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What follows are first hand experiences volunteering for the Obama campaign for the last 5 days of the election in Washoe County, NV.   After hosting a number of phone banks, and giving money, I decided to go to Reno from San Francisco where I live to help for the election as I did in 2008.  This year I went earlier, and organized about a dozen other friends to go with me.  We alternately called ourselves the "California Away Team" or sarcastically,  "The gay loving communist hippies for Obama".  

With about 5 days to go, small waves of my circle of friends starting leaving for Reno the Friday before the election.  Here, in no particular order, are some of our most terrifying and memorable experiences.

One final note: apart from the incidences of bullying and threats of violence, we saw very few Obama yard signs, and one that had clear evidence of being set on fire.  

Seeing intimidation and violence used in this manner in a supposedly modern democracy really pisses me off.   I shall be returning to Washoe County (where we went blue by 6,000 votes) every four years to make sure those thugs don't get their way in the future.


These are all in the first-person since my crew submitted them to me in email.

The "civil war" neighbors
We were assigned to a staging area in southern Washoe County.  A nice little subdivision with a home from an Obama supporter....surrounded by Romney supporters.  They became openly hostile to the Obama supporter, despite them going to great lengths to make sure they were never inconvenienced by additional cars coming to the house (we had to park on the next street and walk in).  Of course ,their Obama yard signs were continually and nakedly stolen or vandalized.

At one point the Obama supporter said her immediate neighbor announced that if Obama won there would be a civil war, and that he'd saved up enough food and water for 6 months and had lots of guns.   She said it was a very threatening conversation.

I checked in with them a few days after the election and they said nobody in the cul-de-sac was speaking to them at all.  And they were ok with that.  

The dog owners
I was canvassing and came upon a house with a gate.  I didn't see a beware of dog sign, so I entered.  It looked empty, so I went to the door, rang the bell, and left some literature with a note to the 2 women in the house on the Obama voter list.   Then some dogs came out from a rear door and one bit me.  Then the husband came out and, instead of calling the dog off, let them continue biting me while asking me why I was there.  Even after I asked him to call them off he let them bite me.   He finally heeled them, but first he told me to leave.

I heard 3 other stories of Obama volunteer dog bites by Election Day.

The St. Mary's ER
I went to St. Mary's ER to get my dog bite treated.   The triage nurse said I was the second Obama volunteer bitten by a dog in the ER today.   However the admitting staffer was an infrequent Obama voter who said she was hoping to vote on Wednesday.  She didn't realize the election would be over!  

She said the election was important to her because, as a catholic hospital, their staff health insurance hasn't historically covered birth control.

With the last 4% of battery on my phone in the ER (and my open wound), I looked up her voter registration, found her polling place, and made sure she knew to go before work, since she worked past poll-closing time.  I felt confident I had added one voter to our rolls.

The yellow ribbon visit
We had one voter prospect whose car was covered in yellow ribbons and support the troops stickers. I asked her if she'd voted and she enthusiastically said she had already voted for Obama. I said, "support the troops, go Obama!" And she gave me a big smile.

Rebellion at the McMansion
We knocked on the door or a mini-McMansion in an upscale neighborhood looking for a 20 yr old young man. He opened the door, and quickly stepped outside and pulled the door closed behind him so his parents wouldn't hear that he was an Obama supporter.

Voter education by proxy
I asked a woman cleaning the bathrooms at the pool, who was from Puerto Rico (I believe-can't remember exactly) if she had voted. She told me that she could not vote but her daughter was going to on election day. I asked if Obama had her support and she said "why would you support the black guy" ey ey ey. After a 10 min. discussion in very basic English (as she did not speak that well) she gave me a hug, thanked me, and told me she would encourage her daughter to vote Obama.

We never stopped, even in the hotel
The mention of the name "Romney" evoked a wonderful eyeroll from a member of the housekeeping staff at our hotel. "We're all voting for Obama" she said.

Even at the hotel diner
We had breakfast every day at the hotel's diner, where a sweet old lady saw us one day and whispered, "thanks for what you're doing.  I can't say that too loud or I'll lose my job.  Do you have any stickers?"   We didn't, but we promised to bring them back.  "Put them in a plain envelope and don't give them to anyone else or I'll get in trouble."   We did, of course.

In N' Out
We stopped for lunch at an In n Out burger.  The cashier saw my stickers and whispered, "Thank you for what you're doing!"  

"Are you voting tomorrow?"

"I don't know where to vote."

"Give me your last name and date of birth and I'll look it up."  (My god, she gave a stranger her DOB?!)

She slipped me a piece of paper with her last name and birthdate on it, and I looked up her registration and wrote her polling place on the back and slipped it back to her quietly.   "Thank you", she mouthed silently to me.

Cloudy with a chance of eggs
On election day I had a canvassing assignment and ended up meeting lots of people that had already voted.  I went to one neighborhood with a lot of Romney signs.  I got out and the mom and her 2 daughters answered.   I confirmed she'd already voted, and then I got to the big question, "Do you mind if I asked if you supported the President?"

She looked around and said "Yes, but don't tell anyone, we don't want to get our house egged."   She was totally serious.

Security guards in a golf cart
One day one of our sub-groups got canvassing territory that included a lower income apartment building with names but no apartment numbers.  While our team member was trying to figure out which apt. her voter lived in, a golf cart with 2 guards rolled up.  "What are you doing here?"  "I'm canvassing for President Obama."

"Oh, ok.  If you were from Romney we'd have to run you off."

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Comment Preferences

  •  Thank you (7+ / 0-)

    for all you did, Shabbir. Great results out of Nevada! :)

  •  Good on you:) (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blueoasis, Renee

    Any idea why D-Berkley lost the senate race? That was a shame.

    202-224-3121 to Congress in D.C. USE it! You can tell how big a person is by what it takes to discourage them. "We're not perfect, but they're nuts."--Barney Frank 01/02/2012

    by cany on Mon Nov 12, 2012 at 08:51:10 PM PST

  •  This makes me sort of sad (6+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cosette, Renee, IndieGuy, kurt, Sandino, Shabbir

    and sort of happy.  I am glad to see people supported you even if it was quietly.  I am sad that others feel it's okay to be hateful to their fellow Americans.  

    I work in what I affectionately call the Wing Nut Compound.  I dare not say who I voted for...  There is one other person there that I know voted for Obama and we have to whisper if we want to talk about politics.  Everyone else, not so much.  They proudly talk loudly while spouting their racist crap and for them it's ok to turn up Rush Limbaugh so everyone around them can hear it.  I complained once, asked why they didn't have to use headphones.  I think HR just got mad because even though they told me they would talk to them, we still have to listen to it every day.  Anyway, of course they don't think what they listen to and say is racist because they are just repeating what Fox Or Rush told them.  My boss told me he was offended by a quote another progressive (who has since left) in the office had on his screen saver.  The quote?  Why it was a Martin Luther King quote.  Kind of tells you how they think there.  I guess he doesn't get offended by the racist bumper stickers the office Teabagger has on his truck.  But I am and of course can't say a thing.  Ugh!  

    Loyalty to petrified opinion never yet broke a chain or freed a human soul in this world--and never will. Mark Twain

    by whoknu on Mon Nov 12, 2012 at 08:53:19 PM PST

  •  Interesting job, canvassing in a war zone (5+ / 0-)

    Hats off to you and to the voters who reached out to you and took some big chances.  I think even ardent Dems sometimes under-estimate the amount of raw physical intimidation that Obama voters faced this time around.

    I canvassed in rural NC part of the time in an area where African-American canvassers were afraid to canvass by themselves.  They preferred to have white canvassers from out of town come out to canvass while they drove us around and sometimes introduced us.

    I'm looking to collect accounts of canvassing and hope to do a big "de-briefing", probably out of the public eye.  Please encourage your fellow canvassers to write down their experiences, build bridges to other canvassers, and begin talking about what we encountered and how we can do it better the next time.

  •  Thanks from a Reno resident (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cosette, kurt, Shabbir

    Hi Shabbir,

    This Reno resident (and former Bay Area resident, for what its worth) wants to say thank you for all your hard work in helping get our local Democrats out to vote.

    For whatever reason, Obama yard signs seemed to be in short supply. I tried to get a yard sign several times but was told they didn't have any when I called the Washoe County Democrats. Several other like minded individuals shared the same experience. This happened in 2008 as well.  I don't know why they don't order more signs, since its the second time the President has carried the county, but I really wish they would.  Despite this, I did see a few Obama signs in yards around town.

    Thanks again!!

  •  Awesome diary. I think it's fantastic that Washoe (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cany, cosette, kurt

    County stayed blue.  Fantastic.

  •  Thank you for enabling democracy (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Your aid in getting people to use their vote was great!  The attitude of those two guards who said they would run off Romney supporters doesn't merit encouragement, that attitude is anti-democratic on any side.  The people who allow dog bites and other forms of violence may claim to support the overt American way of life, they are lying.

    It took me many hard years to discover how many people believe obedience to the First Commandment requires ignoring the other Nine. Their 'crazy god' should resign publically and permanently. Mercy will follow.

    by James Philip Pratt on Mon Nov 12, 2012 at 09:19:48 PM PST

  •  Can you offer any idea why Washoe (0+ / 0-)

    went for Obama but so many flipped that Heller won as well?

    22,000 less vote for Shelly than Obama and she loses by 11K...........

    •  I live in Reno... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      nice marmot, profundo, Shabbir

      You had three or four things going on.

      First Romney was LDS, as is Heller. That is a big advantage in Northern Nevada (Nevada was settled by LDS members and though they are a minority--10% of the population--they are well organized, vote and tend to be conservative). Heller benefited from Romney bringing out more LDS members.

      Second, Heller has been an effective representative for Northern Nevada. He originally got elected to Congress by beating Sharron Angel by running a moderate campaign. He was pretty moderate for his first term but moved right as he eyed the Senate. Heller is a down to earth guy. And was a very, very good candidate. His finale ads talking to the camera were spectacular.

      Shelly Berkley on the other hand was a horrendous candidate. Her professional campaign was good--they held Heller down by running "he's really not for you," ads. But the problem is that when you vote to enrich your husband's medical practice and take $50,000 trips to Italy, nobody is going to believe that Berkley was for them either (and her commercials where she spoke to the camera were awful--there was a particularly pathetic one where she is giving a fake speech on unemployment benefits).

      Third, Heller is from Northern Nevada and Berkley is from Southern Nevada. There is a movement--which she has supported in the past--to send 72% of all revenues to Clark County because 72% of the population lives there. Reno/Sparks is basically 15% of the population. It's not that simple as there are administrative costs, etc. Berkley foolishly continued to advocate this view as a statewide candidate by backing grant applications--and applying political pressure-in the south and openly opposing northern applications.

      Fourth, Berkley didn't spend sufficient time in Washoe County--she thought she could win with Clark only.

      If the Dems had nominated literally anyone else--especially Jill Derby--they would've won.

      •  Are there provisional ballots in Nevada? (0+ / 0-)

        I have absolutely no knowledge of this, but wouldn't such a small margin of victory for Heller be at least a little vulnerable to a provisional ballot count? I've asked this question in other threads and have not received an answer.

        •  There are provisional ballots here but they are (0+ / 0-)

          Rarely used and won't make a difference.

          Heller won with 46%, Berkley lost with 45%, none of the above (always an option here), got 4%and the nominee of the Independent American Party--a true lunatic--got 5%. 9% for a non-candidate and a fringe candidate tells you all you need to know about how awful of a candidate Berkley was...

  •  I worked there in 2008. (; (0+ / 0-)

    GOP: The Party of Acid rain, Abortion of the American Dream, and Amnesty for Wall Street.

    by Attorney at Arms on Mon Nov 12, 2012 at 10:17:04 PM PST

  •  really well done, all of you. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
  •  The answer to why Berkely lost (0+ / 0-)

    I canvassed one morning with a Reno resident.  She's an ardent democrat and said, "I voted for Berkely, but I held my nose while doing it."

    She was a terrible candidate, and even ardent Dems had trouble supporting her.

  •  As POTUS said last night, (0+ / 0-)

    "You've all made me so proud".

    I walked Reno and Sparks in 2008.  You are right that they have a lot of dogs.  Lady tried to release her Dobermans on me.

    I told her if they got out of her gate, I could not guarantee that I wouldn't break its neck.    She kept the dog inside.

    But there was the Grandmother who let me in her house because she could not get out of her recliner.  I asked her if she knew she had early voting at the Library?  She said "Oh my daughter takes me to the library on Tuesdays.  I will vote then!"   Another Obamista.

    Reno and Sparks are middle America and there are people who don't want Democrats but on average, we win in Nevada.  Never give up on them.

    Mitt Romney's moral compass points to the Cayman Islands.

    by captainlaser on Wed Nov 14, 2012 at 05:38:34 PM PST

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