It was my first (of three) turf packets of the day, out in a suburb of Easton. After knocking on about 40 doors in two adjacent neighborhoods, I had one last name to contact on this list. And I couldn’t find the house. The map said it was on the main street between those two neighborhoods, but the numbers didn’t match up. After walking for some time, I turned around, retrieved my car, set my Waze app, and went in search of this last house on my list. The houses were big and upscale, and the name on my list was a 19-year-old woman.
I thought about skipping her altogether. My thinking went like this: I can’t find the house, and I’m getting cranky. Since this is a 19 year-old presumably living at home with her parents, it is more likely she is voting the way they are voting. They will encourage her to vote and know where to send her to vote. She doesn’t need me.
But I kept driving. I found the house. A man opened the door.
“Hi, is Emily home?” I ask. “No, she’s not. May I ask what this is about?” I tell him that I am canvassing for Hillary and Kate McGinty, and came by to ascertain Emily’s plans for voting on Tuesday. “But since she isn’t home, somebody will be back to speak with her either later today or tomorrow.”
“I understand,” he said, “but I’m wondering why I’m not on your list.”
“There are a couple of probable reasons for that,” I tell him. Either he was contacted already (no, that wasn’t it), or “you’re a registered Republican.”
“Well, actually I’m an Independent.” He seemed open to talking, so I pushed the envelope.
“So, Mr. Independent, may I ask you who you plan to vote for?”
“I don’t think I can vote for either of them,” he replied. “I was actually just listening to Gary Johnson and Bill Weld when you rang the bell. I might vote for them.”
“You know that Bill Weld says that Hillary is the most competent and experienced person running,” I said. He did know that, and he gave Weld credit for saying so.
Then it came pouring out. How he was Puerto Rican, born in this country, how he was a veteran who had served this country he loved. How he had voted for and loved Bill Clinton, how he had supported Hillary in the primary eight years ago against Obama; he thought she was terrific. “But she’s just too liberal now,” he said. “I really like her running mate, though. He’s a man of faith like I am. There are a lot of similarities between his Catholic beliefs and mine.”
“Well, I’m a woman of faith,” I disclosed. “In fact, I’m a rabbi. And Hillary is a woman of deep faith.” We talk religion for a couple of minutes.
Then I say, “I have a prayer I’d like to read you if you don’t mind, but it’s in my car if you can wait for a minute.” I run to my car to retrieve my I-phone, on which I have the prayer “In Thanks for U.S. Democracy” that I posted here yesterday.
I stand on the stoop outside his front door and read it to him. I get choked up and start crying; and then he gets teary-eyed, as well. When I finish reading, he invites me into his home, hands me his card, and says, “Rabbi, please email me that prayer. I’m going to send it to everyone I know.”
He didn’t promise me he’d vote for Hillary, but that was my finding common ground with him, and it was pretty special.
When I got back to the field office and told the campaign manager this story, Drew reminded me that those one-on-ones are the reason Hillary will win this election. It’s one person at a time, a connection made, one story at a time. It’s a ground game that Trump doesn’t have.
Late last night I composed Mr. Independent an email. Before I pasted in the prayer, it read as follows:
“It was a delight to meet you this morning. I’m so glad that this prayer spoke to you, as it does to me, of our highest aspirations for our beloved country.
“In our conversation, you referred to Tim Kaine’s faith, as well as your own. I thought you might be interested in this clip of Hillary talking a little about her faith, which I thought was one of the most wonderful, uncensored, and revealing moments of the primary campaign (and not just because I actually do often carry those two pocket blessings around with me), http://www.tabletmag.com/scroll/197451/watch-hillary-clintons-revealing-answer-to-a-rabbis-question-about-humility
“Blessings to you and yours — and to all of us. Here’s praying that sanity will reign.”
I hope he replies. If not, I think I might reach out again after the election to see what he thinks of the results and to understand better what makes Hillary “too liberal” for him. That’s what it will take to build common ground with those who don’t agree with us all of the time.