Get on the Bus! (What? I gotta tell you again?)

T.A. Barnhart

I mean to post this over a week ago.... sigh.

The new Bus with an old Bus greeting

Sunday morning, getting up at 5:45 am to meet my son who was riding a 70-mile bike ride in the Livestrong Challenge, I notice two things. One, my feet are so swollen, it seemed I can barely get them into my shoes. And two, my face is intact.

This past Saturday was brilliantly bright and sunny, a gorgeous summer day in the greater Portland area. Brilliantly bright and sunny in Hillsboro, too, and that's where the Bus Project spent the day. We knocked on over 2,000 doors in a little over 3 hours, braving sun and surprised voters — What election? — on behalf of incumbent State Representatives Chuck Riley and David Edwards and challenger Jessica Adamson.

For a healthy change, I wore a hat. Between that and the big globs of sunscreen I spread on my exposed pasty-white flesh, I was able to avoid the freshly boiled lobster look that usually follows a day of sunshine. Alas, the pavement was pizza-oven hot as temperatures climbed towards the century mark, and there's not a lot you can do to protect your feet from sun-baked streets and sidewalks when you are canvassing for democracy.

Canvassing, of course, is the bottom line for the Bus Project: You fill up the Bus with a lot of young activists, and a few oldies, and you get out on the streets to meet, talk with and listen to voters. Sometimes you talk to voters in all parties, as I did down in Clackamas County when I walked for Brent Barton. Not a lot of people home that day, and my two best conversations were with registered Republicans (one of whom, I am fairly certain, is going to be voting for Obama.) Saturday, out for Rep Chuck Riley, I spoke to Dems and non-aligneds only, an easier and more common assignment.

Actually, talking to the home team isn't always easier. Dems who are unhappy with the Democratic Party are always a tough audience — just ask Obama in light of recent events — but they are less likely to actually slam the door in your face. On Saturday, I spoke to 21 voters, a good ratio considering my walk list only gave me 51 doors. Of those 21, two made it clear they would not be voting for Chuck, but most of those I spoke to directly will be. I had several interesting conversations along the way, always the best part of any canvassing. One D woman was pretty adamant she wouldn't vote for Obama because he was against drilling in ANWR, even though she knew it would take years to get the oil. Her NAV husband not only was going to vote for Chuck, he seemed quite likely to vote for Obama.

You can never take for granted how people will respond or what they are thinking.

The number one issue in my small Saturday sample? Education. A young mother, a high school teacher and a retired woman: all agreed we have to put more resources into education. The economy and the environment were also big concerns, and in a district that straddles Forest Grove and Hillsboro, this indicates that voters' thoughts and concerns actually do go beyond what it costs to fill up their tanks.

Rep Chuck Riley thanks the Bus riders for coming out to support himAnd I won a prize! A very cool wallet (from some funky-cool shop in Seattle, where the new Washington Bus Project kicked-off its work the same day) for getting 5 of those voters to put up a Chuck Riley lawn sign, including the Democratic woman who wants Obama to find more oil right now. She and her husband support Chuck Riley, which made me very happy. Not only did I get to meet Chuck and learn a bit about him — he was my driver! He drove me and Lurline to our turf, and then he picked us up a few hours later (always nice to ride in a Prius, too). Chuck struck me as honest, straight-forward and someone we need to keep in the Legislature.

(By the way Chuck, if my "Oregon for Obama" button is in your backseat, could I get it back? Please?)

That's a major part of what the Bus is about: Getting good people into political office. Whether it's helping incumbents like Riley and Edwards win tough re-elections, or challengers like Jim Gilbert to get over the hump in a second run, or making sure Nick Kahl replaces Karen Minnis in East County, the Bus' goal is to elect progressives so they can work in office to bring about the kinds of change the people of Oregon are so desperate for.

But winning elections is only part of the story. The progressive movement is not about the politicians we put into office: it's about the people who put those politicians into office. The Bus develops citizen activists and helps them to get involved and stay involved. From the Politicorps fellows to the ordinary citizens like me and Dick to the candidates who are overwhelmed to have 100 people show up just to get their message out: Getting on the Bus means you are committed to democracy and grassroots activism — progressivism.

It's democracy in action, democracy as many of us believe it was always meant to be. And with the Bus, it's not just a great way to get involved, . Whether it's early in the season, like this past weekend, or the trips that happen nearer the election, where the Bus goes, victory usually follows. Part of that is the influx of messaging: A candidate can walk maybe a few dozen doors on a good afternoon or evening; on Saturday in Washington County, we hit over 2,000 doors in 3 hours. That's a lot of facetime with voters, and a pretty decent lit drop.

Garrett Downen helps Rep David Edwards prep a group of Bus riders for their walk around District 30Not to mention a significant emotional charge for the candidates and their small, dedicated staffs (usually their campaign manager, a few volunteers and whatever family members can be recruited). To see that many young people &mash; and the Bus is predominantly twenty-somethings, but those my age and older never feel out-of-place &mash; give up a day to work for a candidate they didn't even know before arriving on the site is an incredible experience. That's why incumbents like Chuck Riley welcome the Bus back every election cycle: they know what the Bus means to their success.

Anyone who has heard Bus co-founder (and soon-to-be State Representative) Jefferson Smith speak about the Bus, knows the stories: How close elections can be (Kate Brown winning her first campaign by 7 votes and how the Bus can make a difference in such close races. Victorious candidates around Oregon swear the Bus makes a difference, and that's why they keep inviting us back and giving us food and praise. Brad Avakian was the first for whom the Bus walked, and he showed up for the first Bus trip this year to repeat his thanks. This is the power of the Bus, but it's also the power and the message of progressive politics: If citizens talk to other citizens, they can influence opinions, swing elections and change the world.

So if you haven't done it yet, it's time for you to get on the Bus. The next trip is Saturday, July 19: to Silverton to help Jim Gilbert win a seat in the Oregon House. Then August 3rd, out to East County for Nick Kahl. More trips are coming, through August and September and beyond. If you're down in the Lane County area, contact the Lane County Bus Project. In Seattle (we know you're reading up there, guys; you've got nothing like Blue Oregon so what choice do you have?) there's now the Washington Bus.

Get on the Bus!Get on the Bus! Visit the website (which, originally and wonderfully, was "", the greatest political web address of all time). Call Henry: 503.233.3018 and tell him you want to get on the Bus.

Make a difference.

Be the difference.

Get on the Bus!

  • Henry Kraemer (unverified)


    The Bus loves you.

    Everybody else, hop on the bus!

  • BostonRob (unverified)

    Sweet post, good pictures, great call to action. As a former PolitiCorps fellow, I'll just say that I still reference my training every day as an organizer for the democratic candidate for president up here in Alaska. Glad to hear that the program keeps on growing and getting more and more done!

  • These Poor Kids (unverified)

    These poor kids. If only they knew how lame Chuck Riley is. Oh well, at least they're doing something. I am very happy to see Silverton and East County on the Bus schedule. Good to know they will be hitting up some contested races.

  • TOG (unverified)

    Quite frankly, what The Bus has accomplished and is creating is the main thing that has kept me sufficiently hopeful American democracy will survive that I've stayed involved in working for that survival, instead of spending the few years I have left in riotous living.

  • Katy (unverified)

    Great post!

  • (Show?)

    Pretty cool... in the mail today I received my certificate showing that we bought a cylinder head on the new bus.

    If you have a few bucks to spare, consider giving some to the Bus Project to pay for their "New Vehicle for Change".

    The bus we've been using to go all over the state is my age (young for a person, old for a vehicle) and just can't make the trip up and over the mountains like it used to. Your donation can help pay for a new bus - you can even pick the part you want to sponsor.

    While I highly support giving to candidates, the county party, and state party, I also know that giving to the Bus Project is important. They help to bring out canvassers to areas where we have hard races - for instance they'll be out my way in Gresham later this summer. These canvassers are a big help in campaigns where a few votes per precinct can really make a difference.

  • Jason Skelton (unverified)
    <h2>HA! My brainchild URL! My life is now complete.</h2>

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