Sausage Factory

From the “If You Like Bratwurst, Stay Out of the Sausage Factory” file:

Yesterday, Kate and I hosted a mini-MoveOn calling party. “Mini” because we only had one person not a member of our household show up. What we lacked in numbers we made up for in enthusiasm, wit, and sapient commentary.

This was the drill: We printed out voter phone numbers, 192 in all. They were evenly split between New Jersey, where appointed incumbent Senator Bob Menendez is running against Tom Kean Jr., an appointed state legislator whose biggest asset is his dad’s name and a willingness to sling mud, and Ohio, where Bush rubber stamp Michael DeWine is trailing Sherrod Brown, a liberal Democratic congressman. We found a Kean campaign ad online so that we knew how to pronounce his name (it’s KANE, like Charles Foster Kane, not KEEN) in case it came up, and I printed out a few stories from New Jersey papers about the race so that if a voter asked us a question we didn’t seem like complete idiots (of course, Kate is a New Jersey native and I’ve visited the Garden State many times, so we have an actual connection there).

We needn’t have worried so much about knowing the background. It seemed as though the numbers we were given were in a Latino precinct in northern New Jersey. We encountered lots of people who said they couldn’t speak English or simply hung up when they heard the quaint Anglo jabbering on the other end of the line. Of the 96 Jersey numbers we called:

–49 were hangups, disconnected lines, or otherwise bad numbers; we took them off the calling list.

–44 were answering machines or busy signals and will be called back.

–3 were voters, all of whom said they were voting for Menendez.

On to Ohio. After the New Jersey experience, I didn’t bother scouring the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Cincinnati Enquirer, or the Ashtabula Strident Bugle for campaign background–we just jumped in and started calling. One immediate difference: The households we reached were American-speaking. That had the effect of speeding up hang-up times for folks who didn’t want to hear from “Dan Brekke, a volunteer for Call for Change.”

Of the 96 Ohio calls, 47 were answering machines or busy; 27 needed to be removed from the list; 12 reached voters who said they were for Sherrod Brown; and 10–10!–were answered by people who said they planned to vote Tuesday but still hadn’t made up their minds about whom they’d support.

I admit I’m nonplussed by the undecideds. They seem to split into two groups: those who are so unplugged they’re not really sure who’s running, and those who seem at least somewhat thoughtful who are really wrestling with the decision.

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6 Replies to “Sausage Factory”

  1. Very cool, Dan.
    I’m curious, did you block the caller I.D. on the calls you and your party made?
    We started getting “robocalls” last night when our gov’s prerecorded message called. I had some people over, so we all gathered around the phone and sort of made fun of him. Sorry.
    Then more calls from various parties and candidates started about 11:00 this morning. All prerecorded. By about 3:00 I stopped answering the phone. It was just too tiresome being talked at by a recording so many times. We had six or seven calls today. That’s just too much.
    I used to enjoy talking with people when they called or knocked on the door – especially the candidates, themselves, but not so much the precinct committeeman (total drags, they are). But, the automated calls have to go.
    I guess it’s good we don’t live in Indiana.

  2. No, we didn’t block the caller ID on our calls. At the calling sessions I’ve been to, and the ones at our house, everybody’s been using their own phones. Occasionally, someone we’re calling will say (as a guy in Pennsylvania said to me today), “You’re calling from California?!”
    All I can say for our calling is that at least it’s not automated. We get those calls out here, too–Bill Clinton and Al Gore and Diane Feinstein have all “called” my house in the past week. I’m not sure that the actual personal calls are any less annoying than the robo-calls, but at least people have a chance to say, “Geez, leave me alone,” and know that that’s actually heard (and in our case, written down, so that we can try to stop calls to that voter).
    As I wrote before, I’m not at all sure that this is the best way of getting voters out. On the other hand, I’m pretty sure the Republicans are working people this way, too. And I’m absolutely sure that I need to do something political now to feel like I’ve renewed my license to gripe for the next couple of years. [And just as I finished that sentence, the phone rang, I picked it up, and Bill Clinton was on the line again. I said, “Bubba, is that you?” but he didn’t seem to be able to hear me.]

  3. The Ashtabula Strident Bugle indeed. Go ahead and laugh. Ashtabula County will go Democratic on Tuesday. That is for sure, eh. It is one of those Ohio counties which–on the electoral maps–always turns up blue in a sea of red. That said, The Strident Bugle…yes, The Strident Bugle. I’m going to have to think that one over. I think I know the publisher.
    I have a lot of the robo-calls too. A Hillary voice synthesizer telling me: “Earthling, vote Clinton…or I will vaporize you.”
    And finally, Saddam. You think Saddam has given up on the comeback plan? “I am the Comeback Jihadi!” Nah, I reckon about now he’d settle for a small pension and quiet little spiderhole near Tikrit.
    That said. Good for you going out and getting a few votes for the good guys. Or at least the average guys.

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