These three cheerful volunteers had come from California. I love the friendliness, optimism and diversity of the Obama campaign volunteers. Some are longtime activists, others first-timers.
The bus from Seattle was full up, so my husband and I drove by ourselves more than 3 and a half hours, starting the night before. I'm sorry we missed out on the cameraderie of the bus trip. Brian blogged about that group's day: Washington for Obama bus trip to Oregon
We arrived at the buzzing Portland Obama office on an appropriately brilliant sunny day. From there, we were directed 15 miles southeast to the suburb of Oregon City in Klakamas County.
The Oregon City office featured this jigsawed decoration.
This area has been registering voters like crazy. This sign says that for the first time Klikitat county has more voters registered Dem instead of Republican. Only a few days remain for voters to register or update their registration.
This is the Oregon City organizer, Zach, who is a staffer from Chicago. Zach said he originally supported Obama's opponent in one of his early races. But after getting to know Obama, he "drank the Kool-aid and never looked back."
We heard that Bill Clinton was to speak to voters in Oregon City that day, and one volunteer was eager to infiltrate this "enemy territory".
Zach had a mission for us; we were to canvass in a Republican area about 10 miles away, using the list of R and I voters they'd identified as "switchable." It's a closed Primary; only registered Dems can vote for Obama or Clinton, so Obama leaners were to be encouraged to re-register. Maybe because we are white and middle-aged, not wearing shirts emblazoned with big Obama logos, we were in the demographic suitable to enter this less than hospitable territory.
I would've preferred to simply register voters, not attempt to flip Republicans and Indies. But we agreed to try. Zach said if that was no good, we could head to the nearby public library or park.
We had little success in the doorbelling. The most interesting exchange with a Republican took place later, in front of a public library. I'll get to that shortly.
The targeted neighborhood was a brand-new suburban subdivisions in Wilsonville, upscale residences and fancy landscaping, cul-de-sacs and curving streets named "Camelot Street," "Lancelot Circle," "Guinevere Lane," etc.
As usual on a Saturday, half the residents weren't home. Of the rest, they were very polite yet aloof. All said they were registered, thank you very much. When I asked if anyone in the household might want to switch their affiliation, no one did; nor did they want to tell us their presidential preferences.
One guy said "You've got my vote - you better talk to my neighbors". Yet he did not want to switch his registration to Democrat - said he really was busy. So maybe he meant Obama had his vote in November, but not just yet.
I'm guessing that switching affilliation is a big step for a Republican, not something to be done on the spot at the suggestion of a couple of Democratic strangers with Obama buttons. Maybe neutral public territory is a better place to discuss politics than on someone's doorstep.
Inside the library, an Obama volunteer (sans buttons to appear neutral) had almost run out of registration forms, so we gave her a bunch of ours, for which she was grateful.
Outside the library, we encountered more potential voters to engage, most of whom were not Republicans.
Then we went to the park, where all the people we approached said they were registered and we got a bunch of "Go Obama!" remarks.
SURPRISING CONVERSATION WITH REPUBLICAN
The first individual we encountered in front of the library turned out to be a pleasant challenge for my persuasive skills.
A man appearing to be in his late 20s said he was a registered Republican; I offered a registration form and said he could re-register as a Democrat if he wanted to participate in the Democratic primary,
He said, "Actually, I've been tempted to do that. But I'm undecided who to vote for. What would you say is the main diffference between Obama and Clinton?"
I was surprised that an R would even consider voting for a Clinton, but this was an interesting question. I remembered that David Domke's "Talking American " seminar for Democratic activists emphasized persuading through personal language, inspiring American myths and positive framing.
I said, "If I had to boil it down to one thing, the biggest difference for me is the trustworthiness of the candidates -- I find Obama more trustworthy, consistent, and honest in his positions."
Actually, another fundamental difference is that Obama is building a grassroots movement; the Clintons are authoritarian. But since many Republicans approve of authoritarianism, I instinctively changed my first point. Everyone, including authoritarians, wants to believe their leader is trustworthy.
The man, let's call him "Fred," said "Yes, I've considered the two most honest candidates to be Obama and Romney. I was really disappointed when Romney dropped out."
I nodded as if agreeing with him, but inside my jaw dropped to my ankles. From what I understand, former MA Governor Mitt Romney is a notoriously opportunistic flip-flopper and panderer who reversed many of his positions when he started running for President to promote himself as a super-conservative. But maybe you wouldn't realize that by depending on the mainstream press coverage.
Fred continued: "What about Iraq, is Obama going to end it or not end it, I can't tell?"
I told him: "Obama has said he'll withdraw the troops in 2009, the same year he's inaugurated. To me it means a lot that he was endorsed by Bill Richardson, the antiwar candidate who wants immediate withdrawl, and also by Sam Nunn, a conservative military and foreign affairs expert from way back since the 60s. My sense is that many foreign policy experts will be advising him, and I trust him to do what he promised. The details will depend on the situation at the time he takes office."
Fred said, "What about their healthcare plans -- I don't know the difference?"
I wondered if Fred was planted as a test for me to promote Obama's campaign, although I couldn't spot the hidden camera or microphone. I decided not to mention my preference for a future single-payer government-subsidized plan because Republicans are very suspicious of socialized medicine.
I said: " As you know if you saw Sicko, a lot of people, even WITH insurance, aren't being covered. Their claims are denied and people are being bankrupted because of healthcare costs."
"As I understand it, Obama's plan automatically enrolls children in a government-sponsored insurance program, while reducing insurance and drug costs so that people can afford to enroll themselves. Clinton's plan has a mandate to enroll everyone in the program no matter what. I'm not sure what happens if they cant afford to pay."
"It's complicated, because the insurance and drug companies have their hooks into many levels of government policy. The way I look at it, the President is not the one who writes the legislation. That will be hashed out in the Congress over a period of years."
"But I trust Obama to approve of the legislation that makes the most sense for the most people, because he isn't indebted to the drug and insurance industries."
Fred: "I'm hearing about something Obama said about small-town people and their guns and religion, what's that all about?"
I said: "Obama was asked at a private fundraiser: how come rural and small-town Pennsylvania voters aren't supporting you? He answered that people like that have learned to distrust politicians and government - with good reason - so they tend to rely on or "cling to" cultural traditions like religion, guns, social divisions, that sort of thing."
I said Obama certainly did not disparage a group of people when he said that, but the media presented the taped words in a negative way. Obama said he regretted the wording, and explained what he did mean.
Fred said: "Yeah, I figured that must've been taken out of context."
I expected the next question to be about Reverend Wright, but that was never brought up.
Instead he said: "Another thing is, well, Obama just seems too good to be true, the way some people talk about him."
I said, "Yes -- I've had that thought too. You've got to figure every politician is compromised somehow, none are perfect.
"I look at the way Obama has run his campaign. Seems like he has run it the way he promised: staying positive, not taking money from the big lobbyists, funding the campaign through small donations, making everyone feel included. So I feel he's earned my trust."
In the end, Fred took the voter registration form but he declined to fill it out on the spot for us. We reminded him it needed to be in the county office by Tuesday.
That was a not a lot of helpfulness to Obama, for a 400 mile round trip though...
DINA FOR OBAMA DELEGATE
I've been challenged to consider my place in the Obama Campaign, as someone who intially supported John Edwards and who is competing as a national Delegate for Obama with many exceptional candidates. Obama speaks repeatedly of a coalition, and I am part of that.
Edwards and Obama have much in common that appealed to me. I feel it's their approach that differs, a matter of personality; whereas Hillary Clinton is the antithesis of both, in my mind.
Because of my loud opposition to the Iraq invasion and all that followed, war hawk Hillary was always last on my list of Democratic candidates. Due to her recent actions, she has managed to drop even lower in my estimation. Remember my astonishing conversation with my Hillary-supporting Aunt in Pennsylvania?
Edwards' combative Defender-of-the People approach was gratifying to my sense of outrage at the trashing of our government institutions, pre-emptive war and cruelty, rapacious corporations, lying cheating politicians, the glorification of bigotry and dogmatism and hypocrisy and stupidity. I wanted these government-sponsored criminals CLOBBERED with the Hammer of Justice. I felt because JRE was no longer a sitting Senator, he'd be free to do and say what was needed, without the political constrictions of the Senators.
It's clear now, that approach would never build the mass movement that's necessary to propel a candidate into national leadership. Most people turn away from the prospect of more years of fighting and struggling and division and retribution, even if in the cause of justice. My husband always preferred Obama, probably for this reason.
Obama's inclusive, coalition-building, diplomatic and persuasive approach: is it "too good to be true?" Obama seems to transcend ordinary categories and common wisdom. The fact that millions have enthusiastically gotten behind him is the first step to realizing that vision. I felt this myself at the Key arena rally before the WA caucus.
To me, the vision is realized in the triumph of the people's and the planet's common interests, not the interests of profit-greedy corporations.
In other words...yes, we can. The Kool-aid is refreshing...even if some prefer lime, others lemon or grape. Really...guava is good.
I'm firmly committed to helping Barack Obama achieve that position of leadership he's earned; as a National Delegate if possible, or any other way.
ART AND OBAMA
At the Obama office, the volunteers were talking about this Obama oil painting auction on Ebay. The artist is pledging to give 10% of the auction results to the Obama campaign. Snootily perhaps, I'm not impressed by either the painting or the offer. The author expects to get a $2500 (minimum) offer? I think not.
As always, when I feel passion I make art. This is the first side of my banner, stitched in a variety of textiles. The reverse (in progress) is a portrait of Obama in Ultrasude, with graphic text in many textiles. I would sell my artwork to the highest bidder (keeping it in Washington state, of course) and donate ALL the proceeds to Obama.
As a designer, I like to interpret campaign graphics. Notice the surprising contrast between the fat, condensed, in-your-face font from Obama's Senate campaign, which seem to overpower his friendly countenance, and the refined, elegant Roman letterforms of today, more in tune with Obama's personality and message. They create a classic European look for his foreign name, making it more acceptable to Americans, perhaps.
I would've made the weight of the letters just a little bolder, to balance the strength of the circular logo. Because of that, I like the small caps of the February sign at the top.
The logo was a stroke of genius. The circle is a shape that calls attention to itself no matter where it appears. The shapes within the circle are symbols that even a child can recognize and draw. The pale sunrise within the circle, renewal and rebirth on a field of sky blue (rather than flag blue); the red & white stripes like those of the flag are curved in such a way to be interpreted as a plowed field of growing crops on the bosom of Mother Earth.
So, rather than agressively patriotic or miltaristic as are some campaign logos, the logo represents our shared humanity.