For the first time since George McGovern took a crack at the White House, I have been moved to join in some grass roots action. As a true American patriot, I know when it’s time to step up and do my civic duty. Here’s why.
The closest swing state to New York City is Pennsylvania, and it’s time to get out the vote. Latino voters in general are understandably disenchanted with the whole process, but if
enough people register to vote and then actually vote, it can totally make a big difference! Surprise! Just like in the Brexit vote, where one bright young Britisher exclaimed “Yeah I voted for it but that’s cuz I didn’t think it would WIN.” **Note: to fully understand Brexit, watch this informational clip. Well, those guys still have royalty over there, so maybe they’re just not used to the whole democracy thing.
Come to think of it, neither are Americans. One-person-one-vote? If only. No, we have something called the electoral college, which is a deep and dark mystery to almost everyone in the country. As far as I can tell, you may think you are voting for a candidate, but you are actually voting for an unnamed person or person who will PROBABLY vote for your candidate. It usually works out, but when it goes wrong, it goes wrong in a spectacular way.
We also have the joy of gerrymandering. If New York City apartment designers followed the same method that politicians use to create voting districts, then my bedroom would be in my apartment, but my bathroom would be 3 floors up in the apartment of my neighbor, and I’d have to go through a two-mile hall to get to my kitchen. That hall would probably pass under the Harlem River and take me to Marble Hill. That’s how gerrymandering works.
In most election years, the nation decides between our two main political parties. In theory, this allows everyone a choice. In practice, the two parties hate each other, and almost everyone hates both candidates all the time. That’s the hallmark of a healthy, functioning democracy.
This year is different. This year, we have a political landscape we haven’t seen before. This year, it is time to act. I realized I had to get off my desk chair, do my civic duty, and bravely volunteer my husband, Al, to get out the vote.
A quick check of Google maps showed that we could get to Lehigh county in Pennsylvania easily. We drove down to a small city there, which has a large Latino population. We showed up at the house of a local grassroots organizer, and she gave us clipboards, voter registration forms in English and Spanish, some rules and advice, and the address of a local supermarket. Al and I, plus our youngest daughter and her friend got right to work. Our youngest daughter and her friend needed community service credits for high school, which is why they were there. Our oldest daughter was not down with this project, and let us know her thoughts in an unprintable tirade the evening before.
Here’s how we worked it. The girls and I would collar some hapless customer with an armload of shopping bags exiting the Supermercado, and say “Are you registered to vote?” Upon catching sight of me, they’d break into a huge grin and say “ohhh sorryyyyy no English…” But that did not get them off the hook. I don’t look it, especially in my Tilly Hat, but I can muster enough Spanish to say “Bueno! In that case, please go over there and talk to my husband.”
That was Al’s cue to emerge from the shadows and lay it on them in Spanish. I’ll share his technique.
“This is the most important year to vote in the history of the nation.”
“We all need to vote this year. If we don’t vote, you KNOW what will happen.”
“Yes, I know they are all crooks but that’s no reason to destroy the entire nation!”
“Voting is a not only our right, it is also our sacred duty.” This last one sounds great in Spanish and also springs the Guilt Whammy. It proved to be effective. Daughter and friend were great and got a few people to register. My count was zero, but Al cleaned up.
Here’s the unofficial poll results:
White folk claimed to be registered already; recoiled in fear when we announced we were from New York City.
African Americans snorted in derision and said things like “you better believe I’m registered to vote. I’d be a fool not to.” “Of course I’m registered to vote. Who do you think got Obama elected twice?”
Felons filled out a registration form, then asked what high school the girls attend. Asked me “are you their teacher or something?” Seemed surprised to find out I was the mother. Left quickly after that.
Latinos (our target demographic)
- 55% already registered.
- 25% jaded. After all, we were hardly the first “get out the vote” people they had seen. Several in this category correctly pointed out that their lives change very little no matter who is in office. Some signed up anyway, for which we were grateful.
- 4.5% not eligible for a number of reasons. They let us do fist-bumps with their adorable baby-citizen-future-voters.
- 10% intrigued. Some took the registration forms to mail in later. Others signed up on the spot. Some came around admirably after discrete prodding by Al.
- 1.2% paranoid. These seemed to think that they’d be called for jury duty or made to pay old parking tickets or placed under federal observation if they registered to vote.
- 3.8% scornful. These tended to fall in the bochinchera category, and said things like “I’ve never voted once in my entire life and I’m not starting now.” As though we suggested she try the cinnamon challenge or bungee jumping or mooning out of car windows at the age of 70.
The remaining 0.5% were Trump supporters who yelled “Trump!” a lot, but whether or not they were actually registered to vote remained, as does so much else about them, a complete mystery.