Notes from Ohio: An Obama Volunteer Meets Neighborly Republicans

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A rare reminder that human decency doesn't completely disappear during election years.

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The Atlantic is soliciting accounts of Election 2012 as seen through the eyes of far flung Americans. (For more details, go here.) The following account comes from a reader in Colerain Township, Ohio, who spends time each weekend knocking on doors for President Obama's campaign.

He writes:

My town is heavily Republican, very conservative and Catholic, and most the neighborhoods I walk are white and working- or middle-class with a smattering of African-Americans. Every weekend I spend two hours Saturday and Sunday knocking on people's doors, looking for Obama voters, talking with undecideds, exchanging pleasantries with Romney supporters and what I call Nobammies and on a very rare occasion backing quickly away from people who have very strong feelings about the Muslim Communistic Atheist Presidential Usurper or the Mexican Mormon.

The Cincinnati media are saturated with commercials and people are tired of them. The few undecideds I talk with are sick of the negative ads and are just starting to tune into the election. The Romney attacks on Medicare and welfare are finding some traction, but I find it fairly easy to counter the misinformation they have been fed from their TVs. Without doubt I can declare the undecideds I have met are not thrilled with Romney, but they are also not satisfied that Obama has delivered on the economy. They understand that Obama was dealt a devastating hand at the beginning of his term and that it takes compromise to make the levers of government work. I think if there was a person who they believed the Congressional GOP and Dems would work with, they'd happily give that person their vote. Unfortunately for the GOP, they don't think Romney is that person. Eighty percent or more of the undecideds are leaning Obama and the ones that aren't are Paul supporters leaning to the Libertarian Party, but may ultimately vote for Romney.

Most of the doors I knock on are Romney supporters or Nobammies. I always identify myself as a neighbor and Obama volunteer canvassing for Obama votes and mostly people are very polite, appreciative that I'm out doing small-d democracy, and indicate quickly they are not voting for Obama. For my purposes -- identifying Obama voters and undecideds -- Nobammies are the same as Romney supporters. However, it is interesting to note that I get as many if not more Nobammies than "I'm voting for Romney!" which indicates to me a GOP base that's not particularly enthusiastic about their candidate.

The few liberals/Democrats who grew up around here are an interesting bunch. Most express disgust with Congress, most of them will vote a  straight-Democratic ticket with the exception of their GOP Rep. Steve Chabot, and many have a story to tell about how Chabot helped them or a family member with one thing or another. I have yet to speak to one who has something nice to say about Romney.

I think it's also noteworthy that Team Obama has had field officers on the ground in this county and contacting me, at least, since May. As far as I can tell, Romney has nothing on the ground.

I've actually had Romney supporters ask me where to find the Romney office.

The greatest thing about knocking on strangers' doors is the reaffirmation of neighborliness. Of course, most of the people I meet are opposed to most of the things I strongly believe in -- women's reproductive rights, marriage equality, the belief that government can play a positive roll in people's lives, climate change, a strong separation of church and state, a wide and inclusive social compact, etc. -- boilerplate progressive stuff. Still, they are my neighbors and they act like neighbors. They offer me water, ask where my kids go to school, which parish I belong to, tell me to have a nice day and keep out of the sun.

That is a great thing.

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Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

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