Fellow Britons: Help me re-elect President Obama
We’re just two days from an election which, though not here in the UK, will certainly have a bigger impact on all our futures than the bloody Police and Crime Commissioners (except if you live anywhere near Bedfordshire, in which case for god’s sake email Nick Lowles at Hope Not Hate to find out how to volunteer, unless you want an actual card-carrying Nazi in charge of policing).
If Mitt Romney wins, the world’s greatest polluter will have a leader who has repeatedly pledged to do nothing about climate change, the world’s biggest military will have a weak commander-in-chief itching to prove himself with war on Iran and/or Syria, and the world’s biggest economy will be driven into a Conservative deathspiral that will accelerate the pilot project we’re suffering here.
There’s not all that much we are able to do about it. Most of us can’t afford to cross an ocean to knock on doors, we certainly can’t vote, and unlike multinational corporations, overseas citizens cannot donate to US political campaigns. But we can make phone calls. Lots and lots of phone calls.
Over the next three days I’m asking you to join me in making calls from home (or your office, if you can get away with it) into swing states to help re-elect Barack Obama and elect progressive Senators and Representatives. Here’s how:
1. Get Skype
Unless you’re so wealthy you really ought to be calling for Romney, you won’t want hundreds of international calls on your bill. So download Skype for free, and buy PAYG credit or a US subscription (enter United States in the “Find Country” box on that page). PAYG is 1.6p per minute with a 3.9p connection charge on each call; a 400 minute subscription to the United States will cost you £3.44. I went for the latter. There’s also an unlimited subscription to the US at £4.59.
If you can, get an external microphone or a phone handset or headset for your computer. I’ve been making do without but you do sound like you’re on speakerphone.
2. Calling with Obama For America
There are two calling programmes I’d recommend, and the first is, unsurprisingly, Obama For America’s call tool.
When you sign up at barackobama.com you may have to give a ZIP code and/or a phone number. You can use your own phone number; it won’t affect your calling. For ZIP, just pick a city and Google its ZIP codes – you can choose where to call from inside the call tool so it doesn’t much matter where you “live”.
On the OFA programme you’ll be mostly doing GOTV (Get Out The Vote) calls – finding out who the voter is supporting, and if they’re one of ours, making sure they can get to the polls on Tuesday and asking them to volunteer. You’ll be given their phone number, their name, and a script to follow, with tick boxes for the information you’re requesting. You’ll also be shown their nearest polling places in case they need reminding where to vote.
3. Calling with MoveOn
The voters you’ll contact through the OFA site will be of all persuasions – with many, your first and most important job will be identifying who they’re voting for, and you’ll probably talk to as many Republicans as Democrats. If you’re worried about calling that wide a range of voters (or you just feel like a break), I suggest calling with MoveOn.org.
MoveOn.org is the USA’s leading progressive political organisation, representing mostly those from the left of the Democratic Party spectrum. Their phone bankers are only calling other MoveOn members so you should get a warm reception. The system is almost identical to Obama For America’s, but you’ll be asking the MoveOn members you contact to sign up for door-knocking and phone-banking shifts at their local OFA field office. As with the official campaign, just make up your ZIP and phone number. You’ll be asked to call a number and enter a code for verification; you can just do that from your Skype.
4. Won’t everyone hate me?
This is my second time phonebanking from home, after taking part in the 2010 midterm campaign from my Hackney flat. In 2008 I volunteered in the regional field office in Raleigh, North Carolina. On each occasion, British friends and family asked me the same thing: aren’t Americans hostile about you interfering in their elections?
Well, the short answer is no. I promise you the vast majority of people you talk to will not even remark on your accent, although you will have to make an effort to speak clearly. If you call the MoveOn list, you’ll get rather more comments, and they will almost certainly all be positive – I have been profusely thanked for my efforts by a lot of middle-aged Floridians. Believe it or not, Americans like us. And if you do get the occasional objection, remember there is not a phonebanker alive who doesn’t deal with the odd irate voter; why should you care what the reason for their hostility is? Put it behind you and call the next number.
We may be spread across the Western hemisphere, but we’re a team, and you might lose momentum if you don’t let the team support you. Follow the OFA office in your chosen state on Twitter and tell them when you reach 25 calls, 50, 100. Recruit a few friends to join you – they only have to make a few calls to see how they like it – and if they’re enjoying it encourage them to keep going. Come back here and let us know in the comments how you’re getting on: share successes, tips, requests for advice, bitchy stories about conspiracy theorists in Missouri. Or just post how many calls you’ve made, because I want the chance to say thank you.