Sunday, August 22, 2010


I didn't know what to expect volunteering for Meg Whitman. I showed up to a tiny campaign head quarters in Rancho Cordova. There were about 8 people there. All of them were clean cut white guys in casual dress clothes. Something about too many clean cut whites guys in one spot creeps me out. I'm just being honest here. Like I think they're going to start telling me about Jesus and how I need to be saved.

They were actually really nice, as it turned out. I let them know I had no idea what was going on, but that I've been a registered Republican all my life and I wanted to help. They put me with another guy that's done "whatever it was we were doing" before, gave us a bunch of pamphlets, a folder full of addresses, and sent the two of us out to go walking door to door. It was called a Precinct Walk, as it turned out. I really, really hate bugging people about stuff. So going door to door to talk to people was flat out not something I wanted to do. I hate it when religious people come to my house with their talking points, completely unable to put together a logical argument or be able to follow what I say to them. Now I was about to do it to other people.

It ended up not being that bad though. We only went to the houses on our list and they were homes of registered Republicans. The guy I went with, Mike, was a pretty cool guy. We never argued with people. We just listened to what people had to say. On our list, about 4 out of 5 people weren't home or didn't answer. But the ones that did, they usually told us who they were for and who against. A few people spent some time talking to us and some of the comments they made really taught me a lot.

To give you an example. I go to the bios of candidates on their websites and they all have the same layout. They start with the city they grew up in, where they got their law degree, how many years they spent in the private sector being rich and awesome, and what they want to do in office. That sounds like common sense stuff to put in a bio to try and impress people. But it occurred to me that most voters really don't care about that stuff. They don't believe politicians in the first place, so their promises are meaningless. Their stances mean nothing. How they feel about abortion, the "ground zero mosque," and the rest is meaningless if they don't have the power at their office to affect it. A County Supervisor can't repeal Roe v Wade, so who cares if they're Pro Life or not?

A guy we talked to said he can never get a hold of any of his representatives. He got the impression candidates saw lower office as a stepping stone. They don't want to be there. They don't want to serve the people. They just want to move up the ladder and get on to bigger and better things. None of the three candidates we passed out fliers for where there today. I know Meg Whitman was in San Diego today doing a walk through a mall and talking to people. I'm sure the other two were equally busy. But it got me thinking, how great would it be to be a candidate walking door to door, listening in person to people tell you what problems, unique to that area, need to be fixed? How great would it be to tell them in real time if it's something you can fix or not, or if you have an easier solution? It would sort of be like being a legislative hero. Like, "I'll save you from rising property tax hikes!" or "I'll fix those pot holes!" Dun-da-Duuunnnn! Ok, now I'm being silly. But doesn't that sound cool, being able to help people like that? Yeah, I bet potholes take months of debate to be able to fix. Government moves incredibly slow.

Something else I was thinking. If there's a problem in my community, I don't really know who to go to amongst my elected officials. I'd bet an over whelming majority of people don't even know who their elected officials are at the local level or care, let alone who is responsible for what. It would be interesting to see a website with a message board with a list of what a candidate has power over, what are the top suggestions voters in that region have to better their community, and what the status of those ideas are(for example, looking for funding, dependent on a zoning law change, up for a vote, under review, etc). It makes sense to me that all candidates should have such discussion boards where other voters can discuss these issues and the candidate can respond. But I haven't seen too many. No doubt they get clogged with spam and topics on national politics. You'd need a moderator to clean it up. But it's doable.

It reminds me of when I got into the alpha testing for the MMO game, Champions Online from Cryptic Studios. We'd make suggestions to improve the game, and people from Cryptic would say if it was a change that made sense, why if not, or they'd ask our opinions about solutions to it.

My point is, a candidate could spend a lot more time building a fanbase with voters that way rather than going to big business conventions looking for big donors. Of course, what do I know? There has to be a reason why politicians go where the money is instead of focusing on the voters. But, I'm reminded of how much my blog helped my band years back, how many people came up to me at our shows and talked to me like they knew me. I think people would respond, especially in the Facebook age where word can get around rapidly.

In either case, if I can get into some Econ classes this semester, I'll see if I like it or not. To get into grad school for Econ, I'm going to have to pretty much ace all my classes. So assuming I can add, and that's a big if since the waiting list is long, I'll make a decision at the end of this semester if this is a good path for me, or if I should stick with Computer Science.

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