Michael Bauser Is Losing His Mind
It seemed like a good plan. Get up, get out, work for the Democrats all day, so I won't have time to stress out about the election.
Except this election is apparently going to last forever. Damn Ohioans.
Jeez, their Secretary of State just said that Ohio's provisional ballots can't be legally counted until eleven days after the election. Great, I don't get to sleep for eleven days.
Anyway, here in Michigan:
After saying up late (again) last night, I rolled out of bed at nine a.m. and spent in an inordinate amount of time trying to figure what was the warmest outfit in my closet, because I was going to be working outside until at least eight o'clock at night. A bit nostagically, I chose to wear my Election Day 2002 t-shirt as an undershirt.
It's a great shirt -- purple with the slogan "Democratic Women Make the Difference" on back, and "Democrats United 2002 Vote November 5th" on front. The party didn't make a lot these shirts, and I had to work really hard to impress the female receptionist in charge of handing them out to campaign workers. (In fact, I didn't convince her I was good enough until two days before the 2002 election.)
Women like this shirt a lot. Many of them tell me to take it off and give it to them. A shirt that makes women want to undress me. It's like a magic t-shirt!
(CNN has just formally declared Ohio as "too close to call" -- they're making it a "green state" because of the outstanding provisional and military ballots. Jeez.)
And long underwear. Yes, I'm wearing long underwear.
I walked down to City Hall to vote (it's too short a trip to bother driving, and I wanted to see if my outfit was warm enough). Picked up a slate card (a listing of Democratic and Democratic-favored candidates) from a the Democratic representative, and stuck it in my pocket. (Remember that -- it's important later.)
CNN just reported that the Iowa secretary of state has announced that his state's results will not be available until tomorrow morning. Dammit it to hell!
Inside the Trenton City Hall lobby, the poll worker made me take my John Kerry campaign button off my jacket before I voted. (Her exact words? "He's a great guy, but I need you to take that off.") I went into the voting booth, closed the curtains, pulled the slate card out of my pocket, and spent a few fminutes figuring out which levers to flip. Trenton still uses mechanical level machines, which I had to squat so I could reach the levers at the bottom of the slate. I wonder how people with impaired mobility vote for judges?
As soon as I got home, I jumped in the truck and drove to Heritage Park to meet up with Katie, Marie Jo, Alan, Chris, and the rest of the Downriver Democratic Organization canvassing team. It was big canvass time, and my plan was to help set things up, then go on the canvass. I like canvassing, and I could use an extra 40 bucks, you know?
My plans never work.
Katie said she was short people to prep the canvassers, so I agreed to help Chris train the canvassers, then jump in the van with the last team. (I've trained canvassers before, but I really with I'd had some time to prepare bullet points or something.) Then the swarm of canvassers arrived, and boy were they a pain in the ass.
The Democrats had taken the usual step of renting dozens of mini-vans, so we were trying to create six-person canvassing teams. This was never a problem in Arizona. There, I could grab six people, tell them "Get in the van if you want your money", and they got in the van. That doesn't work so well in Michigan. Here, we kept getting groups of friends that were either too small or too big, and none of them wanted to work with strangers. I think I spent more time cajoling them into vans than I actually did training them.
We actually had more canvassers than we had rented vans for, so I didn't get to canvass after all. After dispatching the last band of canvassers, I helped clean up the sign-up desks, and hid in a RV rented to keep us from freezing to death. Like any good RV, it had a television over the dashboad, so we were able to watch some of the early evening news (mostly bad news from Detroit) while we laid out some plans for the rest of the night, and scarfed our take-out dinner, and laughed at the crazy things our van drivers said over their Nextel walkie-talkies.
Then the van drivers revolted.
Everyone signed a simple contract, saying they were working until eight o'clock, but some van drivers tried to come back as early as six o'clock. (In fact, the first van to try that was the last one we sent out. The guy tried to cut his comittment from five hours to two.) They had all sorts of excuses. "It's cold." "It's dark out." "The walkers are scared of the neighborhood." "We ran out of campaign literature." "The road is too muddy."
Jeez. I've canvassed in towns that have no paved roads or street lights. I've canvassed in neighborhoods where nobody spoke English. I've canvassed in neighborhoods so run down that some houses didn't have front doors. I've been attacked by dogs. I've been called a communist, a collectivest, and a god-hater. None of it bother me. But these people are afraid of mud.
The bosses briefly debated just letting the losers go with a reduced paycheck, but they eventually decided to make it all-or-nothing: We told the drivers to go back to canvassing, or not get paid. Yeah, that was fun.
Around seven-thirty we had to a huge line of early arrivals, and the bosses decided to let them back in. It took almost two hours of retrieiving supplies, paperwork, and garbage before we got the canvassers paid and sent home. For the record, my outfit turned out to be too, so I had to take off my jacket for nearly an hour. This made everyone think I was tough, an mistaken impression I'm happy to live with.
Finally! CNN gives Michigan to Kerry! I didn't completely waste the last four days after all!
We immediately decamped to the regional UAW hall for the official Downriver Victory Party. The DDO crew and I hung around until midnight waiting for those Michigan results, but eventually gave up and went our separate ways. I also got increasing despondent about Ohio trending towards Bush.
Apparently, I looked despondent, too. So despondent, a congressman felt obligated to give me a reassuring pat on the back. And he wasn't even my congressman.
And getting back to that slate card in my pocket. Talking to a guy named Dennis (who happens to be a drinking buddy of my dad's, and a member of the Trenton Democratic Club), I found out that Trenton's pollworkers had been taking slate cards away from voters all day. Maybe it's time to call the ACLU.
On a final positive note, the Downriver Democrats decided to pay me for the canvassing I didn't get to do, and made me promise to get involved in future campaigns, which is a lot better outcome than the last campaign I worked on.
Posted at 03:20:02 AM EST on 03 November 2004 from Trenton, MI