Hi, is (Voter Name) there?

22 Mar

I’m not going to get political other than to say that I support Bernie Sanders. (And yet push come to shove, I’d vote for almost anyone over Donald Trump. I’d vote for Elmo over Donald Trump.) That being said, I signed up for the Bernie Sanders campaign months ago and have received between 3-6 emails a day about strategy, about his beliefs, and of course asking for money. “C’mon, Christine!” These emails seem to say to me. “Isn’t $3 worth it to show the billionaire class that they can’t control our government!” It totally is. But I don’t contribute, and I use the excuse that I’m saving up to go back to school, and it’s going to be expensive. And I’m stressed about the tens of thousands of dollars of student loan debt I’m about to take on. Bernie would understand! This approaching storm cloud of debt didn’t stop me from spending $15 on a carrot, cucumber, and Pimms cocktail this weekend, and I understand the hypocrisy there. But it was delicious, and it made me feel healthy and buzzed at the same time, so that’s that.

But I do believe in the Bern, and I’d love to see him elected, so I decided to give my time instead of my precious dollars. I signed up for a Phonebanking “Party.” Last night, as I headed to the stranger’s apartment in Long Island City, I felt waves of anxiety. I hate the phone. I hate talking to strangers. I hate when strangers call me asking for things. I don’t want to annoy people while they are trying to eat dinner. I told myself a million times, on the train, on the walk, that I should turn around and go home, but I felt committed.

It was a small group. The host and one of her friends were middle aged tech-hippies who have been phone banking for weeks. A young guy named Lee who looked like he had just come from a mock UN trial, clear braces on his teeth and everything. A millennial girl like me, same MacBook Air and everything. Later, an odd guy showed up who had a Bernie puppet. Instead of making calls, he practiced the arm movements of Bernie and asked for feedback. Brie and crackers, Modelo beer, and some wine. Temporary tattoos of Bernie dressed like Robin Hood. Everybody settled around their laptops with their phones.


Bernie Sanders puppet. 

I picked Washington State since those are my people. I read through the pre-written script a hundred times, terrified of turning my caller setting to ready and initiating the first call. “If I get one person yelling at me, I’m going home.” I told myself. I guess I’m still traumatized from my Upper East Side receptionist days. But I took a deep breath and did what everyone else was doing and felt the sway of mob mentality. I hung up on the first few people I called, because I didn’t realize that I wouldn’t hear the telephone ring. It was just a beep, and then I was supposed to start talking. Oh shit, I’m doing exactly what I feared. I’m annoying people.

But it wasn’t so bad once I got going. Most of the people I called were wrong numbers or they hung up on me right away. I always wondered what that must feel like. It’s relief. As long as I wasn’t being berated I was happy. The script in front of me was ridiculous. A big lead up about Sanders and why he’s great and how I’m voting for him. And then finally the question, “Are you planning on caucusing for him on March 26?” I couldn’t do it. To me that felt like the most annoying part of these automated calls. Instead I just said, “My name is Chrissy, and I’m calling on behalf of Senator Bernie Sanders. Do you have a minute to talk?”

Totally off script, no question like that exists in the script. I was just supposed to launch into my speech. Lee looked over his laptop at me, mouth agape. I’m a rebel, Lee; I refuse to annoy people. I get it though, the reason we aren’t supposed to ask that question is because people say, “No, I don’t have time to talk.” But that’s their prerogative in my opinion. Overall I got a lot of kind responses (I knew Washingtonians would be polite) saying they were busy, but “Go Bernie!” I reminded people of the caucus date and directed them to Bernie’s website for more info. I didn’t see how much good I could possibly be doing. Until I got a hold of Karyn.

The website told me she was 26 and in a suburb outside of Seattle. She did have a minute to talk!

“Can Bernie count on your support on March 26?” I asked.
“You know, I love Bernie, but I’m really on the fence, and I wonder if Hillary is a better option.”

I saw on the script what I was supposed to say. “I understand! Check out Bernie’s website.” But the script is bullshit, and I was talking to a human being, a fellow countrywoman who was on the fence about an important political decision. We spent about 10 minutes talking. She told me about her concerns about Sanders campaigns, some that I’ve thought a lot about too. Doesn’t Hillary have better foreign policy experience? Doesn’t she have a better chance of beating Trump than a self-described Socialist does? I told her how her concerns were valid, and why I came down on the side of Sanders in regards to these issues. I don’t know if I persuaded her, but I gave her somethings to think about. Lee was glaring at me. I had gone SO off-script. I color outside the lines, Lee. Deal with it.

“I’ll definitely do some more research, I guess,” Karyn told me. “I really appreciate you calling. I think what you’re doing is good.” I DIDN’T EXPECT THAT.
“Thanks for agreeing to talk to me, and seriously, check out his website, there is a lot of good information there, and you can volunteer like this in your area if you are interested?”

I can’t believe that I might have persuaded someone. It made the whole anxiety-filled two hours feel worth it. I hung up smiling. And after a couple more calls, I packed it in.

Will I do it again? Maybe. Not against it. Was it worth it? Maybe. If I got out a couple of extra votes. Will I approach campaign callers differently in the future? Absolutely. I had forgotten that on the other end is just another person who believes in something and wants to share it. It really is just a quick conversation. A yes or no. Is it easier to just donate the $3 Bernie keeps asking for? FOR SURE.


2 Responses to “Hi, is (Voter Name) there?”

  1. onereasonableperson March 22, 2016 at 2:34 pm #

    Fascinating read. Thanks for the post!

  2. Wiseone March 22, 2016 at 2:43 pm #

    I am proud of you. You did what every
    American should do. If I agree with you
    Politically or not I am glad that you are willing to stand up for your candidate
    and take part in the process.

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