While being deployed for our first canvassing adventure, our group was told of a legend -- a 76 year old gentleman who walked and talked to 300 houses in one day. We were astounded by the dedication to meet so many voters and brave the cold for the political process. We were impressed at the stamina of this individual to persevere through the obstacles of angry homeowners or bounding canines. We knew this superstar only by his first name -- Cliff.
It was a fateful Saturday that our supervisors informed that the office was going to be graced with the presence of the great Cliff. Excited and inspired to meet the great canvasser, I eagerly volunteered to canvass with Cliff throughout the city of Manchester for a few hours to pick up whatever wisdom the gentleman had to offer. He walks into the office with a big smile on his face and we introduce ourselves and I say “Hi, I’m William” to which he introduces himself and replies, “Hi, I’m adorable”.
The volunteers giggle at the corny joke and our supervisor whispers that Cliff is quite the jokester. I didn’t realize what joys I was getting myself into. After we gather our belongings and head into the car, we head toward our destination, listening to classical music, and he asks for directions. I tell him to turn left to which he replies that he can’t turn left...he’s a Republican. Everytime we needed to go left, he winced or told me he was disappointed in my directions and wished we could go right. From then on, I made sure our path was either to turn “right” or “not-right”.
As our journey took us down the different side streets of Manchester, we pass a the river and Cliff explains, on a serious note for once, that he is in charge of bi-partisan committee for establishing a river walk down in the city. I realize that despite Cliff’s joking exterior, he has deep care for the city and wants to make it a place everyone can. Cliff is an example of politics that worked -- being the vice-chair for the Republican Party of Manchester, he has meet and helped a plethora of presidential candidates (Walker, Huckabee, Santorum) and key political figures to produce meaningful change in the city and for many presidential races. Knowing that these presidential bids are chosen by the people of his city, Cliff goes to each house with the same determination as the last.
Cliff’s biggest strength is his positive attitude. No matter the result of the house that we talked to, he always came back with a smile or joke and was ready to keep going on our path. Resilience is key in canvassing through New Hampshire as you often meet people who don’t want to talk to you or people who think that politics is worthless and that we can never make a change. When he gets no answer, he usually says that the silent majority is back or that the people were so quiet that he didn’t hear anything. When directing the different houses to go to, he quipped that he wondered if there was a Senate we had to check out as well.
Near the end of our journey, I’m waiting at the door of a house while Cliff warms up in the car. Another car passes us slowly, rolls down the window to Cliff and with a knowing look shouts “GET THESE REPUBLICANS OFF MY STREET”. My heart drops and I freeze at the door (not hard as it’s well below 32 degrees) and my mind goes to the worst possible situation of Cliff starting an old turf war with someone over political differences. As I scurry back to the car, Cliff declares that he was in the car and I was on the sidewalk so his street was clear. Classic Cliff. They laugh and I realize that something more friendly and more New Hampshire was happening than a fight: a reunion of friends. Cliff introduces me to his friend who was teacher and a Democrat --“But he likes Rubio so he’s okay”-- and I realize we are in friendly territory. We ended our journey with a toasty house visit and hand-made sugar cookies accompanied by background Irish music.
As we drove back to headquarters, I realized what I treat I was able to experience. Political campaigns are usually expanded by experience and going door-to-door with an experienced celebrity was important in broadening my knowledge of this process. Even when New Hampshire politics is as treacherous as the ocean, Cliff reminded me that the best ship to fare the journey is the friendship.