Word to the wise: if I ever canvass your door, and you’re hoping I’ll go away quickly, the one thing you should never say to me is “I don’t really pay that much attention to politics.” Because saying that to me is like personally challenging me to dig and poke around until we FIND the reason you SHOULD care about politics!
The woman who said that to me while I was canvassing in Prince William County for Vangie Williams (D- CD01) and Senator Tim Kaine wasn’t sure whether she was going to vote for either of them, and “didn’t follow” politics. She went on to tell me that she thought of herself as somewhere between a Democrat and a Republican, but lately she was leaning Democrat. I started to suspect what she wasn’t saying, but I pushed more.
“What issues are you usually more Republican on?” I asked.
“Oh, I’m just sort of more conservative.”
Hmm. “Are you more conservative on social issues, or fiscal ones?” I continued.
After she said social issues, I just got right down to it and asked her, “Is it mostly abortion that you’re more conservative about?”
And there it was. The thing that kept her from considering herself a Democrat–and possibly even the thing that kept her from paying attention to politics.
Sometimes that’s a hard topic to run into at the doors. I’ve had someone tell me he would NEVER vote for Attorney General Mark Herring because of his position on abortion (although the same person was happy to vote for Governor Northam, so go figure). I’ve had someone tell me that he would never vote Democratic because if one penny of his money went to pay for abortions, it would be as if he himself had murdered a baby.
But this I could handle. Because one of my favorite Tim Kaine moments ever was during the 2016 Vice Presidential debate when he talked about balancing his faith and his public life, both in the context of the death penalty as well as abortion. There are plenty of politicians who can give slick answers they think you want to hear, or slippery ones that avoid the question. But the ones who have my loyalty, the ones who I’d knock doors for in the 92 degree heat of a summer day, are the ones who will answer hard questions honestly and openly.
So I told this woman all about Tim Kaine and that debate, and how sensitive he is about this issue, but that he has to uphold the law and doesn’t feel that his religious beliefs should affect other people. And then for good measure I threw in the fact that abortion rates don’t seem to be lower in countries that have more restrictions, and that there are a lot of different policies that can lower the rate without actually restricting abortions.
Often people “don’t follow politics” because they are so disillusioned with the political system and politicians that they don’t think it matters who they vote for, since neither party will make changes that benefit their lives. I’ve seen and heard that plenty at doors. But another possible reason is that neither party quite fits their beliefs and that leaves them choosing which of their important beliefs they’re willing to sacrifice for which other.
Will you join us on the Canvassing Caravan next weekend? We’ll be making our next stop in CD05 to canvass for Leslie Cockburn and of course Tim Kaine. Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you can join us, and I’ll send you details as we update them.