Nudge Out the Vote

“There is no good in worrying, you have to do something,” my father told me. He chewed on his lower lip, then said, “Why don’t you help me fill up the bathtub with ice cubes?” When my brother was three he was unable to control his body temperature when he got a cold. Eventually he outgrew this, but at the onset of inflammation, my brother would slip out of consciousness and start having seizures. I have persistent memories of my mother holding my brother helplessly as his whole body convulsed and twitched. The partial solution was to put him in an ice cold bath in order to bring down his body temperature.  In the face of this uncontrollable chaos, my father tried to instill in me the importance of doing SOMETHING. Even if what you do can’t directly help the situation at hand, perhaps  it can help in some small way. As I got older, I learned that the ‘some small way’ could actually be a substantial contribution to my peace of mind.

Fast forward from ten year old self to much older self 2016. I am totally stressed out about the USA elections, worried that the train wreck who is Donald Trump will be the 45th president of the USA. There is very little I can do about this situation. I am only one voter. What can I do for my poor country?

Then I think about it: one hundred years ago women could not vote in this country. Less than 100 years later we have a woman running for president, and in my state, a woman running for US Senator as well as state comptroller. I owe it to my suffragette ancestors to do something!

I decide that I will get out the vote. Encourage as many people as I can to vote, because I truly believe that Republicans only do well when voter turn out if low. Also, if the Trumpster turns this country into a fascist state, telling my grandchildren about how I used to “knock on people’s doors to get them to vote” will be something of a novelty.

I decide to volunteer at a phone bank as well as the traditional canvassing- going door to door encouraging people to vote. Why do this? Because despite all the technological advances, the most effective way to get people nudged into voting is one voter talking to another voter. The more personal and humane the interaction, the more likely a person is to vote. We all just need a little encouragement to do the right thing. I know this is effective because I myself have been influenced to vote. Nowadays, I like to think of myself as convincing people that they have something very valuable- their vote. How valuable is it? This is hard to measure. In some cases, perhaps not very much. But is a close race, it can make all the difference. Will you ever know that it was your vote that made the difference? No, you won’t. It is a matter of faith, and faith is in short supply in this country, despite our professed religiousity.

I did it. I manned the phone bank (mostly nobody was home). I went door to door in neighborhoods ( a beautiful neighborhood in Westmont on a gorgeous sunny, fall day). I only called people who were registered Democrats, I wasn’t trying to convince some Trump supporter to vote for Hillary. I overcame my fear of dogs, actually appreciated them because if they were barking up a storm then obviously no one was home and I could move onto the next house. For the most part, people were polite or curt. No one screamed at me. I wasn’t murdered by a serial killer when I knocked on doors. And more importantly, at the end of the day, I felt good. Maybe it is a crazy system, but at least I had the opportunity to participate, to contribute, to honor my ancestry, to perhaps help in some small way.

Perhaps the happiest moment I had was talking to an elderly gentleman at his front door. After I finished my spiel about “do you have a voting plan?” he smiled and said, “You know, when I was younger, I used to do what your doing. Canvassing the neighborhood.” As I walked away from the house, I could tell he felt relieved- glad that the next generation cared, the next generation could follow in his footsteps.


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