While canvassing in Indiana today I had a conversation that took me by surprise on several different levels. It also prompted cautionary self-reflection about some of my own biases.
Today I canvassed with my junior high age son in a conservative, heavily Republican, working class area outside the Indianapolis area. I know the polls indicate a toss-up here in Indiana, but I have to admit I've been a bit skeptical, albeit hopeful. After today, I think there's really, really a chance of winning Indiana.
(Please be gentle, this is my first diary after two years of lurking on Kos).
The canvass list was unknown registered voters. Our assigned neighborhood was heavily comprised of 'tired', small rental houses off of a busy highway populated with older retail stores. The neighborhood's population is nearly exclusively white. Of the sixteen people that answered the door, one (1) said he "did not support Obama". Approximately seven were undecided; among those I sensed that half were not Obama supporters with the others truly undecided. The remainder were decided, or leaning Obama. Not one person said they were voting for McCain by name. Not one. This is a big difference from three weeks ago in the same area.
But even more favorable is this.
We'd parked in front of a run-down home having a yard sale. The items were pretty much junk, there were a couple beat up trucks in the drive. My son and I returned to the van to find the residents sitting outside smoking. The house wasn't on our list to visit, but I said hello out of politeness and pretended to glance at the stuff sitting on the lawn.
The four residents (one woman, three guys) all appeared to be in their early to late twenties. The guys had buzz-shaved heads and all were covered in tattoos. While I didn't see one, given the setting, I wouldn't have thought twice had I seen a Confederate flag in the window.
One of the guys noticed my Obama pin and asked me what I was doing. I nervously told him we were volunteers out knocking on doors to see what kind of support Senator Obama had in the neighborhood, and what issues concerned residents. This guy said, 'I kinda like that Obama guy. I really don't know everything about stuff but he seems pretty smart." The woman said she couldn't "remember the guy's name, but I definately don't like that white-guy that's also running." (I had to hold back laugh-tears at that!)
I asked them if they were registered to vote. They all said no. None of the four had ever voted before. Their comments provided an opportunity to converse about the importance of each persons' vote and how voting gave everybody a say in decisions government makes about their lives. I talked about how important it was for every Obama supporter in Indiana to vote this year. And they listened. And I listened. I registered three of the four (one guy wasn't interested - despite the others' goading) two days before the deadline.
What chokes me up is this. I asked them why they never registered previously, and they told me NOBODY EVER ASKED THEM BEFORE and their families never voted.
These people certainly seemed to be under-educated and low-information, but they weren't stupid. They asked how the voting process worked, wanted to know where to go, what to do. They knew things were bad, but never believed they actually had a say in it all. We talked a minute about the future for the baby on the woman's lap and the 13 year old with me.
The greatest thing: as I wished them well with their sale and was leaving with the voter reg forms in hand, the guy that initially asked me about my button, and most resembled a skin-head, wanted to know where he could get an Obama sticker for his truck.