Sunday, January 25, 2004

# Posted 7:37 PM by Dan  

REPORT FROM THE FRONTLINES. No, not Iraq. New Hampshire. I just got back from a nice weekend in the Granite State during which I surveyed the Democratic primary scene. Quite a place.

I spent my first day with a friend who was helping out the Clark campaign by “canvassing” homes in Bedford. This consisted of knocking on Democrats’ doors and handing them Clark literature as well as his 18 minute DVD, "American Son."

In almost every home I visited (sample size: around 30), people said they had watched the previous night’s debate but had not yet made up their minds. On the whole, Bedford residents were very friendly and concerned about us staying warm.

One couple invited me inside and the wife spoke for almost 20 minutes. She said that she was a Democrat and had voted for Bill Clinton. She said she had no problem with “the gays” (which made me think that she does—think of people who say, “I’m not racist, but you see….”) but didn’t appreciate that they could get health care for their partners without having to pay the marriage tax. She also said that she hated paying taxes. This was related to her second point: she could not understand why immigrants didn’t have to pay taxes and why she had to support them with her money. I was not sure what she meant, but she continued, saying, “you know, the people who own the gas stations, the Arabs (pronounced A-rabbs), the Iraqis, you know.” I didn’t know, but I tried to force a smile and said, “I’m pretty sure that immigrants do pay taxes, but maybe you can check the Clark website for more information.” She and her husband said that “five families of immigrants live in one house, you know? And we have to pay for them.” Her husband said he liked Clark but his wife said she had not yet made up her mind.

At another home, a woman yelled at us and accused us of not paying attention to her “Beware of Dog” sign. Actually, we had. I had just mentioned to my friend that the sign reminded me of one of my all-time favorite Far Side comics: the one entitled "Beware of Doug."

I began to wonder what kind of dogs she had, and if they were scary, and what mailmen or invited guests did, but before I could paint the mental picture, out of nowhere two German shepherds came charging toward us. Fortunately, they ran past us. “Who are you?” an older woman asked. “We are here to give you information about General Clark” my friend replied. She shooed us away and told us, “No, I’m for Dean.” Then, she said, “Well, anyone but Bush.” As we walked away, she reined in her dogs and told us to be careful.

I spoke with one voter who said he traditionally voted Republican, but didn’t like what Bush was doing and could potentially vote for a Democrat. He was particularly peeved by Bush’s “damn amnesty program with the illegals.” His solution: we should put up a fence and keep them out for 5 years, so we can catch the ones who are already here. He asked if Clark was the guy who “hated guns.” I told him that I was pretty sure that Clark did not hate guns, but that he believed in enforcing the gun control laws we had, including a limitation on assault weapons. I mentioned that such weapons did not seem to be very necessary for hunting. He agreed that AK 47s are not too important for hunters like himself, but that he also used guns for protection of his property. If the government did try to seize people’s guns, he told me there was going to be “a battle.” Then he said that he liked a lot of Kucinich’s ideas.

The entire experience was a lot of fun, and it was pretty amazing to see how much time and effort hundreds of people volunteer for one candidate. Some volunteers complained that rival campaigns stole their signs, and apparently the local police quietly dealt with many incidents like this, preferring to keep them under wraps. Edwards, Kerry, and Clark "visibility" volunteers (people holding signs and waving to cars passing by) were out late on Saturday night for in sub-freezing temperatures for hours on end. Very impressive. I was also pretty taken aback by fact that so many voters had not yet made up their minds. I guess we will see what happens on Tuesday!

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