“I’m scared. I’m scared for our democracy, for our ability to live together in community across lines of race, class and religion,” Hanoi Jane Fonda began in her piece in the Washington Post.
“I’m scared for my grandchildren and for the planet. The country is contorted and polarized, with the flames of hate fanned by leaders at the highest level.
But I saw a path forward recently in Scranton, Pa., where I spent a hot, humid evening knocking on doors with Working America. (By the way, when I do this, I only give my first name and am rarely recognized.)”
She went droning on about how she was going to take back the country from Trump one voter at a time.
“Last year in San Diego, Sharon said she was 100 percent for Trump, but when I told her Trump’s health-care bill would allow her son’s insurance company to stop covering him because he has a serious preexisting condition, she seemed to stop breathing for a moment. “I had no idea,” she gasped. “I can’t let that happen.”
It’s voters like these we need to talk with — those who are dispirited and confused like Steve; ambivalent like Edith; and uninformed like Sharon.
A respectful conversation that started with their concerns and opinions hooked each of them, so when Working America goes back, the door is open to information from a new trusted messenger, which can encourage them to take action on issues they care about and vote with that new information in mind.
Authentic engagement works — it’s a no-brainer. For years now, the researchers measuring the most effective way to win votes have told us that face-to-face contact has the biggest impact.
The results in 2018 show us there’s an important swingable segment of the electorate that will pull the lever for Democrats if we can reach them. And the science says voters are even more attentive to a canvasser conversation if they’re a member of the organization that’s delivering the message.
I’ve seen the power of face-to-face contact since I became an activist five decades ago. In Modesto, Calif., I met some of the 800 volunteers who knocked on doors for more than a year before the 2018 election, and in Scranton I met the professional organizers, many of whom are working-class people of color.
They talk with people year-round, reaching out to those hungry for information and a connection.
Fear can be so powerful, but what overcomes fear is connection. We don’t need to choose between Democratic base voters and swing voters. All working people, no matter their race, ethnicity, gender, faith, or sexual orientation or gender identity, need a stake and a say in our society — and they all need to hear that they’re part of “We the People.” Talking with them, not at them, is the best way to do it.
Working America and other organizations are helping volunteers spend time in working-class communities around the country to have those conversations.
I’ve learned over my long life as an activist that people can change. That process starts with trust, best done through person-to-person organizing. People such as Steve are looking for someone to help them sort things out and to dare to care again.
We can start the process of healing and winning back our country one conversation at a time,” she concluded.