In 1992 I was working at Spec’s Music & Movies, a music/video rental store. We sold cassettes if that puts the time into perspective. We participated in Rock The Vote, a campaign MTV designed to motivate youth to register and vote. This is when MTV was Music Television and not Miscellaneous Television. This was before the much more threatening Vote Or Die campaign on 2004, and for the record, I am pretty sure I can take P Diddy out if he tried to kill me on November 4 if he caught me in Best Buy instead of a voting booth.
That year I must have registered hundreds of people. Hopefully some of them voted. Like a lot of elections, I felt they were talking to me. Bill Clinton came on MTV and did a townhall meeting when incumbent George Bush declined. He appeared in The Arsenio Hall Show, something unheard of for a political candidate and reached another group of people who thought they’d been forgotten. Today, you can’t campaign without making the rounds on Letterman, Saturday Night Live or The View.
I am what Natalie calls and Armchair Activist. Put it on a ballot and I’ll vote for it, but understand, I have a damn comfortable couch. I won’t put stickers on my car or signs in my lawn. My politics are my business. My father taught me years ago you don’t advertise for people who don’t pay you and that goes for my presidential pick or Nike. I always feel a little bad for those people with the faded Gore ’00 sticker thinking nature has had its way with it (and the cosmos with the driver).
Natalie is literally a card carrying activist. There were very few caveats in our relationship but somewhere in the beginning she told me about her activism and if that would be a problem. I asked, “Is this something you’re expecting me to do?”
“No,” she said.
“You aren’t going to try and overthrow the government, are you?”
“No,” she said.
“We’re good, then.”
She decided she wanted to volunteer for the Barack Obama campaign. She found the place hidden in a labyrinthine industrial area of town and they sent her canvassing, knocking on doors encouraging people to early vote. So they sent her to an area she’d never been to, in a city she’s only lived in for four months to knock on strangers doors… alone.
She came home with fine. People had been mostly nice to her. She asked to hang an Obama bumper sticker in the front window and since she lives here now, I obliged. We hung it next to my John McCain sticker.
Two weeks later she had some free time and told me she was going back. She asked me to come. She tried to bribe with the promise of delicious tacos. I went because I know it meant a lot to her and because as much as I like to think it doesn’t matter, I know every little bit counts. Also, if they sent her out again, I didn’t want her to be alone.
So Saturday after my weekly visit to the comic book store we went to the campaign headquarters. It’s a very unassuming building three minutes from anything remotely interesting. The interior looks like it was thrown together with a minimum of money. Stacks of campaign materials collect in the corners of the rooms. A seven hour old box of Dunkin Donuts is visible in the kitchen and coffee never stops brewing. We introduce ourselves and are given a list of names and taken to the back of the office and seated at a folding table with two phones. We’re given a script of what to say. I decide to dismiss it without reading it.
I decide to watch Natalie do two before I start.
I don’t know where the lists come from but they weren’t all Democrats or Republicans. I am glad we weren’t asked to talk politics to anyone. I overheard a woman ask Natalie her party and she told her. We were only requested to let people know Vice Presidential Joe Biden will be in Ocala on Tuesday October 28 and we’d like them to attend and make them aware early voting will be available until November 1. You mostly leave messages. Caller ID has probably made the job a lot easier. Nobody was nasty to me. Most people were cordial. One woman listened to my thirty second spiel and politely said, “that’s not for me,” and I thanked her. Natalie had one person hang up on her when she told her where she was calling from.
Truth be told, endorsing a candidate is like a job reference and something I don’t give out very often. Bill Clinton embarrassed me. I don’t think he did anything as President I have serious issues and frankly, I don’t give a damn about the Monica Lewinsky incident but it never should have happened and although he did what every cheating husband on Earth has ever done (lied), it was a black eye on the office and the party. Is it any different than what men from the Kremlin to the Krispy Kreme have done to their women? No. But my father used to tell me, “I don’t care what they do, I’m not their father. I’m yours.” And Bill was the guy I voted for.
In all, we called over a hundred people and we didn’t say anything about our candidates or anyone else’s. We just encouraged them to vote.
Then we went and got tacos.