I spent Saturday going up to Wisconsin and canvassing for John Kerry. I have leftist friends who don't think Kerry is going to do much better than Bush, and my heart still belongs to Dennis Kucinich, but I can also face reality and do what needs to be done. To me the worst case scenario isn't Bush winning the election. The WORST case scenario is Bush winning the election and me knowing I hadn't done everything I could to prevent it.
So up to Kenosha, Wisconsin I went in the car of another fledgling canvasser who was generous enough to offer me the ride. There are several groups that head to Wisconsin every weekend. Some of them are with Move On PAC, some are with the Kerry campaign, others are led by other organizations, and some canvassing groups are just concerned individuals who are driven by the need to do everything in their power to stop Bush's re-election. My group was organized by two such individuals. They just decided one day to do the absolute maximum that was in their power to get Kerry elected over Bush. And they started organizing canvassing in Wisconsin.
Wisconsin is called "the swingiest of the swing states" because it has a large population of people who don't vote straight party line. They vote Republican one year and Democrat the next and they choose candidates on a case by case basis. Since Illinois is strongly pro-Kerry, this is the most useful thing Chicagoans can do: go to Wisconsin and work on getting out the vote for Kerry. I'll say it again:
THE MOST USEFUL THING CHICAGOANS CAN DO TO ELECT JOHN KERRY IS GO TO WISCONSIN AND GET OUT THE DEMOCRATIC VOTE THERE.
On Saturday in Kenosha, Wisconsin I did this: went house to house and asked if they were voting Democratic. If the answer was no, I said, "Thank you for your time" and moved on. If the answer was yes, I asked if they were registered. If they said no, I offered to send someone by to register them. If the answer was yes, I offered them an absentee ballot form so they could vote ahead of time. I made notes of all addresses covered and answers received. Voting absentee is the best guarantee to make sure your vote is counted.
It didn't take the whole day, I didn't have to try to convince anyone or get into arguments, and I got free pizza, soda and cookies back at the volunteer station.
At this stage in the game, most people know who they're voting for. The best thing we can do at this point is identify the Kerry voters and MAKE SURE THEY VOTE on Election Day or absentee, although "undecided" voters will get repeated visits as well. Here's an inspiring article on the presidential election "ground war" of canvassing. Join the ground war against Bush!
As I went house to house in the eerily cheerful sunshine of Kenosha, Wisconsin, I knew that other canvassers were doing the exact same thing in Racine, Madison and other cities in Wisconsin and all across the United States. All information gathered is coordinated with databases that match people with their pro- or contra- Kerry status. People who call themselves "undecided" will receive a follow-up visit next weekend. People who call themselves pro-Kerry will receive a follow-up visit or phone call on Election Day to make sure they voted.
Oh, the stories volunteers came back with. Some encountered staunch Republicans looking for a fight. I caused two sisters to realize each was voting for a different presidential candidate and left them at the beginning of a good argument. Another volunteer talked to a house-bound person who was grateful and glad to be able to apply for an absentee ballot (Democratic). Not all the experiences were good, not all of them warmed your heart, but it will all pay off.
So, hey, let's go to Wisconsin! I'll be up there again on Saturday, October 2nd, but it will also be critical to be up there on Election Day. Don't set yourself up to regret that you didn't do everything you could to vote Bush out of office. Consider the following:
WALKING PRECINCTS (like I did): contact Regan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
PHONEBANKING: If you have a cell phone, you can help make voter ID and persuasion calls to Iowa and Michigan (starting tonight) and to Ohio (starting next Monday 9/27). From the campaign office at 57 W. Grand. Contact Mike Kaufman at email@example.com ASAP!
VOTER REGISTRATION: Thursday, 9/23 at UIC-Halsted el stop on the blue line, 3-7 p.m. Saturday, 9/25 at 4100 N. Lincoln Ave. 4-7 pm. Tuesday, 9/28 at Loyola el stop on red line, 4:30 - 7 p.m. Contact Amanda at firstname.lastname@example.org.
DEBATE PARTIES: Watch the presidential debate Thursday, 9/30 8 pm (on all major networks) at a Debate Party. Join the Kerry supporters at Frankie Z's, 435 N. Clark, or host your own Debate Party. Go to www.johnkerry.com/events/ for details on hosting a Debate or House Party. Debate/House Parties are great for getting more people to volunteer and/or donate money, eg. to the DNC.
ELECTION DAY: Take the day off work! We must make sure all Wisconsin Kerry-supporters actually VOTE. Dick Durning is organizing people to go up to Wisconsin on Election Day. Contact him at email@example.com.
Make sure no one can accuse you of not doing everything you could to keep Bush out of office!