In fact I think you and my sister have a lot in common.


  12. You are officially my long lost sister! Have I worked on campaigns? Have I canvased? I’ve licked, stuffed, folded, walked, rallied, coffee clutched, made signs, wore signs and carried signs…but I have NEVER phoned banked. It is officially on my to do list!!
    My parents were democrat committee people for 35 years, I never had a choice but to be involved.
    When Milton Shapp ran for governor in PA in the early seventies. My mom had such a hard time pushing him in our neighborhood, because it was 99% Catholic and he was Jewish. When people would say they weren’t voting for him because he was Jewish her line was…”Well you know Jesus was jewish.” Her division had the highest vote for him.


    • Great Tops — I’m completely out of sisters! What are you doing on Saturday ….

      My son has been forced into it, too. In fact, we lost the House in 2010 because neither Jacob nor I worked it. (I’m sorry. Really.) I worked with a local middle school teacher to get students involved in previous elections. I guess I need to look him up. Folks are nicer to the kids.

      Great story about your Mom. Seriously cool.


  13. John Erickson

    We don’t get calls like that. Not sure if it’s the answering machine, my wife’s often ferocious answers/questions, or my annoying ability to blow battleship-sized holes in their rhetoric.
    Me, I’m betting on it being my wife. God know I’M terrified of her, and I married her! 😀


    • Be nice to the Dems, John. We’re the only ones who’ll let you keep your Social Security and Medicare.

      Your poor wife …


      • John Erickson

        What do you mean, “my poor wife”? Are you insinuating that I give her a hard time? (Note I’m not DENYING that I do, I just want to know where YOU’RE getting your information! 😉 )
        Hey, this is the little woman (5′ zip) who, when our (former) drunk neighbor tried to shoulder his way into the house to fight with me, knocked the guy back so hard by shoving the door closed, he only kept from falling by slamming backward into our porch’s 3′ high wall!
        “Poor wife” indeed! Harrumph! HARRUMPH, I say!! 😀 (I have no idea what “harrumph” means, but I reserve the right to say it.)


  14. I hate talking on the phone too much to ever do that.

    This year I’m doing volunteer work for the Herman Cain campaign. Oh, he could still surprise you!

    Good luck with the phone bank. Keep your self-esteem strong.


    • Thanks, B-Man. You know, I thought that it would be a hoot running against Cain. But you know, Mitt is doing a fine job imitating him. Mitt just can’t sing as well.

      I will survive the phone banks. I actually have fun doing it. I hear that there are two other people in the U.S. who also like it, but we’ve never met.


  15. You are my hero, Elyse. I made calls in 2008 for Obama. I sweated a lot because just generally using the phone makes me nervous. I clearly chose the wrong profession when I was a journalist. I probably won’t be calling this time around due to my disillusionment with everything, but he has my vote obvs. Or else I’m voting for Mitt Romney’s horse.


    • I understand the frustration, but the horse is not the answer. Remember, even Mitt said that the horse is Ann’s thing, Speaker7, he wasn’t even going to watch it, so should honor that position and not watch it, either. Right?

      It’s easy to forget that a whole lot was done between 2009 when Obama took office and 2011 when the House of Representatives was transformed into a carnival funhouse with the ascension of the GOP into the majority.

      Re-electing Obama is really important. Electing Senators and Congressmen/women (at the Federal and State levels) is vital. That’s the only way the country will recover from this mess that has been foisted on us by the GOP ,


  16. I watched another Jim Webb video, double speaking racist azzhat! Good on you for volunteering for abuse!!! You are my hero.


    • Val, I think you mean that George Allen is the racist.

      And campaign work is actually a whole lot of fun. You get to work with dedicated, fun people who are equally committed to a very worthy goal.

      And you get great stories and a real feeling of pride in helping. The lawn signs are a bonus, too.


  17. Awesome post. More bloggers should write about politics but that takes courage. I canvased for Obama last time around and I am going to do everything I can this time too!


  18. Great post, Elyse! Good for you. I have to admit that I am a highly disillusioned voter. I haven’t participated directly in any political campaigns since Paul Tsongas. But like you, I believe in democracy, and I am anxious to find a way to do my part (other than voting). For me, some of it is coming in the form of activism (a little bit of the “Occupy” movement), but I need to find a more effective outlet for my opinions. Thanks for the kick in the pants to get out there and do something!


    • Thanks for your comment, Moms. And you win the prize for the first campaign story — a really good one, too.

      I go back and forth between being disillusioned — I want so much more! — and the stark realization that if we don’t put more Democrats into Congress we will not simply have more of the same but we will have more crazies in there. The current crop of Republicans are going after birth control for god sakes! They refused to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act! They have stymied every jobs program and instead try once again, to repeal Obamacare. We all need to do whatever we can to get these Neanderthals out of office.

      Sorry, I just automatically get up on the soapbox.


      • I agree, I agree!! I am voting Democrat for Senate here in Mass (although Scott Brown is a very reasonable Republican, and I would like more of them up on the hill). For President, though, I just can’t back either major party any more. I’m way to lefty for either of them!


        • Ah, but third party candidates lead to Republicans in the house. In 1980 I voted for John Anderson (I am embarrassed to admit); Reagan won (and i will be posting on that before too long). When Nader (damn him) ran in 2000 we ended up with Dubya. Third party candidates hurt the Dems.

          And I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Elizabeth Warren. I’m thinking EW in 2016!


          • I don’t usually link back to myself, but I recently posted on why I can’t keep voting for the big parties. If you want, check it out.

            (sorry, I couldn’t make it a hot link)


            • Moms, I just posted this on your blog post, and I’m repeating it here (in the off chance that anyone really reads comments).
              I’m glad you referred me to your post. It is clear, passionate and eloquent. However, I have to disagree with much, but not all of what you said.

              I hear your pain. I agree with much of what you say, because I feel as you do. A liberal who believes that the measure of a society is how it treats its members. Check. Someone who wants to get rid of the influence of money, of Wall Street of Citizens United. Check. Someone who wants the media to pay attention. Check.

              Where we differ is that I don’t see the Democrats and the Republicans the same way at all. The media has this circus where they pretend to show both sides, and where they pretend both sides are equal. They are not. The Republicans are trying to destroy every single safety net that has been put into existence since FDR cleaned up after Hoover. Every single one of them. And they vote together even when they don’t believe in that vote. It doesn’t matter what they believe. They are a unit. And they don’t care about the lower class. They don’t care about the middle class and they don’t even care anymore about the upper-middle class. They care about themselves and their rich buddies. Period.

              Third parties, sadly get nowhere in the U.S. Ever. It is a reality that I find truly awful, but it is what we have. I’d love to change it. I would love to have true choice. But I am not joking when I feel like my vote for John Anderson in 1980 helped elect Ronald Reagan (who started this whole problem in my mind.) Votes for Nader (with an able assist by the Supreme Court) gave us Bush. On the other side, votes for Perot only hurt George H.W. Bush.

              I don’t see is how a vote for anyone other than the Democrats get you into the ballpark. Voting for a third party candidate today is simply throwing away your vote. Worse, it will elect Mitt Romney and the Republican Senate candidate (Eliz Warren for you, George Allen (God Help Us ALL) for me).

              In a better day, there were lots of people in the middle, and some on either extreme. The only folks in the middle, where legislation actually passes, are being ousted by the extremists. Texas will send another crazy man to the Senate. He will vote in lock-step with the rest of the cretins to repeal health care, to cut back social services, to turn back the clock on women’s issues.

              And then there is the media. But that is another round entirely.

              I understand your points and your passion and your hopes and fears. I share them. Until we can change them, there is only one way to vote. DEMOCRATIC.


          • I did the same thing in 1980 (and I share your embarrassment). It was my first election. We really need preferential voting in this country.


            • Well, in our defense, who knew that Reagan was going to be the disaster he was? And who knew that a third party candidate wouldn’t have a snowball’s chance? Oh well.

              Jimmy Carter is, however, the best ex-president of all time. And in retrospect he was actually a good president in a difficult time. Sound familiar?


  19. bigsheepcommunications

    Bless you for caring enough to volunteer for abuse, but damn I hate those calls (from either side)!


    • I hate them too, when I get them, actually. But they are important because they help us figure out where to focus other efforts, and ultimately it Gets Out The Vote (GOTV). It’s important. So think of me when you answer that phone call.

      Unless it’s from the GOP. Then you can either (1) hang up rudely; (2) hang up politely telling them you will never vote for them or (my personal favorite) choose no. (3) talk to them for a very long time, asking all kinds of questions, arguing with anything they say and undermining their resolve of the Republican, all the while wasting an inordinate amount of his/her time so that they can’t convince someone else who might be less intelligent than you.


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