Tuesday, 9th October, was the last day for voters registration in Philadelphia. I joined a group of friends on an election road trip to Philly for a door to door campaign to get more people registered to vote. The experience proved to be a huge learning opportunity as it gave me a chance, not only to work close up with my friends on the election, but to meet Americans in their homes and learn more on their personal views on the elections. Coming from a Country where political partisanship is guided (or misguided) largely by ideals that can mostly be described as sentimental and shallow, especially given a history of colonial exploitation, social inequality, underdevelopment, civil war, dictatorship, political corruption, economic instability, religious violence, and insecurity, I was eager to know what average Americans thought about their politics and how it reflects on them.
Not very clear about how things were to unfold, I was a bit surprised when our Uber pulled up right in front of the Hillary Clinton Campaign Office in Philly. I know Secretary Clinton was mentioned once or twice while we were preparing, but I wasn’t clear about what she had to do directly with our activity that Saturday in Philly until we pulled up at the Campaign office. I thought this to be interesting. “Was I brought here to campaign door to door for Hillary? Sounds like back home”. Well, it turned out not to be so…surprisingly to me.
And so we were warmly received by the Hillary team at the campaign headquarters, taken through the orientation and subsequently handed campaign materials including blank voter registration forms. One of the instructions that stood out, strictly to be adhered to, was not to by any means suggest or solicit a party or candidate to the people we come upon, even though we were from the Hillary Campaign office. Only educate them on the elections and invite them to get registered if they are yet to. And off we went.
Working with the team I was with, I observed their approach to the exercise which, to me, was simplistic. Without coercion or incitement, we engaged folks who allowed us audience patiently following through with our questioning to ensure all required aspects have been covered, while explaining the process where it is unclear. We didn’t need to know if you are a Democrat or a Republican, we just want to be sure you are ready to vote, you are aware of the candidates, you know where to cast your vote and if you need help getting there on the election day. A particular resident invited us into his house to help his wife out. It turned out he wasn’t interested in the process, expressing strong reservations about the choice of candidates, how they emerged and the electoral process so far, haven being involved for many years until recently. At a point, he subtly hinted the Democratic Party may not be his best choice though. This still didn’t matter to my team as they engaged him warmly in a conversation about his views while sharing theirs.
At the end of the whole exercise, no mention of Vote for Hillary was heard from any of my teammates. All I could see in their actions was the sheer commitment to the success of the process, and determination to ensure maximum participation by the citizens. My teammates expressed responsibility for the outcome of the election and thus participated to ensure they shape that outcome. This to me is exercising the power and the right of the citizen, which is the greatest in any polity. Aptly put, the true strength of any leader lies in the ignorance of the people.