Fulfilling the promise I made when the Barack Obama headquarters opened here, I volunteered yesterday morning to make some phone calls. I think I’ve written before that I’m not really sure if political phone calls do any good, and I know I don’t really care for them, but I wanted to do my part.
It should be no surprise to most of you that Barack isn’t super popular where I live. If you’re young and registered as a Democrat he is the favorite, but those who are young and registered Democrats are far and few between here. So I wasn’t really shocked that most of the people I talked to weren’t supporters, but their rudeness did surprise me.
I get hating telemarketers. I do too. Even so, I usually say “I’m not interested, thank you,” and hang up. It’s short, maybe snippy, but not mean. And, I’d like to point out that I would expected a different response to a telemarketer than to a campaign volunteer, though from my experience yesterday, that’s not the case.
I was given a raft of senior citizens to call, and told that if I called anyone who was deceased, I’d get a free soda. The organizer shrugged her shoulders and said “it breaks up the day.” I had a script, a list of names, and an elaborate coding system about the talk itself (refused to talk, call back, wrong number), and their presidential preferences (strong Obama, lean Obama, Clinton, Undecided). Most of my first calls were answering machines, and one nice, nice lady who had voted Republican her whole life and was now voting for Barack at age 68. She emphasized the 68 and told me her whole family was voting for him this time. I joked with her, and asked if she would speak to my family.
Another lady was undecided. She asked me how much I know about Barack, and I asked her if I could share my reasons for voting for him. She listened, then asked where he stands on abortion. I have no idea what her opinions on the topic were, but I tried to explain how I see him being pro-life in a lot of ways other than abortion.
After that, the people got mean. I called one house, and a woman answered. A man’s name was on my list, so I asked for him. The woman yelled for him, and I heard him ask who it was. She replied “Your girlfriend.” When I told him I was a volunteer for Barack Obama’s campaign, he hung up on me. Some boyfriend.
Another lady thought that I was probably calling for her husband from the doctor’s office (on a Saturday morning?) and some guy told me “I don’t wanna talk, lady, I just woke up.” I wanted to tell him he shouldn’t have answered the phone then, but I didn’t.
There was one response I got a few times, and it cracked me up. The script went like this: “Hi! my name is Bridget and I’m a volunteer with the Barack Obama campaign. How are you doing this morning?” I didn’t have to read this part, and tried to sound genuinely interested.
The most common response to “How are you this morning?” was “I’m a Republican.” I would say “Great, and do you know who you’ll be voting for in this election?” and then they would say “I’m a Republican.”
There seems to be a rule in play here that I did not know about. Republicans in South Dakota are not allowed to speak to Democrats, even if it’s only to answer the question “How are you this morning?” They also must answer all questions asked by a Democrat with the words “I’m a Republican.”
I grew up here, or near here, and I suppose I should have expected that response. I had hoped, however, that this election might not be so polarizing, or maybe those are just the Obama glasses I’m wearing. Regardless, I’m glad I called, and I may go and do some more again. Watch out Republicans, we just might ask you how you are.
PS: Having made these phone calls made me react much more kindly to the Nextel guy I ran into in the mall. He stopped me by saying “Hey miss, smile.” I did, and he tried to be flattering…He said something like “wow, all redheads look good in green. What company do you have?” I said Verizon, and then he wowed me with incredible logic–he said “Hey, why don’t you switch? I bet the Verizon guys don’t tell you that you look good. I know they don’t, switch to Nextel.” I laughed and walked away.