Believe Me, Politicians Actually Care

Wow, what a week!

We kicked off Halloween by dressing up in a super classy couple’s costume. I went as “Irritabella,” the Viberzi girl who wears an outfit representing diarrhea. Tim dressed as Larry the Cable Guy for Prilosec. Together, we were “Sick of the Election.”

sick-of-the-election-2016
The Arndts sure are classy.

When Tim and I were getting dressed, we talked about how everyone, absolutely everyone is sick of the election. We’re sick of the divisiveness, We’re sick of the name-calling on both sides. We’re sick of how ugly it’s all become. Even though our friends know where Tim and I fall politically (we’re not exactly shy about our political views), we knew that our costume would be appreciated across the aisle. (So much that we even got a shout out from Larry the Cable Guy and the actual Diarrhea Girl on Twitter, though we don’t know their political affiliations.)

Wednesday night, we stayed up late to watch the Cubs reverse the curse and win the World Series. We’re not sports people at all, but we’d watched the past 2 games and we got completely sucked into the history and the excitement of watching the Cubs fans celebrate. Also, I started realizing that some of those baseball players are really cute when they’re not spitting.

When we woke up the next morning, groggy and a bit cranky, we admitted that we really enjoyed the break from our usual binge-watching of cable news shows discussing the latest election drama. When we turned on the Today Show, by the time they got to the election segment of the show, I was yearning to see more of the World Series stories. It felt so much lighter and unifying.

After a day-long break from politics, I remembered an invitation to phone bank at the Travis County Democratic Headquarters on Thursday night. Though this has been a crazy week and we have a ton of stuff going on (new job, school activities, etc.), I also remembered that the phone bank was having a special guest: Luci Baines Johnson.

When you have a kid in 8th grade who has been raised in a family that doesn’t participate much in sports but participates quite a bit in political activities, you don’t pass up a chance to introduce your kid to LBJ’s daughter. So despite an upcoming school trip for my daughter and needing to get the house ready for guests this weekend, we headed down to phone bank – likely for the last time before the historic election coming up on Tuesday.

I love phone banking because I started my career in my early 20’s as a telephone operator in a hotel, and then for a medical answering service. I also spent the vast majority of my middle and high school years gabbing on a land line for hours on end. Phones are my jam, and I love talking on them, so phone banks are right up my alley.

As we arrived and were getting settled in, Luci Baines Johnson entered the room. She carries herself like royalty, yet she’s as feisty and fired up as her mother and father. When I introduced her to my daughter, she asked how old my daughter was, and told us that she was my daughter’s age when her father became Vice President. She also noted that she was doing phone-banking and volunteering at that age. Daughters of presidents are just like us (except I’m pretty certain Luci Baines Johnson didn’t dress up as a stomach ailment for Halloween).

luci-baines-johnson-nov-2016

Luci then gave a lovely speech where she invited us to look around the room at our collective group – a refreshingly diverse scene – and to remember that her father dedicated his life to ensure that everyone had the right to vote and have a voice.

“Roll up your sleeves to elect those who share the same values as you do,” she said, and it brought tears to my eyes.

Luci then rolled up her own sleeves to sit down to phone bank. She wasn’t just there for a photo op. She was there to put in the time and do the work. She sat down and made call after call after call. I can’t imagine how crazy it would be to have Luci Baines Johnson on your phone reminding you to vote.

As my daughter worked on campaign materials, I sat down to my phone list and started dialing away. A lot of people weren’t home or weren’t answering their phones. I wagered they were either at Olive Garden or sleeping off the World Series and not answering their phones. Phone banking is really fun when people are home, but when you get a lot of wrong numbers and answering machines, it can be a bit of a drag. Finally, a man answered the phone and I launched into my spiel.

“Hi, I’m Amy, and I’m a volunteer with the Travis County Democratic Party…”

“You are speaking about 200 miles an hour,” the man said. “Please slow down so I can understand you.”

Fair enough. Together, we had a bit of a language barrier, and I tend to talk quickly because I don’t want people to hang up on me.

I slowed down and began again. The man noted that he wasn’t going to vote because he wasn’t sure he was registered. Lucky for me, I had access to great resources, and the coordinator on staff found his name and lo and behold, he was registered. So was his wife. Barrier one: out of the way.

The man then said he was unsure how he could vote because he didn’t know where his voter registration card was. I was able to tell him that because he was registered, he could use his driver’s license to vote. Barrier two: gone!

Within a few minutes, the man was newly inspired and told me that he and his wife were going to vote. I did a little dance while pacing the floor.

I gave the man the information on the polling places for early voting, and urged him to vote early to avoid the lines. The voting place just so happened to be where the man’s daughter graduated high school, so he was excited about that. He bragged about his kids who both graduated within the past few years.

This is where the story gets really great. Part of my call “script” was to remind the voters about a particular city council race. As I was wrapping up the call with my new excited voter, I asked him if he was voting for the city council race, when the man said,

“Politicians don’t care about me.”

We spoke for some time — 14 minutes to be exact. I told him that in my personal view, everyone running believes they have their voters’ best interests at heart. I added that in this particular city council race, I had only heard great things about the candidate we were recommending. I said that because my husband has spent time volunteering for this candidate, and that I’ve truly only heard good things.

The man wasn’t convinced. In fact, he was jaded and gave me several examples that could certainly lead a person to feel jaded. A huge water bill. Rising healthcare costs. Concerns about his age and how he will make ends meet.

Perhaps it’s my years of sales experience, or perhaps it’s because I’m stubborn/persistent, but I wanted this man who wasn’t planning on voting to understand that the candidate in question was the real deal. So I reached out to the candidate. I simply sent a message on Facebook, and within minutes I was on the phone with the campaign manager, asking if the candidate would please call a constituent days before the election. I asked for him to specifically discuss utility reform, one of the items on his list of policies that he is passionate about.

This is a long story, and I know you want the punch line, so here you have it.

The candidate called the constituent. The candidate reached back out to me, and thanked me, because the constituent told the candidate that he and his wife would be voting for him the next morning.

Y’all, that is why I can’t be sick of this election.

Thanks to such a small but significant story, I have a reason not to be jaded. Sure, politicians are human and every single person has flaws, but at the heart of public servants are people who want to help others.

I am personally more motivated than ever to be optimistic and thankful for our political process. Instead of being sick of the election, I’m excited about it.

Go rock your vote.

xoxo

Amy

 

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