Humping the Hood

Submitted by Randino on Sun, 05/14/2017 - 12:34.

Humping the Hood

by Randy Cunningham
 
Canvassing is a pain in the ass.  It is an inevitable part of activism if you are organizing a neighborhood, or campaigning for an issue or candidate.  But it is brutal and exhausting. Especially for people like me who are on the downhill slope cruising towards extinction.  Young people can handle it.  They are like frisky Labs playing catch with a ball. They will do a turf, and bring it back to the office and drop it at your feet, tail wagging and ready to chase another turf. Their elders anticipate doing it with as much enthusiasm as an appointment for a root canal.
 
           As much as you may dread doing it, once you start walking a turf a momentum will set in that will carry you through.  Canvassing for signatures – like I am doing for the Not All In campaign – has its virtues. I call it shoe leather sociology because it is an activity that exposes you to people who agree and disagree with you, who have lives often dramatically different from yours, and is second only to taking the bus if you want to know what real life in a city looks and feels like.  You will not discover that at the Rock n’ Roll Museum, the E. 4th street entertainment district, or any of our brew pubs.  They represent a regimented and pre-planned form of hipness that is about as original as brand A or brand B of toothpaste.  But walk down E. 70th, or Scoville, Martin Luther King, or W. 63rd, or W. 85, or Jasper and you get the real deal. 
 
            Nothing mocks the boosterism of the civic hucksters like humping the hood does.  The cutest little house sits right up against a run down, beat to shit, abandoned house that provided a stage for a story of hard living, and few prospects.  There are vacant lots where houses used to sit, but were demolished and the debris buried on site and now the middle of the lot is slowly sinking.  Such lots are either adopted – with or without title – by neighbors, or they become local garbage dumps strewn with used tires and maybe the burnt-out hulk of a stolen car.  And the trash of a society that equates trash with prosperity is everywhere; bottle caps, candy and potato chip wrappers, the ubiquitous abandoned water bottles, the abandoned beat to shit furniture of an evicted beat to shit life. Such furniture used to be salvaged by local scavengers if not redeemed by the former owner, but with the scourge of bed bugs no one touches it now. 
 
There is a sociology of who is more willing to sign on a petition such as the one we have been circulating to put the Q renovation up to a vote.  Its lessons tend to hold true as far as support for a whole family of issues under that very big tent labelled progressive.  The more prosperous and the whiter a person is, the less likely you are to get a “sure I’ll sign it.”  Walk up to an African American or a Hispanic door and your odds of success go up considerably.  Young individuals and couples tend to be more receptive than not.  Then there are those who you can have fun with.  I don’t mind the porch full of downscale partiers who are drinking beer, and whose yards and porches are crawling with kids. They are usually good for a couple of signatures. Another observation is that poor and poorer working class neighborhoods tend to have life pouring out into the streets. Their children face far greater dangers than middle class and affluent children, but their kids do not live a locked down and over scheduled life like those higher on the social pecking order do.  In this they remind me of the world I grew up in during the 50s where kids could be kids and were not confined to the house for their safety, and we only followed one rule – be on your porch when the lights come on in the evening. 
 
The most peculiar experience I had while canvassing was when I door knocked in the 2016 primary and general elections.  I worked for Bernie in primaries in Ohio, New York and Pennsylvania. I worked for Hillary with no enthusiasm in Ohio. This season is when I encountered one of the strangest voters I ever met.  A person who was voting for Trump, only because they could not vote for Bernie, but had no use whatsoever for Hillary. That is why I believe, in total opposition to respectable opinion, that if Bernie had been the Democratic nominee he would now be in the White House. It was the conclusion I came to as one of the campaign grunts who humped the hood and heard what people were really thinking.  They considered Hillary to be the epitome of a status quo that they despised, and that made their minds up.
 
The pitch at the door is the most challenging skill that you must develop and I am still working on it.  I know of no one who does is better than former or present educators because they have had to deal with people who have notoriously short attention spans – kids – who grow up to be voters with equally short attention spans.  My wife is a retired high school counselor, and one of the organizers for the Not All In campaign on the West Side, is a retired middle school teacher. They have the touch. 
 
              It is scary to go out and knock on the doors of total strangers.  You may dread going out, but coming back in you are full of stories about those you encountered and what you saw, and you may even say it was not so bad, after all. “Yeah, I’ll do it again.” Even if pounding the hard sidewalks and climbing an infinite number of steps, makes you acknowledge that you are not as young as you used to be.  It is hard work, but it is good work and everyone should give it a try sometime in your life as a citizen.  It is the real deal.   

 

  

 

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Canvassing for EJB

I can't do door-to-door - I half-heartedly tried to collect signatures at the Westside Market today, but most of the market goers don't live in Cleveland.  Good luck Randy and thank you for all you do to promote responsive government.

Rumor has it that Maime Mitchell has appointed Blaine Griffin to replace her - it should be on CLECouncil agenda tonight.  There is also talk that Brian Cummins could be appointed to Blaine's position or possibly the still open Building and Housing position at City Hall, since Ron O'Leary went to Housing Court. Brian is being rewarded for his vote on the Q and it is also well-known that he doesn't have a chance in hell of winning his council seat, again.