Please share your stories of offline political activism here.
Sharing these stories with each other is not boasting. Storytelling is one of the most effective ways we teach and learn from each other, as we saw in last month’s Morning Feature series on sticky ideas:
Stories are not only entertainment. Research shows that when we tell, read, or hear a story about doing something, we use the same parts of our brains we’d use to do that thing. Stories simulate behavior, and that’s why the Heath brothers describe stories as flight simulators.
Like many of you, I’ve been busy canvassing and phone-banking for the midterms. I shared some of my stories as examples in last week’s Morning Feature series on GOTV tips: Make it Personal, Make it Local, and Be Sincere.
This story didn’t fit in that series, although I’ve thought more about this woman than any other voter I met. Her and her family’s names suggested she is Muslim. The family’s ages suggested she is the mom, living with her husband and two young adult children. All are registered Democrats. All are frequent voters. But maybe not this year.
I introduced myself as her Democratic precinct leader. She smiled cautiously. I asked if she and her family planned to vote early this year.
“I don’t know,” she said.
“Will you vote on election day?” I asked.
“I’m not sure,” she said. “I don’t know if we’ll vote this year.”
I nodded. “I hope you will. We need all of our Democratic voters this year.”
Her smile faded. I saw strain at the corners of her eyes. Her voice grew quiet. “I’m not sure. We’re … disappointed.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” I said. “Can I ask what disappointed you?”
She seemed about to answer, then shook her head. “I don’t think I should talk about this outside our family. But I wish you good luck.”
Maybe they were disappointed with the economy. Maybe they were disappointed with our foreign policy, or with some Democrats’ statements about Islam. I don’t know. I thanked her and walked away.
This was one of the few voter contacts where I can’t figure out what I might have done better. Usually I replay such conversations in my mind and quickly I realize what I should have said. I don’t kick myself for not thinking of it at the time – that’s pointless – but I remember the lesson for the next time I face a similar situation. But here I’m still drawing a blank.
My concern is not that I couldn’t convince her to vote for Democrats. We can’t expect 100% success on that. My concern is more personal. I feel I almost made contact – the human connection at the core of one-to-one outreach – then didn’t. She seemed afraid, and I don’t know if she was afraid of me, our party, our government … or something else entirely.
Maybe after the elections are over I’ll stop by again, later in the evening when her husband might also be home. Her eyes hinted at a story I’d like to hear.