Friday, October 31, 2008

Yes, I Voted

I take voting very seriously. One of my first memories is going with my mother to vote when I was 4. I must have asked her who she was voting for and why, because I remember her answer. She and dad thought that generals shouldn't become president. I took my son voting we me until he was old enough to stay home by himself and we've always talked politics in our family. He's turned 18 now, and does not get election day off, so we all voted together in the Early Voting center a couple of days ago. It probably won't happen again; he's going away to college and will, presumably be voting from his college address in the future, so it was a sweet family moment.

Yesterday, a volunteer claiming she was from Obama headquarters called last night to ask if I had voted yet. I said yes, and she asked who I voted for.

Now, I was raised to think that that is a very personal question, akin to, "What's your salary", and "What kind of birth control do you use?" These are not things I talk to strangers about over the telephone. So I said, "I don't think I want to say."

"So," she responded, in an angry tone, "In other words, you voted for Bush".

I'm not one who is fast with cunning responses, so I said nothing. She hung up before I could recover. But I really was quite insulted.

What a wet blanket on an otherwise very pleasant (40 minutes, car door to car door) family experience. How sad to think that Obama volunteers, who have every reason to feel energized but relaxed about their work, have such a hostile streak to them which whatever training they have had has not erased.

Rude lips may not lose campaigns, but they don't make friends.


Liz Hill said...

I've been doing Obama work in Minnesota and rest assured, this is NOT how we were trained to do calls! I am really sorry this happened to you. And I admit that I assumed it was a young person, but you know-- I can't even assume that. Emotions are so high. It's obvious who I'm supporting this election but I am trying hard to remind everyone I know that neither candidate is the devil incarnate and we will survive no matter what. We need to understand that, because someone is not going to win on Tuesday.

Team F said...

I'm volunteering for the Obama campaign, and I'm sorry that you were treated so rudely. You're absolutely right that it is a private decision to be respected. The volunteer should have thanked you for your time and wished you a nice day. I know this comment won't make up for it but I am sorry.

Voting is a family experience in my household as well. I just took my four year old daughter to the polls to show her the UU value that everyone has a right to vote. She was confused because she didn't get to vote, and we had a good talk about it. My mother never shared that experience with me and I wished she had.

Kelsey Atherton said...

I remember going to the voting booth with my mom when I was too young. Classic stuff, though I don't mind filling out a ballot in front of a laptop and sending it in weeks before the election.

Not to excuse the actions of the caller (which are inexcusable), but I think this is a new situation where some new standards for etiquette should be established. Your response, while perfectly fine, can be seen as having an implied "I don't want to tell you, because I voted against you." Not that that is a fair conclusion to make, but it is the reaction your caller had. Thinking, as I am prone to, of the precise implications of language in situations like this, I think a standard response to inquiries as to one's vote could be something like this:

"While I appreciate your concern and curiosity, I support the secret ballot. To calm your fears, rest assured that I voted with deliberation and with the best interest of this nation at heart."

Now I just need to convince Dear Abby to pass along the phrase...

Nina Grey said...

I, too, am sorry you had that experience, and as a committed, passionate Obama supporter and volunteer, I know we are trained to be polite and gracious. One of the reasons is that the campaign is based on respect. Another reason is that we learn that we are the face of the campaign to the people we meet or talk with on the phone. There will be, as in every campaign, people who forget that responsibility of course. I am sorry you had that experience and hope you won't generalize it to Obama volunteers in general.

There is still time to volunteer for Obama, by going to battleground states near where you live or make phone calls from your computer, going to the Obama website. I expect that is also true for McCain suporters who are reading your blog.

The exciting thing is that there is so much participation in democracy this time around! Let's all translate that into faithful and respectful involvement after the election too!