Monday, August 23, 2004
Greetings Fellow ACT Canvassers!
Well first: it's an honor to contribute to the ACT blog. I'm kind of a part-time computer nerd (I sold white box computer systems for about three years.) and general tech enthusiast, which my main blog/site makes pretty clear: Three River Tech Review. In fact, I've been following ACT ever since its inception. George Soros is my favorite billionaire and I was watching his early investments in ACT very carefully. It occurred to me that a grassroots canvassing group might need some experienced doorknockers so I called the Philly ACT office and found out they were hiring in Pittsburgh and thus my brilliant ACT canvassing career was born. I wouldn't have gotten this job without the net.
I've done a lot of canvassing and I figured out that I've spent about five years of my life knocking on doors. I worked my way through college canvassing for the Pennsylvania Public Interest Coalition back in the early 80s, which morphed into Citizen Action in the late 80s, which I also worked for between journalism jobs. I also ran a canvass for three years called The Campaign for Consumer Rights, where I worked against NAFTA and for insurance and cable industry reforms. All of those canvasses raised money and my quota went from 80 dollars a night in 1982--which was really hard because in Pittsburgh that was when all of our steel jobs were outsourced en masse, serving as a very depressing prelude to The Shape of Things to Come--to 120 dollars in 1990. By the way, if anyone is interested in creating this kind of canvass for ACT--which is self sustaining and creates the base for an even more productive phone canvass-- please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I know the DNC is creating such a canvass now, but they're using ruthless Citizen Action rules (quota is $130 a night), which is why so many of their canvasses have folded up. We can do it better and wiser.
I also happen to be the leading registration guy in the Pittsburgh area and part of the top registration team (our best week we got about 150) over the last 8 weeks. I average about 30 registrations a week and have had a top week of 43 which was shortened due to rain. I sort of wish someone had invited me to the Cleveland event so I could tell people how Team Ezy--run by my great boss Bob Harris who actually listens to me and allows me to strive for excellence, which I appreciate--gets those numbers. But now that I have this forum...!
1.) I'm short and to the point. I'm not trying to lecture anybody on the Joe Stiglitz perspective on the IMF or Greg Palast's revolutionary journalism about the Florida ballot theft--unless they ask of course--I tell people that I can get them registered in 90 seconds, at least for the Pennsylvania ballot. As a matter of record, I have been timed. People are in a hurry. This is also why I don't favor asking those people for pledge cards, because many times you have to pull teeth just to get them to sign the registration. The pledge pitch should be a separate pitch done over the phone or at the door because it should be open ended and patient. You want to go into details as to why those Swift Boat ads are shameful or how Iraq had nothing to do with terror networks aimed at the United States. If you're trying to get 10 registrations a day, you don't have time for that.
2.) We adopted the ACORN method to improve our registration. ACORN, terrible folks to work for I might add but they mean well, usually has a quota of about 10 to 20 registrations per day. ACORN doesn't get those kinds of numbers at doors and for the most part neither does the Pittsburgh ACT canvass. We go to a busy corner and we look for young people. It's just like cold-calling "sales", which canvassing actually is. Remember, some of the first people who started political field canvasses had experience in encyclopaedia sales. It's a numbers game.
I kinda like the artsy South Side right in front of the Burger King or hanging out by the Blue Ruin erotic art gallery. Hey, it works for me...
One question for management: ACORN is probably out registering us, but are they doing followup and GOTV efforts? I hate to think their 20000 Pittsburgh registrations are just sitting around someplace, with no one getting a secondary phone call to vote. Has someone contacted them about that? Perhaps an inquiry should be made...?
3.) I do occasionally make an argument to get people to recognize the importance of voting. For young people, I tell them that if the current government stays in power then they'll be a strong possibility of a draft. I get my info on that here and here and here and here. Afterall, what would stop the president? His strong sense of shame and personal integrity? Doubtful. I don't think they'll be a need for a draft under a new administration and I tell voters that. Sometimes, and this is an admittedly risky strategy, I tell the young tie-dyed, purple haired person that the reason he can't get decent student grants or students loans and they can quietly start the draft process under his nose ring is that young people don't vote and politicians act accordingly.
This is another reason why pledge cards should be separate from registrations. A lot of these kids don't even know what party they belong to. They're not clear what libertarian or winner take all means. Any pledge you get then would be meaningless anyway. Make that a second separate step, and most importantly, a patient one.
So, that's my advice and I'm sticking to it. I have more to say and I hope I get a chance to say it. I'm proud to be working against this administration. I feel like these folks, but I'm hoping for a better ending. Here's the bio that I end my Better Humans column with. Better Humans, is a left-leaning pro technology site, by the way. I think we're the only one. Have to start somewhere. Feel free to check it out and my columns. And please don't be shy about visiting www.threerivertechreview.com. Here's a pic (admittedly stylized) and here's a radio interview I did with Changesurfer radio.
Philip Shropshire ran a consumer group, worked as a general assignment reporter and sold white box computers. He has written for Locus Online, American Times, Tech Central Station and more alternative weeklies than he can remember. He believes in the future. His main site is Three River Tech Review and you can reach him at email@example.com.
Posted by Philip Shropshire at 1:40 AM