Phony Citizens

T.A. Barnhart

I went canvassing for Rob Brading, with the Bus Project, on Saturday.  It was not a very successful day for me.  I spoke to only 7 voters;  in the part of House District 49 David and I walked, almost all the Dems and indies were out enjoying the beautiful summer day.  (The houses that had cars were the houses we were not going to; they must have been Rs staying home to enjoy the air conditioning paid for with Bush's tax cuts).

But at the very last house I went to, after talking briefly to a woman (registered Democrat), I was accosted by her Republican husband in the driveway.  For ten minutes, he spouted every GOP talking point as if programmed by the RNC.  Name an issue, and he'd drunk the koolaid.  He knew dick about most of these issue; he didn't even know what Measure 5 was and the impact it had had on his property taxes.  He didn't care about Minnis's anti-American subversion of democracy; it was achieving ends he approved of and besides, "the Dems did it, too."  And of course, through it all, I was the one not listening to him.

This is one reason I approve of Democratic campaigns not canvassing Republican households.  The possibility of pointless wastes-of-time is great.  But more than being a poor use of limited campaign resources, my run-in with the Republican soundtrack made me realize something about people like that:  They are phony citizens.  They are not real because they do not think.  Of course I know how arrogant this will sound, but my citizenship is genuine.  Not only did I have no desire to argue with him, I listened to what he was saying and I thought about it positively.  Granted, on most issues the time needed to reflect thoughtfully on his opinions was not great:  School spending, civil unions, choice, immigration, sales tax; on almost every issue he was full of moronic crap; he had not one original word coming out of his mouth.  But when we spoke about payday loan companies, he made a great point:  Don't attack businesses, attack the priniciple. Pass a usury law that effectively puts these thieves out of business without having to focus on specific types of business enterprises.  He was right.  Go to the source of the problem and deal with that, not the symptoms.

But would he return the favor?  Not on one single item.  He spewed out propaganda in a manner that would bring tears of joy to Rove.  He did not stop once to consider anything I had to say.  There was no possibility in his mind that I might have anything of value to add.  Every word coming out of my mouth was wrong, so his only responsibility was to argue over the top of me.  Loudly.

Disagreement is one thing; the refusal of people to think about what the hell they are saying and the reasons for casting their vote is unacceptable.  Mindless automatons who substitute one-way arguing for respectful dialogue are not genuine citizens.  If there were some way to ban them from voting that still allowed me to be a progressive, grassroots democrat; I'd be for it.  There isn't, though.  The phony citizens have the same rights as I do, and no matter how much that pisses me off, it's still the right way to run our politics.

Sadly, the only option I see is to avoid such people and to end contact quickly when it does happen.  My friend Michael Smith, a Republican who believes in his party enough to actually run for President of the United States (unlike a certain other R who cut and ran) is a genuine citizen.  He comes to numerous Democratic events, introduces himself, and then exchanges views and ideas.  And guess what?  There are many areas of agreement between his moderate conservativism and the liberal/progressive views of the Dems.  Michael understands that we need to talk and to listen; he makes it easy to talk to him, and listen to him, because he listens to you.

Unlike the Lord of the Manor who was only looking for a fight.  His regard for democracy is almost nil.  He values his possessions and nothing more: his income, his house, his ideas.  He doesn't mind Minnis's unAmerican activities because she's willing to give him the sparkly pretties he likes.  He's thoroughly selfish and he has made himself deaf and blind to the realities that surround him.  He's a fake American, a false constituent.  He's a phony citizen, and it truly disgusts me his vote counts as much as mine.  But it does, and I would never change that.  Just the person casting it.

  • LT (unverified)

    The day I went out canvassing with similar results (most people not home) I didn't encounter that sort of backtalk. I did encounter "my husband and I are registered in different parties" but in a friendly tone of voice. And one man who was busy in his yard who showed me where to put the flier under something where it wouldn't blow away until he could look at it after he finished the task he was doing. I also discovered a house supposedly with a registered voter which was unoccupied and for sale. And a couple who were not on my list but were curious about why I was walking down their street. They turned out to be people of an independent bent who couldn't be classified as straight party in either party. We had a very intelligent conversation standing in their yard. Whether to go to Republican households probably depends on the neighborhood. One of our neighbors usually votes Republican but I will make it a point to personally introduce her to my state rep. candidate at some point. And don't make the mistake of thinking everyone who voted R last time will vote that way this time--some may be really fed up after the 2005 session and ready for a change. Friends of mine were out in a neighborhood they thought would be hostile and ran into "BOY! Am I glad to know there is a challenger this year!".

    Really the only way to handle such an abusive situation as the one in this post is to walk away as quickly as possible. I've dealt with similar situations in a work environment and there really is no good thing to say.

  • Ed Bickford (unverified)

    TA, I commiserate with you on the sad state of the electorate, but it is inevitable since we have allowed corporate entities to masquerade as "artificial persons" whose protected political speech is crassly defined as political donations of money. They are almost unassailable juggernauts of destruction on the political landscape, giving their human agents cover so they can operate on subhuman levels of morality with little chance of being called to account.

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    I fail to see the relevance or purpose of this article. It is laden with nasty attacks that are rooted in a fundamental lack in perspective and context. We should be working on embracing Republicans, not calling them names.

    I've knocked on hundreds of doors for more than 20 candidates and my attitude is that even if we disagree on every issue, I have a chance to show the voter that Democrats are real, genuine, friendly people. I figure that it's the only productive thing left to do.

    The author said that the man he was talking with didn't stop to consider anything he had to say. I doubt that the author gave the man similar courtesy.

    Most importantly, Republicans are not phony citizens and I say that as a lifelong liberal Democrat. The politics of Minnis, etc. are undeniably appelling but we really should stay above the fray in Blue Oregon. It is the only way to win elections, win arguments and make the changes that need to made.

  • Ed Bickford (unverified)

    The point of the thread is that the R's are under the influence of a nefarious political movement, namely corporate hegemony. Their unfolding corruption scandals are demonstrative of the factual nature of our so-called "nasty attacks", and until they repudiate their program of dismantling and subverting democratic governance, don't EVEN think that embracing Republicans will get us anything but stabbed in the back!

  • no one in particular (unverified)

    There are plenty of knee-jerk party-line liberals, too. They don't have FOX news to spoon feed them talking points, but if they did, they'd be just as bad.

  • Ed Bickford (unverified)

    The cognition-impaired of any stripe can find programming that stokes their ego to the detriment of honest debate. The point is that the corporate media (Fox merely being the most blatant) all twist their news coverage to chime in with the corporate chorus, with the R's doing the singing. They would rather liquidate than give fair coverage to liberal views.

  • yuriy (unverified)

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  • Jennifer W. (unverified)


    Only Democrats and Indies like to play in the sunshine?

    Is it possible the people who stayed home to enjoy the air conditioning just work harder and/or smarter than you? Maybe they got a Masters Degree or PhD, or started their own company. Wealth stratification happens for lots of reasons, not just tax cuts pr government subsidy.

    Does it have to be a "Bush Tax cut" that paid for their A/C? Perhaps you were just being sarcastic.

  • EJ (unverified)

    Dems think for themselves - Repugnicans are told what to think. This is why you have calm dems and very upset repugnicans. I guess it has to do with how bored the Pugs are with their lives not to open their minds.

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    Jennifer W, our walking list had Ds & Ns only; we went to all those houses, and almost no one was home. the houses we did not go to either had Rs only or unregistered voters. given that Saturday was a gorgeous day, the first real day of summer, staying indoors in the air conditioning was not an option for most of the Dems on our list. maybe they were at the mall or a movie; i don't know. and how or why people staying home in a.c. may or may not be smarter than me -- wtf? i think i'm smarter than them: i have a basement office, so i don't need to waste money to remain cool. but you do win a cookie: i was being sarcastic. good catch.

  • John Capardoe (unverified)

    This is the classic, think like me or you're an idiot. What we need is more rational non-partisain discussion of the issues we can have an effect on here locally. When only 18% of the Multnomah County voters Eligable to vote, and only 1/3 or registered voters actually vote, doesn't it tell you we should focus on things we can agree on and vote for in the relevant election. There was a good Op-Ed in the Oregonian today about how far OHSU has come from its orginal public purpose, why are't we talking about that, and getting health care to people. The Bush Bashing is a done deal, focus on what we can do in the interim to get some good people on the Ballot, and the turnout up and a slate people can feel good about voting for instead of holding their nose and voting.

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    T.A. this is the first column you have written that comes off as thoughtless. Knocking on doors on a hot summer day for Rob Brading is a worthy activity and I seriously applaud your effort on trying to defeat the utterly programmed Minnis. Visitors to Blue Oregon who may be flirting with voting for Democrats may be turned away by your frustation, over generalized labeling and swipes at people who have air conditioning. Save your good stuff for us and chalk up listening to Republican talking points spewed out verbatum, as part of the frustration of canvassing.

    Kari, Please remove the dumbass post about Playboy/Penthouse posted by Yurly.

  • Aaron B. Hockley (unverified)

    Sounds like you ran into a jerk. Unfortunately, there are ignorant jerks on both sides of the fence. This guy apparently was a ranting right-wing robot. You know what? There are ranting left-wing robots as well. You can't generalize and make assumptions that all Republicans are like this guy, just as it's wrong for Republicans to make generalizations about Democrats.

  • EJ (unverified)

    I belive it was Voltaire who quipped "I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it"

    ...'nuff said....let's move on shall we?

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    But it's absolutely FREE, Paulie!

  • LT (unverified)

    The only way to beat them is to join them?

    until they repudiate their program of dismantling and subverting democratic governance, don't EVEN think that embracing Republicans will get us anything but stabbed in the back!

    This is an old Newt Gingrich tactic--to say that all Democrats, individually and collectively, are responsible for the worst excesses of some. (The worst was "Susan Smith drowned her children because of liberal social programs".)

    I agree with Andrew Simon. The goal is to get more votes than the other candidate(s). Is that really possible with the attitude that anyone with an R in the registration column will be nasty and thoughtless until proven otherwise? Thoughts can lead to words and words to actions--the self-fulfilling prophecy trap.

    It is always annoying to run into loud mouth jerks or to find few people home. But "broadbrush" is a propaganda term, and assuming anyone registered R gets all their news from FOX is a broadbrush statement. Ever heard of split voting (Bush / Hooley in 2004 as an example)?

  • Bill Holmer (unverified)

    Usually, I find something worthy in T.A.'s commentary. But this time I was struck by the inconsistency between "And of course, through it all, I was the one not listening to him" at the end of the second paragraph and "I listened to what he was saying and I thought about it positively" in the middle of the next paragraph.

    There are plenty of robo-commentators at both ends of the political spectrum. The lesson appears to be that if you're willing to listen - you're more likely to be heard.

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    Bill, what i meant was: he told me i was not listening to him. those were his words, but i was. i just was trying like hell not to get dragged into a pointless argument. but he wanted a pointless argument because, in his mind, he was right on all the subjects and i was wrong.

    if you had seen the smirk on his face throughout, it would make my post so much more clear.

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    A smirk did you in???????

  • Miles Hochstein (unverified)

    It is frustrating to deal with people who won't engage in an actual conversation... or who lack the ability to do so.

    Are there more such people on the right than the left? It's an interesting theoretical question isn't it?

    We do know that there are "personality types" associated with right wing views (rigidity, preference for authority... you can easily find the studies, and they have face validity to me.)

    What if we found that people on the left and right were equally prone to being unable to engage in dialogue, but for different reasons?

    What if there are civic pathologies of the left and right that differ? That would be interesting.

    Still and all, I think it is possible to make psychological and personality judgements about people drawn to right wing political viewpoints.

    What do you actually do with that information? Supposing we find that "a tendency to follow authority" and a fear of dialogue really is a right wing personality characteristic?

    Are right wingers "curable"? To think of voting for Bush as a symptom of a disease is patronizing... and yet... well, it's difficult to escape the suspicion that there is some kind of mental pathology involved. Bush himself is plainly mentally ill, and people who support him at this stage must share in his pathology to some degree. To SAY that is no way to win allies, but since it's just us liberals gathered 'round the water cooler....

    One approach is to try to have empathy for the right wing viewpoint of a rabid rightwinger.... to align yourself with their underlying concern. We can think of them not exactly as "sick", but more as "in pain."

    You could say that this is patronizing too... but I think it is less so. It's just a search for areas of common human understanding.

    They've got concerns which you and I have too... they are immersed in an ideology that suits their right wing personality type and that proposes solutions to the problems they see in the world.

    If we could get down to the root point where we are in alignment with their real pain (during a conversation), then we can explore solutions.

    Of course right wing personality types may be more immune to empathic listening than other types, and this may be difficult. But we don't have to see them as "pathological"... just wounded... and somehow if you can get down to an understanding of that pain, you might work your way to a different less fascistic, authoritarian and hate filled resolution of the core sources of their pain.

    Not an easy thing to do with a close minded man standing in your driveway, I'd admit.

  • rafael basptista (unverified)

    I have walked a lot for the Bus Project and other canidiates and the thing to remember is that a lot of people come november might not remember the canvasser but will remember that a volunteer for that canidiate went to their door to talk to them. People like that, they will act like jerks, but they really do like it when people do it. Maybe its becasue I'm ony 16 that I get off easier, but hey thats my experiance with walking.

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    This is one reason I approve of Democratic campaigns not canvassing Republican households.

    All campaigns have finite people, time and money, so prioritizing households makes perfect sense. But in some districts, the math doesn't add up unless you throw in targetted R households or voters, so it's not inherently a waste of time either.

    Sounds like you spent a long time talking to a classic "5" voter. The most effective use of your time is almost always just a simple statement, "I don't think we're going to see eye to eye on this, but I appreciate your time." Just move on.

    Canvassing households is the most effective way a campaign can contact voters. It's also the most resource intensive -- it may be frustration to spend an afternoon and only get 7 contacts, but the numbers do add up. Especially if you minimize your time talking to people who are never going to vote for you.

  • EJ (unverified)

    What about those households that have a 'no solicitors' sign on their door? Do you knock anyway and interrupt their dinner? I remember those people the most because they have no common sense and can't read. Those people make me angry - and it doesn't matter if they are a Dem or a Rep. Interrupting my family dinner is inexcusable.

  • (Show?)

    Welcome to the club, T.A.

    When I go read websites like Democratic Underground or Blue Oregon, it becomes quickly apparent who actually canvas and/or staff tables. They have a maturity that you simply don't see in the rhetoric of the vast majority - the liberal echo-chamber crowd. My contention is that it is experiences like this that help people understand that there really are Republicans out there who really believe everything that Fox News peddles. And in fact, literally thank God for Fox.

    As an experienced canvasser, I think I have a bit of advice to give you. Always in your mind, you need to be posing the following question to yourself: What can I achieve by spending my time with this person?

    This really is a judgement call. Once you get good, you can find surprising movement in some people. But if you find yourself in front of a screamer, consider the idea that you might want to move on to the next house with a simple, "I see that we'll have to agree to disagree".

    Assuming you do want to spend time with someone, the following rules are helpful to remember.

    <h1>1] You never win by "winning"</h1>

    This really should be rule 1 through 10. You can never "win" an argument because pride in human beings greatly exceeds their reasoning abilities. People who are emotionally involved in their worldview, liberals or conservatives, would rather positively state that 2 + 2 = 5 than admit they're wrong.

    The only time you should ever consider arguing is when you have someone listening, and you're trying to target them, not the person you're arguing with.

    <h1>2] Look for places where you agree. Build on that.</h1>

    It seems that you found a point of agreement when talking about usuary. And in truth, he had an excellent point - deal with the principal of an issue, not specifics. In fact, I'd say that's the best advice I've heard in a long time from a Republican. It's an excellent segue to my next point.

    <h1>3] Ask Republicans to state their ideals, and compare them to reality</h1>

    The Socratic method works best because you do not tell people what to think. You are not arguing with them. You ask people what they think, and compare it with what they see in reality. They make their own decisions, which is the only realistic way to get them to change their mind.

    Are they concerned about deficit spending? Are they worried at all that every baby in the U.S. is born owing $36,000? Has deficit spending been going down under Republican controlled government, or up? By how much?

    Are they concerned with crime? Over the lifetime of a single criminal, from birth to death after multiple jailings, when would be the best time to catch them? Is it cheaper to prevent kids from becoming criminals, or pay $45,000 a year to keep them in jail?

    How is their health care? Are they worried about it? Poor people who can't afford drugs end up desperately ill, go to the E.R., and cost the hospitals thousands of dollars to save their life. That cost gets transferred to our bills. If you could change the current system, how would you save money? Let the poor die in the street, like they do in third-world countries? Or is it possible that cheap preventative care pays for itself?

    <h1>4] You've "won" when they decide to "think about it"</h1>

    Instantaneous conversions are a myth. People are simply too proud.
    Of you can get someone to think about something, you've "won" as much as you're going to. Complement them on the honest talk you've had. Tell them that you have a lot more in common than the media would like to think. Then move on with a smile and wave.

  • (Show?)

    in case anyone cares, i am a very experienced canvasser. not only have i logged plenty of doors, i was the organizer & trainer for the Benton County canvass in 2004. simply being experienced, however, is no guarantee you'll not get sucked into a hopeless argument. i kept hoping the guy on Saturday would meet me, not even halfway, but just somewhere we might find a bit of common ground. he did not, and it's not always possible to just say "well, i guess we disagree" and walk away -- that can sound as lame and condescending as anything.

    you get one of those every so often, and the point of my post was not about how to canvass well; it was about being a citizen. it was about listening and thinking for yourself, and how disappointing it is to me every time i interact with someone who does not share those values. i know such people exist; it just bums me to meet them. he wasn't stupid; he just wasn't thinking things through.

  • Harry (unverified)

    Posted by: t.a. barnhart | Jun 26, 2006 10:47:53 AM

    <h2>Bill, what i meant was: he told me i was not listening to him. those were his words, but i was.</h2>


    I was going to suggest you read the book "How to win friends and influence people". In there somewhere is the point about the best conversationalist was the person who listened more than they talked.....and the other person in the conversation really thought that they were being listened to.

    But instead, just reread Steven Maurer's is close enough.

    Good luck in your attempts to win friends and influence people.

  • (Show?)


    People can read. No soliciting signs do not pertain to knocking on someone's door to tell them about a candidate or asking them to vote.

    However, I personally do not knock on these doors, with a few exceptions--

    • if they have a political yard sign in their yard, I'll often times go ahead and knock

    • if I know the person whose door I'm about to knock on, or my canvass partner does

    It's those who put no soliciting signs on their door who don't understand what it means. No soliciting signs are to stop people from coming to your door to ask for money for something (selling magazine subscriptions, the Oregonian, candy, etc). They are not there to stop people's freedom of speech in speaking to you at your door.

    I stopped knocking on these doors just because of how nasty people get when you knock on the door, as if you're doing something wrong.

    If you don't want anyone knocking on your door, then in addition to your no soliciting sign, you should add an item underneath it that states something about no political, religious, etc. canvassing either. I've seen a few people who do this.

  • John Capardoe (unverified)

    I think Renee Mitchel's Topic today is relevant to this string, and on target to the problems Mr. Barnhart was experiencing.

    "I never imagined I would laugh so hard at the annual Oregon Hate Crimes Conference on Portland Community College's Cascade campus.

    But Alexie, a stand-up comic, is good at sneaking up on you with biting cynicism. His sassy one-liners are laced with truth so razored it hurts. Not only from laughing, but also from having to face your inner bigot.

    Alexie mocked the mostly white, liberal audience for its self-righteous belief that it's only the folks who wear swastikas and wave Confederate flags who exercise hate.

    "You are flinging hate out there, too," Alexie points out. "It's hypocritical, and you're guilty of the same philosophical crimes."

    Think about it, he says. We all hate something or someone. For Alexie, it's white Seattleites who wear flip-flops with their business suits. ..........

    "Finally, he hates people who hate for the wrong reasons, such as vegans who march for world peace. It's your choice to eat what you want. It's your choice to stand for world peace, he says. But the two are separate issues.

    "Just because you don't eat meat does not make you morally superior to everyone else," Alexie says. "I hate that. You never see a sign that says, 'Backyard Rib Barbecuers for Nuclear Disarmament.' "

    After he slings the comic bravado, Alexie calls his listeners a few insulting names and questions the intelligence of their religious beliefs. Then he empowers them.

    As a poor kid surrounded by despair, he says, Alexie was inspired by white liberals who produced movies, books, music and art. Now he is a college-educated millionaire traveling the world, signing six-figure book deals and telling funny stories about growing up on a reservation.

    "You gave me the power to dream my way out of pain, poverty and alcoholism," Alexie says, his mood turning serious. "What happened to you?"

    Too many liberals, he adds, are spewing hate about President George W. Bush, about abortion doctors, about capitalists, and even about those who hate gays, Jews, blacks, Mexicans and meat-eaters.

    "All you're doing is speaking hate," Alexie points out. "I want you to start celebrating this country again. I want you to stop worrying about hate so much that you forget that you've got your own."

    Maybe you should have ducked. Alexie's combustible mixture of truth and humor delivers one heck of a sucker punch. Don't you hate that?"

  • David Wright (unverified)

    Jenni, a couple of points:

    "No soliciting signs do not pertain to knocking on someone's door to tell them about a candidate or asking them to vote."

    Per, the definitions of "solicit":

    1. To seek to obtain by persuasion, entreaty, or formal application: a candidate who solicited votes among the factory workers.
    2. To petition persistently; importune: solicited the neighbors for donations.
    3. To entice or incite to evil or illegal action.
    4. To approach or accost (a person) with an offer of sexual services.

    So while #3 and #4 (usually) don't apply to those who are canvassing, #1 most certainly does. No means no.

    "They are not there to stop people's freedom of speech in speaking to you at your door."

    The First Amendment restricts government from abridging your freedom of speech. It says nothing about private citizens on their own private property. You have no such right to speak to anybody at their door, whether or not they've posted a no soliciting sign, and whether or not they've got their own political signs in the yard.

  • David Wright (unverified)

    Steven has some great advice for anybody wanting to have a serious discussion with someone of a different political persuasion.

    Regarding item #3, one should be careful that the "reality" espoused that is being compared with the other's ideals is factually and indisputably correct ("every baby in the U.S. is born owing $36,000" isn't) and that you offer an alternative that would actually address the issue.

    Credibility is a major factor in such discussions, since someone who is already disinclined to see things your way can easily dismiss your entire message if they find something wrong with any part of it.

    I would also add that simply listening to someone else's point of view isn't enough, if you aren't open to even the remotest possibility that you might yourself be wrong, or that at least your view doesn't necessarily apply universally. Just something to chew on...

    Mostly though, I want to commend Steven for this profound statement: "You never win by winning." Too true!

  • (Show?)

    italics off?

    It doesn't matter what the dictionary definition may be-- it matters what the legal definition is.

    Organizations on both the right and left have fought in the courts the right to not be included under "no soliciting" rules.

    Legally, the definition of soliciting does not include knocking on someone's door and talking to them about politics, candidates, asking them to vote, etc.

    As I said, if you don't want this coming to your door, you should look at adding a phrase underneath that specifically states no political or religious canvassing either.

    Because time and time again these activities have been exempted by the courts as protected speech and are not considered soliciting.

  • Robert Canfield (unverified)

    T.A. Barnhart's post shows who the "phony citizen" truly is-- as they say in House District 49, where I live, "The bigger the belt buckle, the smaller the ranch".

    Barnhart claims he is a "genuine citizen". Anyone who disagrees with Barnhart's version of kool-aid is a phony citizen. Genuine Citizen? Let me quote Elaine from a Seinfeld episode: "Fake, fake, fake, fake, fake".

    Do you have any idea how many times I have had OSPIRG, Sierra Club, or other leftist koolaid drinking canvassers drop by my door? They give me their 30 second pitch for their petition or candidate or whatever.

    I ask these folks one question, depending on their robotic, memorized talking points: "When you say xxx...what do you mean by that?"

    I don't tell them my position on the issue at hand. I just ask them to explain theirs. And they fold like a cheap house of cards every time. I am so disappointed in the lack of true intellectual understanding of their own issues.

    You get these wet behind the ears college kids all excited, send them out with their clipboards and Bus Project cocktail napkins to my neighborhood out here in House District 49, and they don't know what to say when you simply ask them to explain THEIR kool-aid! It's insulting, I tell you. Don't being that stuff into House District 49.

    And don't you dare say thet people out here are phony citizens. I'll tell you where the true phony citizens live-In the districts in Portland that vote 80% + for Democrat candidates every election. Just as faithfully as the sunrise and sunset.

    Out here in House District 49? We're the true non-kool aid drinkers. WE listen to all sides. I wrote about it earlier:

    Lets fight like cats and dogs because we can

    (By the way, Barnhart, I've been reading your brother's "Late Show News and TVBARN.COM for what seems like forever. He's a great writer and has a great site. Give him my kudos.)

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    Robert, i'm glad you and the people you know in HD49 listen. however, i did not say "HD49 is full of phonies who don't listen". sheesh. i used one person as an example of a great problem across society. jeezus, it's too hot for that kind of misreading, man. god. this one man was a republican noise machine -- they exist, you know! even in HD49. get over yourself.

    and i do hold myself up as an example. you can talk to people who know me; i'm not perfect, but i do a hell of a job for others. i listen the best i can; it's not always easy. my temper is short, my opinions are strong, but i try. when i screw up, i apologize & try again.

    btw, i'm no web-behind-the-ears type. my brother is 10 years younger; i changed his diapers many moons ago. i've raised two sons, worked many jobs, served my country, and gone through enough shit in my life to know that what i know is tentative. and when some idiot with a fat cigar stuck in his smug face does nothing but puke up the greatest hits of the gop, well, i know better than to engage him. but by god, i'll use him as a literary device.

    (if Rob Brading is anything to judge HD49 by, though, i'm sold. he's a great guy. i loved meeting & talking to him.)

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    There's a big difference between the OSPIRG/Sierra Club canvassers and those who were out with the Bus Project-- the first are paid canvassers who know what they've been told. Often times they're doing the work for the paycheck, not because they care about the issue.

    Those out with the Bus Project were volunteers who actually know the issues, give a damn about the outcome, etc.

    Most of those heading out with the Bus Project have years of experience in politics and canvassing. They're not wet behind the ears college kids. The "newbies" (who may be young or old) are paired up with a veteran canvasser. Often times the "young" people have several years worth of experience already-- they're not as "wet behind the ears" as you may think.

    People look at me and often think I haven't been involved that long-- after all, I'm only 28. However, I've been involved in politics for 16 years. Don't let the first impression of a person fool you-- young does not mean uninfored.

    And no, I'm not from another part of the state-- I'm from Gresham.

  • David Wright (unverified)

    Jenni, it matters a great deal more what the dictionary (or "common sense") definition of soliciting is than the legal definition. Whether or not a "no soliciting" sign actually carries the force of law, the person putting up such a sign is trying to communicate something to you.

    "I stopped knocking on these doors just because of how nasty people get when you knock on the door, as if you're doing something wrong."

    Yep, you are doing something "wrong", whether or not you're doing something illegal. You're bothering somebody who has made it pretty clear that they don't want to be bothered. And you're compounding the problem by taking the attitude that you've got a right to do so. You really ought not be offended (certainly not surprised, anyhow) when that person treats you accordingly.

  • (Show?)

    Actually, political canvassers do have a right to do so-- the courts have ruled numerous times that they do have the right. I choose not to because of the way people react. However, that doesn't change the fact that the courts have ruled that as long as these people aren't asking for money, they are allowed to come to your door. And that means they're going to keep coming.

    And it goes both ways-- many people have up no soliciting signs, but do in fact want political canvassers to come to their door. They're just tired of salespeople at their door. On several occasions I've had someone come outside to see what we were doing. Upon finding out we were volunteer canvassers for a candidate, they wondered why we hadn't come to their door-- they were Democrats, after all. I pointed to the no soliciting sign, and they stated that was just to keep sales people away.

    That's why in parts of NE Portland you'll find houses that have no soliciting signs, but with an added note stating either political/religious canvassing is/isn't ok. That way they do get the people they want at their door, but not the ones that don't.

    The "no soliciting" sign is sort of like the "do not call list"-- its practical application is to sales people and those being paid to contact you.

    And since there are probably 100 people who would knock on your door for every person like me who doesn't knock, talking about it on a blog isn't going to change it. But what will immediately make a difference is putting an addition under the no soliciting sign that says no political/religious canvassing as well.

  • Robert Canfield (unverified)

    T.A.: I respect your opinions, but I would certainly encourage you to reconsider your thoughts of banning the folks that disagree with you from voting. ( "If there were some way to ban them from voting that still allowed me to be a progressive, grassroots democrat; I'd be for it. ")

    You write of your cigar smoking right wing kool-aid drinker: "His regard for democracy is almost nil."

    I ask you this question with all due respect, because I've been reading your posts on Blue Oregon for a while and you obviously care about democracy and are willing to get off your kiester and get involved, but here goes:

    How does your admitted wish to prohibit folks who don't think like you from voting square with your own regard for democracy?

  • Robert Canfield (unverified)

    Jenni- I don't let the first impression of a person fool me. Indeed, young does not mean uninformed. That's why I wait until, old or young, they open their mouths and show me what they have to say. Even now I'm sometimes the deer in headlights when someone asks me to clarify my opinion! Just ask my son and daughter. . .

    When I grew up, our kitchen table political discussions were sometimes an art form, sometimes a serious quest for truth, many times an entertainment when someone switched sides for argument's sake, and never to be taken personally. Everyone, after all, was entitled to their opinion.

    I think what's missing in today's political climate is that so many people are offended and shocked when someone dares to disagree with them. That's when the discussion ends and the irrational personal attacks begin.

    Look at the comments on this thread. " subhuman levels of morality", "Mindless automaton", "He's thoroughly selfish", "Dems think for themselves - Repugnicans are told what to think.",

    and my favorite,

    "To think of voting for Bush as a symptom of a disease is patronizing... and yet... well, it's difficult to escape the suspicion that there is some kind of mental pathology involved. Bush himself is plainly mentally ill, and people who support him at this stage must share in his pathology to some degree."

    Entertainment, yes. Offensive? Depends on who you ask. Should a conservative take this personally? Absolutely not. I mean, consider the source. . .

    However, I do fear that the upcoming Minnis/Brading battle will descend into an ugly morass of multiple canvasses and scorched earth media campaigns, especially given the high stakes and the dollars rolling in on both sides. I love a good dog fight but not when it gets out of hand.

    Voters out were angrily burned out from the massive canvassing/voter registration/door knocking/phone calls during the November 2004 election.

    I know this for a fact- I stopped going door to door and making phone calls during my own election campaign before I originally planned because of the hostility toward all the candidates and initiatives. It was a case of diminishing returns. Voters had reached their canvassing and phone call limits.

    In the end, we had extremely high voter turnout combined with high voter burnout. Bus Project people and all campaigns should keep this in mind.

  • (Show?)

    RC, i also said our democracy works best when everyone votes. of course i'm conflicted! who isn't these days? we hate partisanism (we say) but we know we're damn well gonna take sides. we believe in every citizen's right to vote, but gawd why can't these morons pay attention to what is going on and think their own thoughts (how many times does someone have to squawk "culture of life" for you to know they have a "Playback loop" button switched on?)

    you ought to know by now (and thanks for continuing to read me; that's a good sign) that i'm less of a political strategist than someone who likes ideas. when i make statements like those in this post, it's not to demand voting tests; it's to decry the mindlessnes that pervades so many republicans (there are plenty of people bitch-slapping Dems, so why should i bother?)

    the bottom line: i'm cool with this guy voting, no matter how far up his ass i believe his head to be, because i cherish our constitutional form of government. but the day is coming, i hope, when the responsibility to use the vote thoughtfully becomes a mandate, not from law but from our fellow citizens who figure out that that is the only way we'll fix our country and its politics.

  • LT (unverified)

    I think people reach a phone call burnout and mailer burnout long before a canvassing burnout.

    But maybe it is different here in Marion County, where the only legislative candidates ever to come to our door have been personal friends who came to our door because we were helping with the campaign. Sometimes we have seen literature left under the doormat, but that is not the same as "canvassing burnout".

  • David Wright (unverified)

    Jenni, not to get hung up on a relatively minor point here, but could you cite me at least one example of a court decision that asserts a political canvasser's right to ignore a plain "No Soliciting" sign on a private homeowner's property?

    I do take your comments seriously, and I've done some research regarding your claim that "[T]he courts have ruled numerous times that they do have the right [to knock on doors]."

    I can't find any such court rulings, though I did manage to find numerous cases that had to do with overturning various government regulations that would treat political or religious speech the same as commercial speech (which has relaxed protections).

    In virtually all the cases that I could find (from across the country, none specifically in Oregon) which overturned such regulations, one of the common justifications was that they were unneccesary given the specific ability of individual homeowners to use existing laws to protect their privacy with "No Soliciting" signs.

    I also asked the question of a lawyer who said (apart from, if I may paraphrase, "Who cares? Just cuss 'em out and send 'em packing."): "People do not have the unlimited right to come on private property to canvas politically. Not even in Oregon."

    Now, why is this remotely important?

    It's not, really. You'd not likely be prosecuted for trespassing if you go ahead and ignore the sign.

    But if large numbers of political canvassers of any stripe are asserting "rights" that they do not legally have based on a misunderstanding of the law, they are being counterproductive to their own cause. Wouldn't it be in everyone's best interest not to spread misinformation to folks (particularly politically active folks such as those who read this blog) regarding what their actual legal rights might be? Particularly given this thread's general discussion about how to win friends and influence people this political season?

    So again, if you've got some information that I've missed about a specific court case, in Oregon or at the federal level, that would grant political canvassers the right to ignore clearly posted signs, you'd be doing a public service by sharing that with us. If I'm the one who is misinformed, please set me straight with the facts. I'm always happy to learn... though as Churchill said, I may not always like to be taught. ;-)


  • Karl (unverified)


    You are wrong. You do not have a "right" to approach my home and start soliciting.

    Try this website:

    Particularly the portion of the site that references the State of Oregon:

    "In Lloyd Corp. v. Whiffen (1993), the Oregon Supreme Court opined that its citizens had a right to seek signatures on initiative petitions in the common areas of shopping malls, basing its decision on the initiative and referendum powers reserved to the citizens of Oregon in Art. IV., Section I. Dramatically, however, in Stranahan v. Fred Meyer, Inc. (2000), the Oregon Supreme Court reversed its earlier decision, holding that while Art. IV, Section 1 of the Oregon Constitution conferred the right to propose laws via initiative, it did not extend so far as to create a right to solicit signatures for initiative petitions on private property, including the petitioners privately owned shopping center."

    If you can't go to a mall and petition, you certainly can't come to my home and try to do so.

  • james mattiace (unverified)

    Several comments to make here: EJ - Voltaire did not say what you said he said. We don't know who said it, but it is erroneously attributed to him, almost as many times as the "simple solutions" quote is erroneously attributed to H.L. Menken (Jimmy Carter's fault). Oh, and Marie Antoinette didn't say cake, she said brioche.

    About the no soliciting signs, I think Jenni was overstating the word "right". A city may NOT enact a law which bans poltical canvassers, (so she's right about that right) but a person has every constitutional right to bar someone from their door. So, yes there is a right to canvass (as in, can't be limited by government), but there is no right to knock on someone's door who doesn't want it. That said, I knock on most "no solicitors" signs for three reasons: A) many times the signs are put up to keep sales people away. The only thing I'm selling is democracy. (but in all honesty---when the heck has ANYONE seen a door to door salesperson in recent times? Its us, the Mormons, the Jehovahs, and the Sierra/OSPIRGers) B) Many times the signs have been up through several generations of renters. C) I check the walk list first and if the person on the list is over 80 and has a sign, I skip the house, because I don't want to make an octogenerian get up and answer the door for little ol' me. I also look for other obvious signs about not wanting to be bothered (shuttered windows, closed slat fencing, and the like) my 15 short years of canvassing I have only encountered ONE person who pointed to the sign and said, ":can't you read?" He didn't like my sarcastic response BTW..... However, I retreat immediately if the person has just woken up, has a screaming baby in their arms, or I see the signs of a child's 6 year birthday party happening. And I'm politely apologetic. (oh and there is the somewhat rare instance of a couple experiencing coitus interruptus)

    Now about the "wet behind the ears" crap. I gotta stand up and refute that.- yes PIRGers are oft times paid ex-frat boy drop outs , but.....they are NOT the Bus (but they could be if they wanted to sign up....). 2 things I have worked really hard for in my 4 years with the Bus A) we don't do salespitches and B) we engage in dialogue. This is a founding principle of the Bus and to which I came to love. As chair of the bustling Lane County operation I make absolutely sure that no canvasser gets a "canned speech". And my counterparts at Bus Central and in Corvallis are committed as well. The whole idea behind this operation (thank you jefferson and joe baessler) was to get beyond soundbites. We care this much ( ) about the win, and this much (
    ) about the dialogue. Since many of the Bus canvassers are new to the scene, but care about the 6 E's, thats what we talk about. So you'd be hard pressed to find a Bus canvasser stumped to come up with a really valid reason about why they are out there on a sweltering hot/cold & rainy day. If that door conversation, and the genuine interest displayed gets a vote for a progressive candidate than that's just as well. What's more important is that someone got to talk to someone about issues that are important to everyone. More of that, means better public policy. It sounds like the guy TA ran into could give two ding dongs about conversing, but kudos for trying to carry the conversation forward. Its equally as frustrating when someone (a D) only wants to know if the candidate is a D or R, which made canvasses for Commissioner Bill Fleenor (I) really fun.

    And lastly, yes, it sucks to spend 2 and a half hours and only talk to 7 people. That same day we split the Lane contingent and some of us stayed home to work for Vicki Walker. I knocked on 47 doors and talked to 8 people.....but I left flyers on 39 doors, which is 39 less doors Vicki had to mail to. Plus I got some really great home renovation ideas (god, if I just wrote down every great house idea I could write a book) And I got to see where more of my fellow citizens live, and HOW they live. And even though the dude with the "teachers against war" sign and the Who's rock opera "Tommy" drowning out my persistent knocks and doorbell ringing never came to the door I still feel like it made a difference that I left a pamphlet with a "sorry we missed you, Tommy can you hear me?" because 2 months from now someone else will get that guy and when asked the question "have you heard of Senator Walker?" he can't say no. And thus begins the conversation....

    james Mattiace Bus Project, Lane County July 8th - we rock Salem....get on the Bus

  • John Capardoe (unverified)

    Mr. Burnhart for someone who claims to be against partisan politics you certainly appear to be the epitome of it.

  • EJ (unverified)

    I am quite amazed at the response as to who has what right in knocking on doors with the 'no silicitors' signage on them.

    I want to be clear here. While Jenni thinks she has the right to impose herself on me because of the law (even though she clearly is not a lwayer), I have the right to be left alone. Why is it always 'my right supercedes your right'? With rights come responsibilities. One responsibility is common sense. If a sign says no - THEY MEAN NO REGARDLESS OF WHOS RIGHT IT IS. what part of NO do you not understand?...the N...or the O? It is the same as if Jenni yelled fire in a crowded theatre. You can have your rights, but you have to use responsibility with those rights as well and canvassing a door that has a NO on it just because it is a canvassers right of 'free speech' is irresponsible because the canvasser is not considering or thinking about the rights of the person behind the door to be left alone and have their lives in peace.

  • EJ (unverified)

    Also - the response to Jenni above also goes to James Mattice with the extra question --- Have you ever in your life considered the rights of those people behind the door of a 'no solicitors' sign? Why should your rights of 'free speech' supercede their rights to be left alone? Are you that bored with your canvassing job that you need to see what happens to someone when you tick them off?

  • (Show?)

    i always knock on "No solicitors" doors, and i've never been reprimanded by the person answering the door. people say "not interested" or "no thank you" and i say "have a great day" and we move on with our lives. some of them are glad to hear from me; since i'm only going to potential supporters, we begin by being on the same team. and it helps that i'm not out asking for money. i'm not sure why EJ is having suck a problem with this; the people at the doors are not. they know the difference between sales pitches and political appeals. and they're cool with it.

  • Karl (unverified)


    Because maybe in this day and age of cell phones, Blackberrys, pagers, etc (which, sadly, I have all of them) there are too many intrusions in our lives. I consider my home my sanctuary. Putting up a "no solicitation sign" and then getting people who disregard it is like people violating the Do Not Call registry or getting email spam. It's really annoying.

    I don't make a distinction between a sales pitch and a political appeal. Both are trying to "sell" me something. One, a product or a service. The other, a political party or cause.

  • Ed Bickford (unverified)

    EJ must be a rock-ribbed Republican, equating political speech with a commercial transaction!

    Seriously, such cranks are hiding behind some of those signs, but so what? I'll go away if they don't want to talk. Citizens of a democracy have a civic duty to engage in politics somehow; canvassing is a public service.

    Effective deterrence would possibly include "No Trespassing" signs, parking pick-ups in the driveway with prominently displayed gun racks and "They'll take my guns when they pry them from my cold fingers" bumper stickers, barbed-wire fences barely restraining snarling pit-bulls, etc.

    Please bear in mind the words of John Donne: "No man is an island..." Even Papa Hemingway displayed them prominently.

  • EJ (unverified)

    I am not a repugnican nor am I a Democrat - I am an American....who only wants to have his dinner in peace without being interrupted.

    Talk about making a mountain out of a molehill here...

  • Robert Canfield (unverified)

    If there's a no soliciting sign, I don't go up. Period. It's about respect for the other person. I also consider someone's home their sanctuary. It's their property, not mine.

    And canvassing isn't a public service. It's a self-centered activity- you're trying to gain a vote for your cause, one voter at a time.

    No, I don't have a no solicitor sign on my door. I'm more than willing put up with canvassers and magazine solicitors in order to not scare away the girl scouts selling cookies, or the little leaguers selling candy bars.

    It's also a lot of fun to introduce canvassers to my dog,
    George W.

  • Ed Bickford (unverified)

    In canvassing one runs the risk of confronting small-minded misanthropic cranks, just as I do while interacting with this blog. It is a price I'm willing to pay to make contact with socially conscious allies.

    <h2>Should you sick your dog on me for violating the sanctity of your Saddam-like hidey-hole, be sure to contact your lawyer; you'll be hearing from mine.</h2>

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