They told us to be ready for, among other issues, the gun question. Nevada is, after all, giddy up country. Once you get past Reno, the countryside looks like a cowboy movie set with mountains and long valleys and lots of horses. And probably more than a few gun owners not taking kindly to peace pushers, especially from California.
As campaign volunteers, our personal feelings about guns didn’t matter. Our job was to pass on the candidate’s message. He was not going to try to change the second amendment or take away firearms used for hunting and family protection. But he would like to get the assault rifles off the streets.
But no one asked about guns. In fact in our assigned part of Washoe County we even saw “No Hunting” signs, next to a whole field of deer sitting around unconcerned, like they were at a spa. That was a stereotype-changer.
Lucky for us, we chose the same weekend to campaign in Nevada as Barack Obama. After his talk to 11,000 Nevadans, even we nervous newbies were ready. It was my first time out of the closet. When you’re a newspaper reporter it’s considered a conflict of interest to even put a bumper sticker on your car or wear a button. But as a free lance writer I get to be political and so last weekend my husband, another emancipated reporter, and I joined a swarm of Bay Area Californians knocking on Nevada doors.
Suck it up and ring that bell.
Reporters are accustomed to approaching strangers and asking nosey questions but canvassing is different. You don’t have a press pass and a notebook. Asking a person who they’re voting for feels intrusive, like asking how much they make or paid for their house. I also know how annoying it is to be called to your front door by the dog barking at some eager stranger with a handful of literature.
I made my husband go first. When he wasn’t shot, I told myself to remember the stakes, suck it up and ring that bell. A friendly woman said she’d already voted. I said “great,” and inquired, “for Obama?” and she said, “No, but if he wins I will support him.”
Because we were coached to remain pleasant at all times, I said, “Well, thanks for voting,” even though I really wanted to say, “Now, why on earth did you do that?”
Two houses later I spotted a Cal Bears statue on a porch, an indication that someone inside had a fondness for UC Berkeley and was a likely left-leaner. Bingo. Two Obama votes. I danced back to our pickup truck.
We went to about 60 houses in two days, a tiny contribution compared to those who’ve donated weeks to do the same in Ohio, Minnesota, Colorado and other swing states. In Nevada we visited neighborhoods we’d never have given a second glance. We saw beautiful wild country lit up for fall with golden aspen trees. We saw evidence of tough times. Houses with eviction notices. Neglected yards. No shiny new cars. Then you’d come to a house where it looked like people were holding on and doing okay.
One affable guy in his 60s said the country needs a president who believes in the common guy. Standing in front of a large house with corral fencing, he said he knew he didn’t look like the common guy but he’d built this house with the hopes of selling it so he could retire. Now with the housing slump he would have to stay and keep working for a few more years.
Nevada’s version of Real America pretty much looks like ours. It was like what Obama told the crowd. There is no fake America. We all rise and fall together.
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Photo Courtesy of The New York Times