The Obamanator has temporarily relocated to Florida to get out the vote for Barack. I’m working in an African-American neighborhood called Newtown, on the north side of Sarasota.
In these last days of the campaign, it’s door-knocking time. The Obama field organization – a massive progressive army directed by high-tech data wizards – has spent months and months identifying registered voters likely to support the President. The job now is to make sure these folks cast their ballots.
The Newtown office is located in a small church, directly across the street from an open-air drug market with a thriving clientele. A few doors down is a sidewalk barbecue stand with fabulous crab, shrimp and chicken. The old lady who runs the place works from dawn until dusk, and the customers never stop coming.
Canvassing is a tough, frustrating slog. Daisy, the neighborhood team leader, gives us computer printouts and maps and sends us out to knock on doors – about 60 per three-hour shift.
Most folks aren’t home. Many pretend they’re not. You can hear them watching the television or padding around the house – but they don’t come to the door. For every 50 door knocks, I get ten answers, if I’m lucky.
Folks are usually happy to see me. “We voted already!” is the most common refrain.
“For the president?”
The center of Newtown is virtually all black, but many of the neighborhoods that surround it are racially mixed, with blacks, whites and Latinos represented in roughly equal numbers.
Every now and then, I run across the stray Romney supporter. I’ve been instructed to wish them a nice day and move on.
I’m not good at following instructions.
“I’m a union man but I support Romney,” says one middle-aged white fellow. He’s standing on his lawn, chatting with his next-door-neighbor, who leans towards Obama.
“If you’re a union man, Mitt Romney is not your guy,” I tell him. “You heard what he had to say about the 47 percent. Mitt’s all about the 1 percent.”
“I know who Mitt was talking about, he wasn’t talking about people like me. Anyway, it’s not about me. It’s about what’s good for the country. I’ve got to follow my conscience. Hell, I’m supporting Romney even though my son’s gay.”
“I think voting your conscience is a good idea,” I tell him. “You go into the voting booth and ask yourself, ‘Do I want to support the guy who thinks my son is half a human being? Or do I want to support the guy who believes my son is a full person, entitled to the same rights and respect as anyone else?”
Much to my surprise, Dear Reader, the guy doesn’t get mad.
“I don’t really like either of them,” he says. “But there’s no way I’m supporting Obama.”
I move on to the next house, looking for someone who will.