The following guest post was written by my friend Rich Peterson. Rich describes himself as a Midwestern kid who graduated from Michigan State University before there were CDs, let alone MP3s. “I found my way to Silicon Valley where I live with my wife, two kids and the world’s most spoiled dog (trust me),” Rich told me.
I had intended to post this earlier but time got away from me. His essay was written just following the release of now-infamous Trump Access Hollywood pussy grabbing video.
My daughter and I waited for our ride at a nearby Starbucks. Nathan said he’d be picking us up at 6:00 in the morning, and we were ready with our coffee and bagels when he arrived. His girlfriend Jessica and Debbie, another volunteer, were already in the car. We got settled in and started the four-hour drive to Reno.
If you live in one of the forty-odd states that are considered to be “decided” in the presidential election, you can volunteer to support state and local candidates, but there’s not much you can do in your own neighborhood that will affect the presidential election. If you live in California like I do, and you want to volunteer to help Hillary Clinton’s campaign, you’ll be making plans to travel to our neighboring swing state of Nevada. From California you can do phone work to help the Nevada Democrats – the campaign is very well organized, and the technology is easy – but you aren’t actually there.
So that’s what we were doing in Nathan’s car at 6:00 in the morning: driving to Reno to canvass for voter registration before the registrar’s deadline.
I’m old enough to have a daughter in high school, but this is the first time I’d ever volunteered for a political campaign of any sort. But she was determined to do this, and I agreed to accompany her. That’s what parents do, right?
Our work was literally pedestrian. We walked around neighborhoods and knocked on doors. If someone answered we said that we were volunteering with the Democratic Party and we were helping people make sure that they were registered to vote in the upcoming election. We couldn’t refuse anyone who wanted to register, and while we could explain the questions on the registration form and make sure they were filled out completely, we couldn’t write on the forms or do anything with them except return them to be submitted to the state registrar.
One couple we met had moved recently, and they had picked up voter registration forms but hadn’t filled them out. Also they were unaware that that weekend was the registration deadline. The wife called her husband out to the front porch right away and they filled in the registration forms for us to turn in to the registrar. Looking at the “party affiliation” box, they both hesitated. “Well, I know what I would have said before, but I’m just going to check ‘non-partisan’ for now,” the wife said.
Being a swing state voter is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, your vote for president counts in a way that mine doesn’t. On the other hand, you pay for that with a barrage of (let’s face it) really unpleasant advertising.
As my daughter and I walked around the sunny Reno suburb, we met people who were strong in their convictions, but respectful and polite even if they opposed Hillary or other Democratic candidates. Many thanked us for stopping by, and appreciated that we could give them a sheet showing Washoe county’s locations and schedules for early voting polling stations. (Nevada allows early voting from October 22.)
We seemed to have met a few more Republicans than Democrats, but we didn’t ask people about who they were going to vote. Often the committed Republicans saw our Hillary buttons let us know right away that they were on the other side.
But there’s a third group of Nevadans that we encountered, like the couple that had recently moved. These voters were just as committed in their personal conservative convictions, but conflicted over the behavior of their party’s presidential candidate. After all, we were canvassing on the day after Trump’s latest scandal, the “When you’re a star, you can do anything…” hot mic quote.
Driving back from Reno, our carpool had a lot of time to talk about what we’d heard from Silver State voters. With Trump’s bankruptcies, the illegal workers on construction projects, the phony foundation, the scam university – with all this scandal in his history, why did it take this latest revelation to sway those voters?
As usual in this kind of conversation, it takes a woman to help a man understand. “It’s because he’s bragging about committing sexual assault,” Debbie said.
Here’s what men often don’t fully understand. Sexual assault – unwanted touching, kissing, and other behavior – is really, really common in our society. And when it happens in a home, school or workplace because the man feels entitled to it, it’s especially difficult for a woman. It’s not just a couple of overly friendly interactions – it’s an emotional struggle just to be around that man. At the very least, it leaves deep, disgusting memories. Some women give up jobs or make other big changes just to get away from situations where sexual assault occurs. Some women fight back, but in most cases sexual assault goes unreported. But the woman doesn’t forget the incident, or that guy for the rest of her life.
On the Friday when the Access Hollywood video was posted, Donald Trump became that guy.
A lot of women with conservative values were ready to hold their noses and vote for Trump. Those scandals, they’d been told, were no worse than Hillary’s.
But now these women are being asked to support that guy and vote for him to be President of the United States. And it will be a cold day in Hell before they’ll do that.
That’s what I didn’t understand at first. But in my trip to Reno as a first-time campaign volunteer, that’s another thing I learned. From women in Nevada.
[CC image credit: Thomas Hawk | Flickr]