CEDAR RAPIDS — A glossy red, white and blue mailer for Joe Biden arrived at my guest house today. Its 100 percent focused on electability, drilling down on the states that went for Trump in 2016 — Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin. There is not a single issue on it. Not one. It’s all about beating Trump. It’s very good. Damn. This is exactly what I’m working against when I knock on doors. The establishment mirage of safe harbor.
I’ve honed my pitch at the door. Just like anywhere else, you need to connect with someone before laying out your case. I try to take my time, ask what their main concerns are. I hear you, I say. I’m with that. And I am too. The tricky thing is shifting from listening mode into persuasion. Enthusiastic persuasion. If there’s a decent vibe, I ask for permission.
“Well, I came all the way from New York, can I tell you why I think Bernie’s the best candidate?”
Permission to go hard? Granted!
Two undecided sisters in their 70’s invite me into their cozy suburban home. It smells like cookies. They are leaning Biden but do like Bernie.
Sometimes I lean into it. The electability one’s my favorite. Christ. Oh no, not Biden. Not that same old false safe bet. Not the mainstream Democratic politician, Iraq war pusher, and free trade, NAFTA-loving job killer. Yeah, well, he’s not for us. And he’ll lose! History shows the “safe bet” loses. Kerry, Gore, Hillary. Nope. And you gotta win the Rust Belt. That’s how Trump lost but won in 2016. The status quo, nothing’s-gonna-change candidate has no enthusiasm behind him. People will stay home. He won’t beat Trump. Plus, everytime Joe Biden opens his mouth some wild shit comes out. He’s a liability and everyone knows it. That’s why he’s sinking in the polls. And that’s why Bernie’s the new frontrunner nationally!
Sometimes I go easy. Two undecided sisters in their 70s invited me into their cozy suburban home. It smells like cookies. We talk at the kitchen table. They are leaning Biden but do like Bernie.
“So, what’re your main concerns?” I ask. Social Security and Medicare top the list. Oh, and of course Trump. Timely! They make me tea. I’m not leaving without a commitment. On the issues Bernie is king, and after we talk electability, they agree that he’s their guy.
“Great! Caucus is at 6:30 p.m. at the elementary school gym. You know it? Yes. Great. So you’ll leave around 6? And you’re driving? Yes. Ok. Will you bring any other friends? We need everyone!”
I’m not gonna lie, it’s a rush. This is canvassing fuel.
But, don’t get me wrong. It’s not always like this. Most of the time people aren’t home. Many times they open the door and send you away. A few of the Biden supporters are unwavering.
One of them is salting his driveway. Turns out I’m here for his son, a Bernie supporter who’s not home. This generational divide in one house isn’t uncommon. I ask him, “Are you also planning to caucus for Bernie on Feb 3rd.”
“No, I’m going with Biden. “
“Oh wow. Really?”
“Yeah, I know Biden’s weak, he has to pick a strong vice, that’s all. I’ll go with him. “
Here we go.
“What about Bernie, he has the enthusiasm. He’ll kill it in the states that Hillary lost. He doesn’t have NAFTA and the Iraq War hanging around his neck. He’s our best bet against Trump. What does your son say about this?”
He looks me directly in the eye. Behind thick black-framed glasses, his bright blue eyes twinkle.
“Well, the kids only like him because he’s giving away everything for free.”
We’re having fun. Talking politics in his driveway.
“For free?” I counter. “It’s our money. Our taxes. Our work. He’s just using it for the things that people actually need. Isn’t that what should be happening?”
“Well, that’s what my son thinks. He’s voting for him. So good luck.”
He reaches his hand into the red bucket and sprinkles more salt on the ice. He’s done. But, there’s time for a last word. Time to sow doubt. A little grist for caucus night persuasion.
“Good luck to all of us,” I reply. “We’ll need it. And, thanks for taking the time to talk to me. Please consider Bernie. I honestly believe Biden will lose to Trump. And then we’ll have him for four more years. “
I wave and climb back into the jeep.
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