Bwogger Carolyn Ruvkun tagged along with the Columbia University Democrats on their annual campaign trip. Recapturing Columbia’s activist past, the dedicated Dems knocked on 50,000 doors, made the local news and almost got arrested. So open a cool can of Keystone, kids, we’re heading to the Keystone state!
Early on the Friday morning of Fall break, the Dems assembled at the sundial, grabbed their bags and bagels, and squished into silver vans. They left for Pennsylvania’s 8th Congressional District to campaign for the incumbent, Patrick Murphy, against his Republican opponent and (spoiler alert!) eventual winner, Mike Fitzpatrick. PA-8 serves the contested Bucks County, which has historically swung between the two congressional candidates. Fitzpatrick represented the district for one term before Murphy unseated him in 2006. Their 2006 race was the nation’s second most competitive, drawing a whopping 57% turnout. Murphy prevailed by a slim margin of 1518 votes. But 2010 presented very different circumstances for a district battered by the recession. An Iraq veteran who championed the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” Murphy proved a worthy candidate for the Dems’ support. The fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrat faced Fitzpatrick, an extremely conservative Republican. Plus, Murphy’s campaign agreed to finance our lovely (read: ciggie-stained) rooms at the Days Inn, conveniently located by a real Amish Market.
Though briefly delayed by a fight in the Days Inn parking lot, the Dems got fired up on Saturday morning with the Cupid Shuffle, then headed to their “staging location,” the local campaign headquarters. Murphy organizers presented us “turf” —long lists of names, routes and addresses —for canvassing. We were instructed to knock on the doors of these registered Democrats and remind them to vote. Sounds simple, but what a spectacle.
Blasting Pretty Boy Swag, we sped through the sleepy suburbs of Bucks County in our silver vans lovingly named the Sketch-mobiles. (The Dems know how to make an appearance; a Columbia Democrat speaks at a noticeably higher decibel level than an average person). My van spent most of the weekend canvassing in freakishly uniform upper-middle class neighborhoods that resembled the set of American Beauty. But those “little boxes” held true gems; we met some crazy characters. Some were excited about our endeavors. One eager middle-aged dad in a strapping sweater vest offered me and my canvassing partner soda, and urged us to “kick some ass!” Others accused us of being “fucking naïve” socialists. Overall, the friendly folks outnumbered the sassy and downright rude. I talked to Bucks County residents about their Halloween decorations, the origins of their last names and their colorful mezuzahs. Also, apparently people think it’s okay to answer their doors wearing only boxers.