For the past two weeks, ever since it became clear that John Edwards was no longer viable, I have been a precinct captain for Barack Obama in the city of Brea, my current home in north Orange County. I have two precincts, in fact; as the one next to mine was not spoken for, and I didn’t want to leave it uncovered. So for much of the past two weeks, I’ve been on the phone, calling voters. Two precincts is about as much as I could handle; in fact, I didn’t finish calling the last 50 voters in my second precinct. (I may try to catch some of them tomorrow.) Still, I called over 600 voters — some of which were wrong numbers, not home, etc. — and now it’s time to reap the benefits of having laid that groundwork.
I didn’t have time to canvass homes in person — I don’t think that my talking to people in my own precinct on their doorsteps would be more useful than leaving messages with a large group of other people in the neighboring one. But now that we’ve identified supporters and undecided voters, I did have time to do a lit drop this evening — about 70 houses. I made up my own flyer to include with the campaign literature; it explains what I’m thinking and why I think it’s important.
I don’t think that the issue differences between Obama and Clinton are that significant, frankly. Take health care, for example. Both of them are wrong: the way to cover everyone, as Atrios says, is to cover everyone: automatic enrollment, with premiums for the base level of coverage included in taxes. We don’t need mandates, etc.: we need to make that problem go away. But because whatever the President proposes is not going to be what Congress passes, and because I think either of them will sign a decent bill, their current difference on that issue doesn’t matter to me.
What matters to me is winning the White House. And so I wrote this letter, which was slipped into the screen doors of our supporters and to undecided voters. It represents my own views as a campaign volunteer, and was not paid for the campaign.
I SUPPORT BARACK OBAMA
SO WE CAN BEAT JOHN MCCAIN
John McCain will be a tough opponent this fall. We can’t afford to elect another President who thinks that it’s OK for us to be in Iraq for 100 years more. We can’t afford the money or the lost and shattered lives.
Barack Obama will beat him. Unlike Hillary Clinton, he doesn’t need to try to explain away a vote authorizing the war – which she still can’t explain clearly. The Iraq issue must be clear in 2008, not muddled as in 2004.
Hillary Clinton may not beat him. While John McCain sponsored campaign finance reform, Hillary Clinton is a major recipient of money from corrupting industries. She is vulnerable to attack for all those contributions. But Barack Obama takes no money from Washington lobbyists or PACs. He’s not vulnerable to attack.
Barack Obama has gotten support from independent and moderate Republican voters who might otherwise support John McCain. Unlike Hillary Clinton, he does not have high negative poll ratings; he won’t mobilize Republican voters. The media likes him, just like they like McCain and dislike Hillary. Voters are inspired by his story, his promise, and his commitment to change.
Let’s WIN this time! Vote for BARACK OBAMA!
That’s pretty much it for me. This is the first time I can remember where the argument for electability didn’t require giving up a damn thing in terms of the overall progressiveness of what I’d expect for the nominee. (That is: a lot, but not enough — it will be up to us activists to push for more of it.)
There’s one other argument that I include in calls, but had no room for in this flyer: Obama will have an easier time governing than Hillary. Imagine if this man wins the Presidency — not kicking and scratching, the way Clinton will, but inspiring people. I think that both the Blue Dogs and the Republicans will have a harder time telling him to screw himself when he comes before Congress. He won’t raise the same level of animosity; and that means that the victory in November may turn into a rout in January. And to push back what the GOP has done, a rout is what we need.
I’ve learned some interesting things as a humble Precinct Captain in Brea. East Asians seem pro-Clinton; South Asians more pro-Obama. (I haven’t seen discussion beyond the white/Black/Latino breakdown in the media before the CA primary; ignoring the large Asian population is dumb.) I’ve learned that Hispanics appear to be highly mobile — a huge proportion of those with Spanish surnames in my precincts are non-working numbers. I’ve learned that older women truly do love Hillary, and it’s hard to begrudge them that. I’ve learned that a large — seriously large — proportion of the population is still undecided as of the week, and even the day, before the primary. I have no idea where they will jump.
I’ve also learned that the arguments against Obama are that he’s green and not well-seasoned. He’d be a better candidate in four years, Clinton supporters say, and they are not sure that he can withstand Republican attacks. Both of these are fair points — although at least we can help him withstand swiftboating this time out — but I think they’re outweighed by the problems with Hillary. When I saw her debating in South Carolina — spewing out a litany of attacks against Obama without making eye contact with him, the camera, or anyone, then stopping and looking up with an expression like butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth — I said to myself “the voters won’t like this.” And to me, that outweighs the concerns of her supporters.
The voters will like Obama, by contrast: he’s the guy who’s both a brain and the cool kid, which is what people actually see as his continuing the tradition of the Kennedys. That’s been enough for me to dedicate much of the past two weeks to getting him nominated, and I will probably be making calls to Ohio and Texas as well. Losing this election is not an option.
One odd thing for me is that — on the biggest primary night of this year — I will not be following the returns from the eastern time zones, starting at 4:00. I’ll be at the polls, without a scorecard or a radio. I’ll find out who won what in time; the rest of the country will take care of itself. I’m a precinct captain, after all: my responsibility is to take care of my little corner of Brea.