In humble attempt at casting this in the tradition of Socrates, a (slightly altered) quote:

"The unexamined vote is not worth casting."

Saturday, November 1, 2008

A Call to Do Anything You Can

Hi all,

I just felt compelled to write a brief note to encourage anyone out there to do what you can with this election. Since i'm posting this email on my blog too, i have to say that folks supporting McCain have just as tall of an order to actually support him through sound arguments, volunteering, etc., as certainly that's what democracy is about--basic citizen-to-citizen discussion of what our country needs, how those needs can be met, and by whom.

So with that said, i'd just urge those on the side of Obama particularly to realize that the issues are not going to change for the better unless we vote him in, and no one can say they know it will happen; so, in thinking about doing something, anything in these last days (whether you're in a battleground state or not, you can still talk to battleground voters), i'd just say that it's important to remember what i had come back to mind this morning--all of those issues that NEED to change in our country, if it's to be fair, equitable, and a sensible force in the world, really hang in the balance with this election (in my opinion).

The issues that i think of most are as follows--may they help put a jump in your step, as they do for me, in making something happen with this election (and i list some ideas farther down of how), opposed to just hoping something will. Here's a quick list of things that matter and are pushing me to push as much as i can these last few days:

-the basic idea that the 35 million or so Americans who can't afford health insurance should be able to through a fair, balanced system that covers exactly what should be covered, health--whether it's pre-existing problems with health or not, those problems need addressing no less; and simply put, i don't think McCain's plan is well thought out or the thorough reform that we need;
-the fact that Iraq was a huge mistake that McCain supported and Obama, as recalled (and expanded upon) in speeches like this one, showed such judgement in opposing;
-that McCain's single most-trumpeted strength in foreign policy is undercut not only by his misjudgement on our invasion of Iraq, but by his jokes about bombing Iran, his bellicose perspectives on Russia, the numerous times he mistakingly said the central group in this so-called war on terrorism (al Qaeda) was in Iran, and his overall proclivity towards war;
-and of course on top of all of that, the economy's in shambles and McCain will continue to favor the wealthiest at the expense of the most vulnerable, and will likely circle back to the deregulation that played such a hand in the economic problems we've now run into;
-lastly, in a too-short list of the very real reasons we need a different country, Obama will have a healing effect for us in so many ways, whether in the ways hinted at in his speech on racism, or the drive he plans for national civic engagement through expanded volunteering opportunities for people of all ages.

It's hard to know how our country could get much more unfair or bent towards injustice without reaching some tipping point, quite honestly. So those are the reasons that immediately come to mind for me in why everyone should push these last days to make something happen, and they're also the main reasons i bring up when talking to voters.

SO, the thrust of this note is that i hope anyone out there will deliberately plan to talk to voters in one way or another. If you're not in a battleground state, then go to Obama's website and you can call people who are (check here and here on his website, and you can likely find groups getting together to call in your area). You can go door-to-door in important areas, and if you're not in one you can drive to battleground locations too (info here on his site for both), as some of us are doing this afternoon at 3 and tomorrow at 3 if anyone in the area's interested (we're meeting at Murky Coffee in Arlington to drive to some more Republican-leaning parts of Northern VA). And i'll tell you, you may be reticent about talking to people because you don't think you have what it takes to be that frank with people, but if you can agree to issues like the above, then you do. All you have to do is talk from your perspective, and what you'll find, in my honest opinion, is that the issues are on our side. Many, understandably, are open to considering the fact that many simply can't afford health care, or that this Iraq war was a disaster, or that the economic approaches of the Republicans is at fault for much of what has happened, and is tilted towards the wealthy at the expense of the lower/middle class.

As a last push here, i'll tell you that some people just need someone to talk to about this decision. I've talked to, just to name a few:

-a woman who works at a local jail in Staunton, VA who had a pre-existing condition that wasn't covered by her last employer and wanted to know the basics of Obama's health care plan (which you can quickly few here);
-a Chinese-American in Arlington, VA who was voting Republican simply because her family would hold it against her if she didn't, in her own words; but particularly since she said she though Obama was right in so many ways, i put an argument to her about the issues at stake, and believe she may have been moved by it;
-a woman who was voting for McCain in Manassas, VA simply because of abortion, so i was able to talk to her for 20 minutes or so about the other issues, particularly emphasizing the fact that SO many other issues out there having to do with "life" are neglected by the Republicans--the loss of life of Americans, Iraqis and Afghans because of war; the way in which basic health in life is compromised by the lack of health care for many (or through unfair health insurance practices); the lack of basic necessities in life because our economic and tax systems are tilted towards the wealthy; etc.
-a young 20-something middle school teacher in Manassas, VA who was undecided and thinking most specifically about national security in his vote; i talked to him about the things mentioned above and why a sensible, informed, and judicious approach to foreign policy is a lot safer and more humane than McCain's impulsive decision-making, inhumane joking of bombing a country, and insistence on winning wars in a world where stabilizing countries should be more of the focus.

Those are just a handful of those i've talked to, but so many of those i talked to are similar, bringing up this or that point that they heard along the way, with a real willingness to hear someone speak with conviction about the overall picture of the issues out there--especially in these, the last few days before the election, where people feel compelled to honestly think about things (on a whole). We're all capable of sharing our opinion of why we're supporting someone, and that's what i always emphasize. I basically say to people, just to give any uncertain folks out there a sense of what exactly can be said (in person or via phone, though they also provide scripts if people want to go by those):

"Hi, i'm Brendan O'Connor, a local volunteer with the Obama campaign. We're going around talking to potential voters, seeing if they have any questions about Obama, if they're definitely planning to vote on Nov. 4th, and if they've made up their mind between McCain and Obama."

Usually they interject here and answer one or more of those questions. If they don't, then i usually ask more forthrightly if they've decided between one of the candidates; then, if you sense they're undecided, i usually ask "Is there a particular issue you want to look into that will likely determine your vote, or a couple of issues?" Of course you dialogue with them about what any of those issues might be, and go from there (honestly admitting if you don't know much about one). If you sense they want to hear more, or if they don't name any particular issues, i usually go into: "Well i know it's helpful for me to hear an individual's perspective on why they're supporting one candidate or another, so for me there are a few particular issues." Then i usually talk about three things: health care, foreign policy, and the above point about how Obama can be a healing force in our country through his ethics and expansion of things like national service. But those are just a few reasons that i support Obama, the punch comes when someone talks about things that matter most to them, as those are the issues anyone can usually talk more passionately and honestly about. But it can be helpful to think ahead of three reasons you support him before talking to voters, and then even practice a few times going over what you'd say--just be open to making your three reasons a quick list or slightly more in-depth if the person seems willing to hear a little more detail.

All that said, i think it's just about what i heard Joe Biden mentioning on the radio the other day--and no, i don't drink the kool-aid and hear or believe everything these guys say, but this was good; he said, basically, that what allows us to help people is the basic reality that we can make change happen if the current set up of things is not allowing for things to work as they should or could. So here's hoping that this note on my personal perspectives offers some encouragement to go push for affordable health care, fair taxes, sensible, rational foreign policy, and overall, a deliberately more humane, ethical, and reason-based approach to governance and life in general.

All the best,


PS--If anyone wants to see some fun pictures of VA election activities around my way, and get a sense of election stuff in VA, check out these shots i have up on Facebook:

Update: I couldn't make up a better example than this video of someone making something happen for Obama:

Update 2: Handy video pushing the same points about VA, while showing people getting out all over the state:

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