When Amy and I showed up a the Steelworkers’ Union Hall last Saturday for textbanking training, I started off crabby. We were a little late and missed part of the training. The coffee and donuts supply was already depleted and I couldn’t find a cup. I was super-aggravated not to get started right away, nostalgic for the feeling of being handed a good old-fashioned call sheet and getting to work. I waited grumpy-old-ladily for the lead volunteer to send me the link so that I could join the group on the Hustle app.
BUT THEN!!! I was in. Before I knew it, I’d texted FIFTY voters. Then another fifty! Whoa. They start you off with a pre-typed message, but I later figured out how to customize the canned messages, with all of the blue heart/rainbow/flag/Earth/blue wave emojis I wanted. AND!! It turns out that emoji-use DRAMATICALLY increases the odds that someone will text back—found a new superpower, who knew?!
There were still reasons to be grumpy, of course. As the women (As in 2016, the volunteers were mostly women, I’d say a 4:1 ratio of women to men, with room for the nonbinary, of course.) at our table mentioned the hostile messages they were getting, a middle-aged white guy was intrigued:
“Really?! I’m not getting that! I want to change mine to a woman’s name and see what happens!” He seemed curious and amused, rather than concerned LIKE A PERSON.
Maybe I should have just ignored him and let him try it. Maybe his texbank would have turned into an empathy machine. But he made my blood boil to the degree that this could’ve turned panic attack.
“I’m glad you can just OPT IN to my oppression. I’m glad it sounds fun.” I snapped, feeling like a party-ruiner.
“Well, I’m just a straight white guy, there’s not much I can do.”
I said something like: “There’s a LOT you can do! You can listen and believe us, stand up for us instead of just being amused.”
He backed down and I took lots of deep breaths to get to a good place and OH! The texts! The texts. I love them so much.
This was the first time I was contacting ALL kinds of voters, not just active Democrats. When asked who they were voting for for governor and congress, many people responded with “TRUMP. MAGA.” Etc—we were supposed to just thank them for their time and mark them as Republican rather than arguing, and I MOSTLY followed that instruction. (It took me a little while to recognize the sweet gift that is the “Opt Out” option.) But I loved that I’d been a little ping in their day. Showing Up for Racial Justice (https://www.facebook.com/ShowingUpForRacialJusticesurj/) holds the idea that even when we can’t convince someone to fight white supremacy, we can still be an interruption in their worldview. I love when I have a chance to do that.
(Of course, I don’t love being called c**t or stupid or crazy or hysterical, but those responses are few and far between.)
But the BEST, of course, are the Democrats who write back, asking how to volunteer and sending all the blue heart emojis, asking about yard signs and organizing and telling me they’re already pledged to volunteer for Emily’s List. (A dude said this! Swoon!) We wish each other luck and the world feels warmer and more optimistic.
I even, from time to time, step out of character and try polite disagreement. Then, okay, I step back into character and ask people when they’ll stand up for children who are already born.
Now that I did the training, I can text voters anywhere, anytime between 9AM and 9PM. In my pajamas! Yesterday I wrote to 500 voters and only a handful were mean. With every try, I feel stronger and happier and more hopeful. Give it a try! <3 a="" href="https://act.padems.com/page/s/volunteer">https://act.padems.com/page/s/volunteer3>