Dialing for Obama

Latest WaPo/ABC poll: Obama 49, Romney 46 among likely voters.  Get on the phone and start calling.  Yes you can!

I’m not a natural salesperson; that’s why I am content to remain in the academy.  The prospect of cold-calling gives me, well, the shivers.  But given the closeness of this election, even I had to start volunteering to make calls.  I just finished a shift about an hour and a half ago, and I wound up making about 50 calls.

I cannot report any great insights into the state of the race; but I can report that the process is pretty painless, and I don’t have a particularly high pain threshold. 

I didn’t even have to go into a campaign headquarters, although that can develop a good sense of camraderie.  With Organizing for America, you are given a script, but the really interesting thing is the technology.  You give them your phone number; their recorded message calls you, and then you click on a button on the OFA website.  On the website, the person’s name pops up, with their age, gender, and party affiliation.  The computer dials their number.  You ask to speak to them, and off you go!  After the call, you record the information, and only then do you get another call automatically dialed by the computer. 

It’s so easy, even I could do it.

This wasn’t about deep, dialogic conversations concerning the future of public policy in the United States.  More than anything else for me, it was about registering who was a likely Obama voter, who was a likely Romney voter, who was undecided.  Even those who didn’t like the President were pretty polite, especially as soon as I told them I was a volunteer.  People might get hot under the collar with people asking for money, but most people are relatively friendly.

Perhaps the most interesting conversation I had was with a young woman who said that she didn’t want to talk over the phone, but that I could send her materials through e-mail.  And she gave me her e-mail (or so she said).  So I am going to get a few links and send them to her with a nice note, saying that if she wants to talk more I’m happy to.  That’s people power, I hope!

To the extent that the national polls before the WaPo one were telling us things, it is that there is an enthusiasm gap: Obama consistently leads among registered voters, and Romney has a very thin lead nationwide among “likely” voters.  There are lots of problems and issues with likely voter screens, but the overall point is clear: if we get our people to the polls, we win.

So call.  Sign up at OFA and make those calls.  It’s crucial.

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.

7 thoughts on “Dialing for Obama”

  1. I guess I’m just too dumb to know but I want to. What is OFA and why is there no link in this whole piece direct to the place to sign up?

    1. Organizing for America. Website. The campaign seems to have dropped the OFA moniker, but this seems to be where you (I’m a foreigner and can’t) sign up.

  2. At least in my region of Ohio — Ohio! — we are considerably more low-tech at OFA. We get a printed list of voters, and punch in the numbers ourselves. I know that feeling of hating to cold-call, but one can help in other ways too, e.g., entering data.

  3. Hosting a phone bank organized by OFA at my house tonight. There may be such phone banks in your neighborhood also. It’s a great way to meet people who live in your area, if that sounds like fun. Call your local campaign headquarters for more info. You should be able to find that contact info on the website.

  4. Um, for the slow people. Do you have to have some kind of special software on your computer? what if you don’t do internet calls?

      1. I use a desktop and landline. ; > (I have a mobile but it is very old and doesn’t hold a charge very long. I am putting off the inevitable as long as possible.)

        But thanks. I will try to force myself to do this. It’s the thing to do.

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