Canvassing for Bernie

Canvassing for Bernie

I've never canvassed for anyone or anything. Sure, I've made a lot of noise about voting. But, I'd never spent my Saturday afternoons actually walking my talk, until now.

For how many miles I run, I honestly am embarrassed to realize how few miles I've logged on a campaign trail.

Why get political?

Watching a burned koala, shrouded in charred Australian bush, I realized, I have to do something. Actually do something to not just alleviate my often debilitating climate anxiety, but to help this crisis in a more concrete way.

Now, even though I've been alarmed by climate change impacts for years--I studied firsthand climate impacts on coral reefs in college. I gurgle-cried into my SCUBA regulator as I saw hundreds-of-years old coral, the size of a sedan, toppled over, which is unlikely to recover. In this case, the blown over corals were hit by increased wave action during an atypically severe typhoon, a climate change consequence.

Yet, it took until 2016 for me to birth my political brain cells, following the environmental tyrant's inauguration.

And now, it's 2020, and I'm finally aware that in order to solve the climate crisis we must have a President who will prioritize a renewable energy economy like our lives depend on it.

Why Bernie?

While each democratic candidate has a climate plan, Senator Sander's is the strongest. His plan, The Green New Deal, is the only one that explicitly targets 100% renewable energy for our electricity and transportation sectors by 2030 and targets full economy decarbonization by 2050. These targets are consistent with science based, IPCC published reports. This is what the experts say we must do to avoid catastrophic consequences and Bernie is the candidate most seriously addressing it.

I'm not the only one touting Sanders. He's received endorsements from nearly every environmental and just transition organizations. From Sunrise Movement to Center for Biological Diversity to Food and Water Watch to 350 Action to Greenpeace. He's endorsed by all of them.

How do we pay for it? Experts have estimated that Bernie's multi-trillion dollar plan will pay itself back in a mere 15 years by doing the following: making the fossil fuel industry pay for their pollution and ending fossil fuel subsidies. Scaling back military spending on maintaining global oil dependence. Collecting new income tax revenue from the 20 million jobs created by the plan. Making the wealthy and large corporations pay their fair share in taxes.

Why Canvass?

Walking door to door on a dreary February Saturday afternoon doesn't seem like the obvious way to save the world. But, being a cog in a movement that is trying to save the world is just as important.

Volunteering for Bernie means I'm adding energy, work, bandwidth, growth and hype to the movement to save our Earth.

Sure, there are other reasons why I think Bernie should be President, but my reason for action is our climate. I think, in a way, this has made volunteering easier because I always know why I'm doing it.

What's it like?

First, you download this app called MiniVan. Most Democratic candidates use it for canvassing. You then get a public record of registered Democrats and unaffiliated voters. Your local canvass leader or Victory Captain, as Bernie's campaign calls them, gives you a "list number" to type into MiniVan and that populates a list of about 60 homes in the same neighborhood to canvass to. Off we go!

What I say at the door:

Hi, my name is Clare and I'm volunteering for the Bernie Sanders campaign.

There's usually a pause; a grabbing of a barking dog; a step outside to keep warm air from escaping the house; and thankfully, usually a smile.

I'm voting for Bernie because climate change is my number 1 issue and he is the strongest candidate on climate. I'm curious if you've decided who you're voting for yet?

Now is where the one-on-one conversation happens. It's been anything from a middle-aged mom saying she just loves Pete because he's so like-able to a 20-something woman saying she's voting for Warren because she loves Warren, but she's actually registered in Utah, to a couple from Vermont who says obviously they voted for Bernie because they've been fans of his values for decades.

The only conversation that left me scratching my head was one with a mom voting for Pete because she believes health care is a human right. I mentioned that Bernie's plan would actually ensure every American has health care. She said that yes, she values that above all else, but that Pete's plan seemed more doable. I'm not a healthcare expert, but this seemed like a conversation I wasn't going to get too far with.

People vote for people often based on emotion. Even though this woman cares about health care, she's still voting based on feelings, not policy plans. This is fascinating to me. All the more reason to continue to canvass for Bernie because I believe in his policies.

I leave a personalized flyer when someone isn't home. 

My final observation: Boulder voters are concerned about climate change. I was canvassing in a suburban area, where driving to work or to the grocery store is a necessary part of life. Yet, these voters are still extremely concerned with the climate crisis. It highlighted the need for systemic change, as these people cannot significantly alter their lifestyles without infrastructure improvement and affordable electric vehicle options.

More than once, however, people asked me, what is the green new deal? I tried not to flinch. This made me realize that outside of my climate echo-chamber, even people who care about climate change are not up-to-date with proposed climate plans. I explained how Congresswoman Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez  proposed a resolution in the House of Representatives titled the Green New Deal, matched by Senator Ed Markey in the Senate. This resolution, which is intrinsically not super detailed, targets decarbonization of our entire economy in the next ten years, by 2030, with a strong emphasis on a just transition for workers in traditional fossil fuel jobs.

Bernie's Green New Deal is more detailed, but the basic principles and science-based targets are the same. The detail of his plan comes with the specification that the goal by 2030 is decarbonization of the electricity and transportation sectors, and full economic decarbonization by 2050. So when critics say Bernie's plan is too radical, let's not forget that his plan has forged a more pragmatically detailed approach to the current Green New Deal resolution.

Did I enjoy canvassing?

It was way more fun that I thought it would be. There's something comforting about one-on-one conversations with strangers. I like listening. I like expanding my point of view. And, I like walking through a part of my community I don't regularly run through. I look forward to doing it more for Colorado's Senate primaries and of course, come general cycle this fall. I promise you won't regret joining the movement!