Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Get out the vote!

Last week, I received this email from novelist Ayelet Waldman:

To win this election, we have to do whatever it takes to convince swing state voters to turn out and vote for Obama.

To that end, I'm hosting a call party

Sunday November 4th
4 pm

Please join me. You bring your cell phone, I'll supply the treats.


I don't know how I got this invitation from Ayelet. I mean, I don't know if she sent this to everyone on her mailing list, or just folks in the Bay Area, or people she sort-of knew, or what. But I got it, and it was welcome.

I know this is a book blog and not a political blog, so see how I integrate the literary and the political on this important day...

The fact is, Ayelet Waldman and her husband Michael Chabon live over in Berkeley, right across San Francisco Bay from me. It's a pretty safe assumption, on both of our parts, that we share a similar left-leaning ideology. And both Ayelet and Michael have been extremely public and outspoken in their support of the President, so I don't think I'm outing anyone. I was pretty sure they'd visited the White House at some point, but it turns out there are far more connections than just that. A quick Google search informs me that Ayelet and Barak Obama were at Harvard Law together. She was hugely active in his 2004 campaign, and attended the 2004 Democratic Convention as an Obama delegate. She, Michael, and their kids also attended his historic inauguration in DC. (And as a native Washingtonian, I still remember my bitterness at not being able to fly home for the occasion.) As for Michael, he went one step further--he wrote Mr. Obama a significant cameo appearance in his most recent novel, Telegraph Avenue (which I rave about here).

So, Ayelet, Michael, and me, we're all good, Obama-supporting Democrats. Personally, as a San Franciscan, I always have a sense of frustration that my vote is meaningless, or "doesn't count." I mean, I don't think that anyone is worried about the Democrats winning San Francisco, or California for that matter. I'm just voting with the pack out here. I want to make a difference in Florida and Michigan and Ohio and Nevada! And that's what Ayelet's invitation allowed me to do in a very small way. I was thrilled to be able to accept her invitation--and not just because I was curious to, let's face it, check out the home of these two writers that I so admire.

I have teased on this blog in the past that Ayelet has squinted at me on many occasions and asked, "How do I know you?" I decided to head that off at the pass by marching up her porch on Sunday and announcing, "Hi, Ayelet, I'm Susan Tunis. Thanks for having me over." To my surprise, when I said my name, Ayelet indicated that she knew who I was, and I believed her. ( Don't know what that's about.) But, I have to tell you that she and Michael were the consummate hosts. They were both friendly, casual, and inviting, and people--they'd turned their home into a war room! There were volunteers at computers and on phones everywhere. I'd arrived exactly on time, but when I entered their kitchen (filled, as promised, with all the snacks and beverages anyone could possibly want) there was activity in full swing. It left me wondering if they'd held their call party in shifts? Had they been doing it all day?  All weekend?  All fall?

What I can tell you is that those two are campaigning pros. They weren't on the phone, but circulating constantly: welcoming, training, troubleshooting. "Anyone having trouble getting on the Internet? Michael will help you." At another point, Ayelet told us to take over her house, to spread out, because we had the run of the place. "I don't care. You can go make calls on my bed--don't tell my husband I said that." (I think it's safe to say that Michael Chabon has better things to do than read my blog.) I can further assure you that I did not wander their house. The parts I saw on the first floor were very, very nice, but also felt real--like real people with four kids lived there. It was a nice, warm, friendly house. That was more than enough to satisfy my curiosity.

Actually, I felt kind of shy being in their home. I've had so many interactions with both of them in bookstores and at lit events over the years. And I feel pretty comfortable in that environment, because it's the right time and place to discuss books and be a fan. But on Sunday, I was a guest in their home, and I was there to do an important job--one I felt really strongly about giving my all. Michael was super friendly when he saw me, but I had a phone to my ear, and it just didn't feel like the right time or place to be that geeky girl who loves his books. (I'm a fan of Ayelet's as well, BTW. I've read and enjoyed quite a few of her books, starting way back with the Mommy Track mysteries.) So, I didn't really kibitz with my hosts or the other guests while I was there. Just the most minimal small talk. But everyone was friendly and working towards a common cause. I made as many phone calls as I could over the course of a few hours. I did the best I could to persuade people in Nevada and Ohio to turn out to vote for Obama.

Before I left, I again thanked Ayelet for inviting me. I told her the best part of joining them was all they taught me and that I could now do on my own moving forward. ("Yes, that's sort of the idea.") I only wish that I'd learned earlier! But I have confidence that my newly-acquired political activism skills will get called upon in the future. Now MoveOn.org and Obama for America have all my info. I suspect I'll be called on again. And again. And I'll answer the call, because I do feel strongly about issues and the direction of this country. I'm so lucky to live in a city where almost everyone thinks like I do. We're proud of our "San Francisco values" out here.

I don't know if you share my opinions or if you'll be voting for my guy, but I urge you to get out and vote today. This is the time to let your voice be heard. It's a privilege, and I get excited every time I do it. Please, get out the vote!

And one final thank you to Ayelet Waldman and Michael Chabon for opening their home to all of us in the hope that we could do some collective good. Their generosity and just...awesomeness, it staggers. Go out and buy their books or something. They're amazing people.


  1. Great story, Susan. The pictures looks so nice! Well done for helping out in the campaign. I should mention (a moment of cultural differences) that we would never, ever, phone people to ask them to vote this or that way. (We = The Netherlands). I know in Englang they'll go door to door to try and get your vote.

    Let's hope your effort pays off!

  2. Thanks for your comments, Judith. Actually, a lot of my calls were to people we believed were already Obama supporters--encouraging them to vote, making sure they knew their polling location, the hours, what ID to bring, etc. But, some of the others there were calling Florida members of the progressive organization MoveOn.org and asking them to volunteer for door to door canvasing shifts right through the polls closing today.

    I didn't mention this in my blog post, but I also made some calls in California in support of Prop 34, which would repeal the death penalty in this state. I will be so pleased if this repeal goes through.

    1. Oh, that sounds very rewarding work - trying to get people to vote, it doesn't help if they support Obama but then don't vote. That's a brilliant thing to do. Plus, it probably much more useful than trying to convince Romney supporters to vote for someone that they're not so sure about.

    2. Oh, BTW I hadn't heard of Prop 34 but yes, of course!