Ordinary citizens canvassing in an election seems almost quaint in the current cycle, which has all the dignity of a middle-school food fight. But last weekend, 62 volunteers from SB4Hillary rode a chartered bus to knock on doors in Las Vegas. They signed up for a weekend of no glamor, pizza on the run, and sizzling temperatures to urge Las Vegas–area Democrats to get out and vote.
At 8 a.m. on Friday, October 14, riders and assorted well-wishers assembled in front of organizer Debbie Rogow’s upper east house. Pastry, coffee, volunteers, and a number of dogs were assembled to send off the bus riders. Activists Susan Rose and Allan Ghitterman cheered everyone on and snapped pictures. People honked at the growing crowd, mostly favorably. A few sour faces drove by.
Overnight bags and backpacks loaded, box lunches were stowed and people settled in for the six-hour ride. At least the bus was plush and comfortable. The bus driver told everyone to buckle up. Then announced he’s a Hillary supporter. There were games and prizes, naps and texting. Jill Littlewood said she hadn’t had this palpable sense of togetherness since the Martin Luther King march on Washington.
Jackson Bernard is only 12 years old, but he’s the kind of kid who flies into his room when his copy of The Economist arrives. He’s obsessed with politics. “I really like politics and think [canvassing will] be fun,” he says.
His father, Michael, is excited about sharing the process in a hands-on way with his son. “I’m very enthusiastic about Hillary proposing a year of service to offset college debt. I do think she’ll be a very, very good president.”
Marlee Stout and her friend Roz Borah are 14 and 13 respectively, accompanied by Marlee’s mother, Lisa Rothstein. The girls want to do something, even if they can’t vote personally.
In Vegas, volunteers were assigned precincts to walk in the unrelenting, windy heat. There were gated communities with street names such as Good Fortune, Hope Valley, Mermaid Song. Across the way were empty lots, and no one was out on the street. Approximately one in five doors would be answered, often by immigrants from Ethiopia. They responded warmly and were glad to get details on where to vote. One young black resident had just celebrated his 21st birthday, and for his party, he’s requiring proof of voting for entrance. But after a time, security arrived and the group was ejected from the gated community, but not before the guard said he’s voting Hillary.
Mark Asman, a leader of Sunday service at Trinity Episcopal Church for over two decades, says he’s admired Clinton for 20 years and wanted to do something. “I love Hillary’s passion for the details of governing — the development and implementation of public policy that lifts up those on the margins.”
Farideh Farinpour is a Santa Barbara real estate agent. “Mrs. Clinton respects the rights of women, and because of that she does not insult the rights of men.” She has praise for Hillary on nearly every topic and is all in. Marilyn Loperfido has been watching Hillary for decades, having attended both of Bill Clinton’s inaugurations. “I’ve always been interested in Hillary,” she observed.
The volunteers stayed at the Plaza Hotel in the old downtown area of Vegas. There was a staging central command office, a rooftop meeting area, a quiet deli for smaller gatherings.
Out on the street were the usual buskers and crazies. But the door knocking itself made people generally feel on the receiving end of appreciation, and they were pleased with the effort.
Sophie Fox has worked on the Clinton campaign at UCSB, both in the primaries and now. She recruited volunteers for the weekend; she frets about the millennial vote and what she describes as an all-too-common apathy. “Before my grandma passed away, she made me promise to vote in every election … This is the first time that I get to vote in a presidential election, and I’m so excited to fulfill my promise to my grandma. This trip rekindled the passion that I have for electing Hillary Clinton … So even though this weekend seemed at times long and tiring, I am forever grateful that I got to do my part and rediscover why ‘I’m with Her.’”
Jill Littlewood wrote in her journal: “I’m here to canvass for Hillary Clinton. The sensible, practical candidate. Here is the contradiction, that I’m in Las Vegas and it is the perfect Trump town … glitzy and fast with a false front; its economy is based on scamming money from everyone.” And she commented favorably on the ease of voting in Vegas: over a period of days you can park in the mall lot, grab your groceries and vote in a trailer on your way back to your car.
The Santa Barbara team knocked on 4,500 doors in a day. James Kahn, who said he was compelled to do more than watch MSNBC and fume, summed it up for many saying, he “got in to Santa Barbara at 1:30 a.m. in the rain, which felt so good after two days of hot white skies and sandy winds. Walked the five blocks home, showered, and flopped into bed, hoping to wake up three weeks later to the news that the election was over.”