The paid staff got a couple of extra hours this morning (Thursday) to catch up on some sleep. I was trusted to open the office at 9:30. I had two actual customers – one who wanted to find out if he was registered and another who wanted lawn signs.
At 11:00 the staff came in. I met Jessica who works out of the south Fort Collins office. I’m fully fulfilling my objective of meeting new people. Any new staff I meet seem to have heard of me and so far the word has been positive and they are grateful that I’m here.
At 11:30 we got a pep talk from Patrick, the Regional Field Director. I’m learning lots about the Obama campaign tactics. I won’t let you in on them until after the election, as it wouldn’t be respectful.
This afternoon I’ll head down to the Denver airport to pick up Phoebe. We’ll have Canadian Thanksgiving on Sunday with some guests. Phoebe wants a tour of the campaign facilities and she’s also interested in a trip to the outlet stores. As you can see by these pictures, the facilities are more romantic than luxurious.
Yesterday I did voter registration for the last 90 minutes the Food Bank was open. Most folks told me that they had already updated their registration. I also met two men, obviously down on their luck, who told me they were registered Republicans.
At first glance, this makes no sense. Those in most need of a safety net may be voting against their own self-interest.
I’m a firm believer that all behavior makes sense – we just might have difficulty understanding why.
Prior to the 1982 provincial election in Saskatchewan, the New Democratic Party had been in power 10 years and they had won three elections since 1971. In that first election (71), the NDP won 45 seats to the Liberals 15. However, by 1982 the Liberal Party had disappeared and the Progressive Conservatives won 55 to the NDP’s 9.
I had campaigned for the NDP in the 82 election and after the devastating defeat I heard an NDP wise man say that the NDP had been in power so long that the voters began to see them as the “we know best” party.
What we perceive as people voting against their own best interests isn’t the result of ignorance. There are a number of things going on:
- It may indeed be that they feel patronized. No one likes to be told that they “should” believe something.
- The progressive option is often phrased in a way that doesn’t give people autonomy. It is “you need a hand up the prosperity ladder” rather than, “What would you need to make your own way up the prosperity ladder?”
- No one likes to be told they are a victim. The conservative (small c) emphasis on individual initiative negates victimhood. The unfortunate fact is that emphasis isn’t reality.
- To tell these folks that if they would only face the facts they would understand what’ s best. It’s highly likely that they “know” the facts – they are not ignorant.
- I spent much of my career working with high school students who didn’t have many resources and supports. They were often the most critical of how other people in the same situation were “gaming” or taking advantage of the system. They resented that those of us in charge of the system were blind to or forgiving of those abuses. When life has been often unfair, fairness matters a lot.
The impression I get is that both Obama and Clinton “get it”. They both use personal stories rather than abstract generalities. They take the time to listen. With enough listening, respect, participation and action that is based in what we hear, we can be success in developing what Pierre Trudeau called the just society.