GOTV Madness in a Foreign Land

Yesterday, MFP and I spent the afternoon at a college football stadium participating in one of our final GOTV efforts for this election (last one will be this Friday!).  The only thing I dislike about doing these events is the apprehensive feeling I get at the beginning of each one when I doubt whether or not we'll pick up even a single new voter.  And because we were at a college football game and, consequently, utterly out of our element, that apprehensive feeling was intensified.  Nonetheless, it was a beautiful autumn day, so the repellent swarms of tailgaters garishly dressed in tinny school colors were offset by the lovely reds, golds, and greens of the changing leaves on the trees, and we quickly found ourselves eager to make the most of the afternoon.

Clipboards in hand, we toured through the crowds, starting off at the main entrance and working our way toward the north parking lot.  It didn't take long before we encountered another Obama volunteer who told us that he had just worked that parking lot and other volunteers were already there as he was leaving.  So, we headed back in the other direction where we soon found that our best strategy for getting new voters was to chat up the folks actually staffing the event (or, as MFP called them, "the working man").  Whether the football tailgaters sensed that MFP and I weren't exactly their kind or not, we weren't sure.  But we had an intuitive sense that interjecting ourselves into their smoked meat-laden reverie really wasn't going to be very productive for us.  So, it was the parking lot and gate attendants and the program and t-shirt sellers who eventually became our primary focus.

After getting a few new registrations from them, we quickly encountered several more campaign volunteers and realized that this event was pretty well-covered.  So, we headed around the back of the stadium for the path less travelled.  There, we encountered all kinds of foreign life-forms that we had never taken the time to talk to before.  Working the marching band, the cheerleaders, and even the school mascot, we soon accumulated another handful of new voters and changes of address.  It was shaping up to be a pretty good day.

After a couple of hours work, the two of us had netted 13 new registrations and changes of address.  This was by no means an exemplary haul from our point of view, and we weren't thrilled with the idea of leaving before we garnered a few more.  Nonetheless, the game was about to start and things were getting more chaotic.  People were less and less likely to stop and talk as kickoff time (if memory serves, that is the correct term) grew near.  So, reluctantly, we decided to head back but would continue our efforts as we walked along the trail several blocks from the stadium.  While, in the end, we weren't able to snag any more registrants that day, we did walk away with a deeply important observation: age, appearance, and social circle can be surprisingly unreliable when trying to surmise someone's level of social engagement and savoir faire.

Several times that afternoon, I had chatted with groups of people I almost never encounter in my daily life.  Even in college, though I kept meaning to attend a game just for the experience, I somehow never got around to going.  So, when I found myself in a lively political discussion with a young football fan wearing a big puffy coat, dark sunglasses, and "bling", I was more than a little surprised by his level of engagement (incidentally, he thought Obama "waxed" McCain in the debate).  And when a cheerleader with a fake tan and a temporary tattoo on her cheek expressed to me how thrilled she was to finally get her voting address changed because it had been on her mind for a while, I shrugged.  Who knew someone who spent her time spelling out words with her arms would be so socially conscious?  And when one of the tailgaters happily set his plastic beer cup aside in order to fill out his voter registration form, I found myself thinking: "'c'est la vie,' say the old folks, 'it goes to show you never can tell'."

Nothing New byslag at 2:34 PM

1 dispense karmic justice! (or just comment here):

Gye Greene said...

Yup. :)

Deceptive appearances.


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