Top 10 Door Knocking Stories

As you know Ms Soapbox tossed her hat in the ring in the Calgary Elbow by-election. On October 27, 2014 the residents of Calgary Elbow tossed it back. Nevertheless, she is of the view that everyone should run for public office at some point in their lives, if for no other reason than to experience door knocking.

Door knocking is considered the most effective grassroots mobilization technique known to man because it allows the candidate to make one-on-one contact with a potential voter.

It can be, to quote Matt Forde, Labour Party door knocker, “revealing, heart-warming, depressing and dangerous, usually all in one afternoon.”*

The Top 10

Naked men: Single men at home consider clothing optional. It is not uncommon to knock on a door at any time of the day or night and be confronted by a young/old//large/small/hairy/hairless man wearing undershorts and pink foamy clogs. Sometimes he has an excuse (just got out of the shower), but most of the time he’s just lounging around in front of the TV. It takes a few such encounters to learn focus on his face, just focus on his face.

Variations on naked men: Variations on this theme include people in their jammies, people in bathrobes, people wrapped in blankets, people brushing their teeth, people who can’t find their teeth and people soaking wet wearing nothing but a towel.

Knocking on the door of the last MLA: Picture this. You’re knocking on the door. It swings open and there she is—Alison Redford, the former premier and previous MLA. It was a potentially awkward moment for both of us, but we managed it like professionals. We talked about the perils of door knocking (naked men). We agreed on the need for comfortable shoes. She wished me luck and off I went.

Knocking on the door of the last MLA’s sister: Ms Redford (the sister) was delightful. We agreed that the Wildrose candidate was not a good choice and since she refused to vote PC there was no alternative but for Ms Redford (the sister) to vote Liberal. And while she was at it, she agreed to take a lawn sign. Cool.

Weird people: It’s a toss-up between the man from Deliverance or the lady from World War Z.  

Dogs: Everyone has a dog. And every dog sees door knocking as an opportunity to bolt for freedom…unless he’s ancient in which case he’ll sniff your leg suspiciously causing no end of distraction.

Cats are strange creatures:  Indoor cats stare balefully at you through the window.  Outdoor cats try to talk you into letting them back inside.  Neither really cares about you as a person.

Thanksgiving: No one celebrates Thanksgiving at the same time or even on the same day so you’re guaranteed to interrupt at least one family getting ready to carve the turkey regardless of when you set out or how early you come in. They are not happy about being interrupted and the delicious aromas wafting out of the house are enough to bring you to your knees.

Unlimited junk food: Door knocking is the best way to lose weight. Ms Soapbox ate nothing but pizza and chocolate chip cookies for a month and she’s down five pounds. Unfortunately her knees are shot but that’s the price we pay for democracy.

The best door knocking story ever! Early in the campaign young Andrew and I approached a door. I knocked and a small child answered.

“Is your mommy or daddy home?” I asked.

A woman’s voice floated down the hall. “May I help you?” she said.

(I couldn’t see her, just the child who’d opened the door).

“I’m Susan Wright, the Liberal candidate in the upcoming by-election…” I said.

“Oh, I can’t talk now” she said, “I’m having a home birth”. Home birth…????

“Yikes” I said (or something equally erudite) and thrust my brochure into the hands of the small child and beat a hasty retreat out of there.

And that’s when I knew that the political pundits were right. Door knocking is the best way to engage with your constituents because nothing, not even a home birth, will stop them from opening the door.

Now if we could just figure out how to get the ones who support the other guy to focus on the issues we think are important we’d have it made!

Everyone should run for public office at some point in their lives. Or, at the very least, help a candidate go door knocking. It’s one of the few times we get to interact with our neighbours about the issues that matter.

Try it. You’ll like it. And it’s good for democracy.

*http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/politics/2012/08/perils-political-door-knocking

 

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38 Responses to Top 10 Door Knocking Stories

  1. Jack Smedley says:

    Hilarious! I’ve done lots of doorknocking as an Investment rep and your stories bring back memories. Well done Susan! Jack – from your days at NOVA.

  2. I am sure your experiences throwing your hat in the ring (and door knocking) have enriched you. I am also sure that Calgary-Elbow, and beyond, have not heard the last of Susan on the Soapbox!

    • Linda, running for public office is like a roller coaster ride, only you’ve got a whole lot of people packed into that little car with you so there’s no danger that you’ll go into free fall when you hit a bump. Great fun! Learned a lot! Looking forward to continuing to participate in the democratic process in any way I can, including getting up on the Soapbox.

  3. David Watson says:

    Susan you were a class candidate and I am proud be associated with your campaign. People vote or don’t for all sorts of reason but I admire your courage to express issues and solutions while surrounded by others that think sound bites are policy. It is a messy business but people like you by your participation make the politics work in this country . Selfishly this will keep your blog going which is excellent. May you and Mr Soapbox have a well deserved rest until the next one.

    • Thanks David. You and Betty were terrific volunteers. You make an interesting point about sound bites. Unfortunately the media controls the message. The toughest part of this campaign was trying to follow the “27-9-3” rule. Candidates are told to reduce their media comments to 27 words, 9 seconds and 3 points. Add that to the fact that some candidates think nothing of blowing off public debates and the public is left with a very superficial view of what the candidates stand for and more importantly how they’re going to pay for their election promises. This must change.

  4. My best was a dude with disheveled hair answering the door wearing a black garbage bag as a shirt, with 3 holes torn in the bag for his head and arms. Turns out his wife was cutting his hair, or so they claimed. Had a great convo and planted a lawn sign.

  5. Delphine Jamieson says:

    I agree with David Watson – class candidate and keep the issues alive. Great job despite the disappointment. Loved your Door-knocking commentary!

    • Thanks Delphine. You live in a part of the world that knows the value of democracy. The toughest part of door knocking was talking to people who proudly state that they don’t vote and never will. Wow!

  6. Jane Walker says:

    Fabulous stories related in your own very special way! Thank you, Susan, for a very special contribution to the Liberal message and Liberal outreach. You are a top drawer candidate and your team was a fabulous example of very special respect and support. I do hope that you will continue to be involved and that you consider another hat to throw in rings to come!!

  7. Jill Swann-Lussier says:

    Love the door-knocking stories!

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  8. anonymous says:

    A laudable effort. Thanks Susan.

  9. ABCanuck says:

    Prentice’s Conservatives won Calgary-Elbow with 33 percent of the turn-out – hardly a moral victory or cause for Prentice’s boys to high-five each other.

    Perhaps someday Albertans will focus on issues and honest, intelligent solutions rather than the reportedly “platitudinuous burbling” of their milque-toast Premier, who has not one of the qualities of Peter Lougheed, and promises of 55 new schools that they knew they couldn’t keep.

    Luckily for Prentice, the new world of low oil prices will give him an out when he can’t deliver on campaign promises and has to deliver a deficit (operating PLUS capital, please) budget before the next election.

    • ABCanuck: Prentice is back tracking already. In today’s Herald he talks about posting a “very significant” operating surplus (which sounds good but means nothing if we don’t have the capital budget to build the schools in the first place). A few days ago Prentice was asked how he would fund his promise of 55 new schools. He said he’d reallocate money already in the budget. He neglected to say that the budget was based on oil at $95.22 US/barrel and it is now down to $81 US/barrel.
      Today Prentice is raising the alarm. When asked about sinking oil prices he said “But certainly all Albertans should be concerned when the price of oil slips below $80 a barrel.” I get the feeling that “all Albertans” will soon see these schools disappear in a puff of smoke. We all know that political promises made on the eve of an election mean nothing, but it is galling to see Prentice and the PCs get away with it time and time again.

  10. Susan you are a class act. Glad to see your sense of humour and ability to make astute observations is perfectly intact!

  11. James Lees says:

    Susan, you seriously need to write a book…… Congratulations on your campaign, I have nothing but admiration for you and the work you did/are doing. Donna Wilson got my vote here, my way of supporting you! Take care, Jim

    • Thanks Jim. Glad to see you supported Donna in Whitemud. There are so many good people out there with a much better handle on healthcare issues than Mr Mandel. Both Donna and the NDP candidate put Mr Mandel to shame, and yet….there he is, our next health minister. Go figure. .

  12. Carlos Beca says:

    Susan I am extremely sorry you did not win. Of everyone I have talked to about politics, you are the one that should be representing us in the Legislature. Unfortunately the voting system is archaic and winning against entrenched bankrupt ideas is not an easy task, especially when big money is behind them. I honestly did not think that any other party other than the Wildrose would be able to take it away from the PCs, especially in Calgary, but the results were mindboggling. Four PC victories after all that has happened, along with the obvious vote buying goodies of the last couple of months, is to me a revelation. Alberta is not only a political aberration but is now the Political BDSM capital of the world. Sheldon Wollin’s idea of the present paradoxical Democracy is to me absolutely correct. Whether or not we can resolve it peacefully is the 64 million dollar question. I personally believe that the attacks we witnessed in Ottawa and Quebec last week are more to do with the frustration of a bad and unequal governance than with Islamic fundamentalism. I may be wrong on this but so far I have no reason to believe I am. Radicalization is happening in Canada in many different cultural settings, and to people of different ages. In other times this was called it the seeds of revolution. Now we call anyone unhappy with our bankrupt political system a terrorist. This is the method used in the good old days by people like Franco in Spain, Mussolini in Italy, Salazar in Portugal, Saddam Hussein in Iraq ……etc. Harper has shown that restricting people’s freedoms is something he has no qualms about if it serves the purposes of his objectives. This is just another opportunity to advance that ideology one more step. Harper has shown that he is an expert in cumulative change.
    Good luck to all of us. If Harper wins the next election, Canada, just like he promised, will definitely become a very different nation, and to me on the way to a mediocre one. We have been in that process for a while now thanks to the incompetence of politicians and the exaggerated influence of money and power elites. If we do not manage to stop this process now, the market fundamentalism (economic terrorism) will be entrenched for a long time.

    • Carlos, thank you for a very thoughtful comment. I too was surprised to see the PCs sweep all four by-elections (I was convinced that the WR would take at least one, likely Calgary-West where they ran Sheila Taylor).
      I don’t know the writings of Sheldon Wolin so I googled him and learned that he’s a respected political philosopher who trained at Harvard and teaches at Princeton. I’ll pick up his book Politics and Vision: Continuity and Innovation in Western Political Thought. It appears to be the place to start.
      With respect to your comments about the deaths of the two Canadian soldiers I note that John Kerry lost no time in zipping up here to characterize the acts as “terrorism” and reassure us all that talks are already underway to “intensify” the relationship between Canadian and US law enforcement, border protection and intelligence agencies to better protect us all.
      I don’t know about you, but the idea of “intensifying” our relationship with the US over terrorism is not in the least bit comforting.

      • Carlos Beca says:

        Susan thank you for all the replies. I had a good laugh with some of the comments.
        Just so you know Sheldon Wolin is to me the best political philosopher in the US. There is a series of interviews with him in http://www.truthdig.com. They have already taped 3 but I understand there will be 8 total. I have watched all 3 and they are precious. He is a calm and obviously inteligent man, Take a look if you can.

      • Carlos, I just started watching the Sheldon Wolin series. Very clear and informative. At the end of the first interview Wolin says that while American economic institutions are a good thing they also pose a threat because economic power translates into political influence, consequently they need to be watched and controlled. He says we’ve known this since the founding fathers created the Constitution and yet we go through periods of sleepwalking where we have to relearn these lessons over and over again. This last by-election in which all four seats were claimed by the PC government would bear that out. Hopefully we’ll learn our lesson by 2016!

  13. GoinFawr says:

    hehe, your tales of skimpy bath towels and baby deliveries reminds me of a few years when back I ‘scrutineered’ in a riding that was a close race the day of a federal election. As you know, though I confess I didn’t when I signed up for it, ‘scrutineering’ can involve going door-to-door as well; reminding people on election day to get to their respective polls before they close, giving (correct) directions if requested, or even organising a lift to the ballot box if they need one; essentially the polar opposite of misdirecting ‘robocalling’, or otherwise discouraging people from voting. Different parties have differing election strategies, I suppose.

    In any case, it wasn’t so much the larger, mostly naked door answerers that shocked us during our walkabout, it was the surprising number of people who were inexplicably affronted by the suggestion (apparently implied by our knocking) that they ought to go and vote. I realize that an uninvited stranger darkening the doorstep can set the best of us on edge at times, but it seemed as if those most offended were operating under some ridiculous misapprehension that we ‘scrutineers’ got paid or something for every person we brought to a polling station, rather than recognizing that the opportunity to vote is one of their few actual RIGHTS as Canadians, written in the blood of those who fought and died for it.

    Those were the people who really disgusted me, regardless of how well-dressed they were.

    • Very good point GoinFawr. I met more than my fair share of people who proudly announced that they’d never voted and weren’t about to start now. (So there!) Unfortunately they failed to see that this was not an act of courage but rather an admission of laziness. Unbelievable, especially when you realize how fragile democracy is and how many people have fought and died to preserve it. .

  14. shannoetry says:

    Remember that time when no one received phone calls? Unless they were a 13 year old girl or your granny (via a home phone, which I don’t even have anymore), it was–at one point, during the apex of the digital revolution–a novelty to receive an honest-to-goodness phone call. Like receiving a piece of mail that wasn’t a bill. Now, we’re bombarded (on home phones anyway) with telephone spam that–I’ve read–when a call comes in, many people are concerned because they assume the only reason they’d receive a phone call is if they’re going to be given bad news.

    Receiving a phone call has become less of a novelty these days and, I would wager, has been somewhat replaced by doorbell ringing. So few people receive unsolicited visits these days–remember when neighborhood kids would just show up at each others doors to play? Does that even happen anymore?–that when the doorbell rings, it must be something with checking out, regardless of what they’re doing/wearing/not wearing.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Shannoetry, good point…given that we usually know who is ringing our doorbells and why (we’ve invited them to dinner), an unexpected knock at the door is worth checking out. It might be the gas company trying to evacuate the neighbourhood or something equally important.
      Your comment about unsolicited phone calls was interesting. Frankly every party uses them but between you and me (and the hundreds of other people who are reading this) I wonder whether they do much good. The people in my riding received so many phone calls from all of the candidates that I’m surprised they didn’t show up at the door carrying pitchforks and torches.

  15. Liane Sharkey says:

    Susan, if I could have reached over from Ontario to vote for you I certainly would have. You are just the kind of candidate I would be so proud to endorse and I also hope you throw that hat of yours into another ring in the future. You represent an intelligent, honest solution – someone who truly cares about others and has integrity. What a breath of fresh political air! At least on the same night as your electoral process, we in Toronto finally got some kind of fresh air of our own finally – so let’s hope your next time around the people of Calgary-Elbow will realize the value of voting for Susan Wright!

    • Thanks Liane! Here in the west we were watching the Toronto mayoral race with bated breath. We’re delighted that Toronto wouldn’t have to suffer through four more Ford years. My goodness what a strange aberration that was.
      Hopefully we’ll be able to breathe new life into Alberta politics as well in the spring of 2016. By then we’ll have been under PC rule for 45 years–can you believe it?

  16. Julie Ali says:

    Hi Susan,

    It takes a lot of courage to stand for political office especially in Alberta where the voters seem vote mainly for the Tories. Who knows why? Maybe they are thinking of their wallets and imagine the Tories will keep taxes low.

    I am curious how Team Prentice will pay for all the bribes that they have offered voters, that they have happily accepted. In Alberta the only way to get hired seems to be by offering to build schools, and solve the problems in healthcare/long term care. But I am curious how they will finance all these great by-election offers to the citizens.

    I imagine Team Prentice will yap sagely about these promises which will remain as promises. Then when they get their mandate at the next provincial election they will deflate all the helium balloons of citizen hopes.

    The Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta is very good at bribing and getting re-elected; now when will they get good at actually governing? I don’t think it will happen. Why would they bother to do their jobs if citizens just keep rehiring them no matter how bad the job performance is?

    Eventually revenue will become a problem and I do think a sales tax will happen sooner or later. They’re not going to go to the oil and gas industry for more royalty cash and I don’t see how they are going to pay for even essential services as the price of gas goes down.
    I wonder if the housing bubble will also go pop at about the same time as the boom?

    In any case Susan, attempting to become an MLA was a darn gutsy thing to do. When citizens do this sort of brave thing that I would never do–it is good for democracy. You continue to be the peoples’ choice.

    The door knocking stories were enough to make me feel that political life is not for the faint of heart. Surely all these semi-naked men could go to the front door decently attired? What the heck is wrong with men? I’m also surprised you didn’t get bit by a dog and scratched by a cat. Some of the dogs we encountered in the municipal election were wolf-like.

    • Julie, you’re absolutely right. The Prentice’s biggest problem going forward is figuring out how he’s going to deliver on all his promises. It was like watching a carnival huckster–step right up and get your free schools and hospitals here. You want better seniors’ care well today’s your lucky day because we have that too.
      Meanwhile oil prices are plummeting and industry analysts say they will stay low for quite some time. Not good.
      The only answer is to increase revenue (and eliminate waste). Unfortunately the PCs don’t have the guts to do it so they’ll deliver us into the hands of the private sector under the guise of “creative partnerships” and “innovative relationships”. (Code words for P3s.).
      It’s going to be a very tough decade here in Alberta, one that could have been avoided had Prentice followed Lougheed’s example and governed for all, not just the few who’ll keep him in power.

  17. berryfarmer says:

    Well, I just loved this… fresh off 26 days of door-knocking myself. I may just have to write my own top 10… if you don’t mind. Take care, Susan.

  18. Berryfarmer, I’d love to hear about your door knocking experiences. Matt Forde, the Labour door knocker talks about meeting a skinhead wearing nothing but a handlebar mustache. When asked whether he intended to vote in the upcoming election the skinhead said “Look at me man. Do I look like a man interacting with the state?” (Ummm, I guess not).

  19. Rose MacKenzie-Kirkwood says:

    I have nothing but admiration for your efforts. Politic baffles me because no one seems to see the big picture whether it is how you should run the country or how big the hole in the ozone layers has to be before it is an issue. I have stopped trying to figure out why and simply have resigned to do my best for the world. Now as far as door knocking, I can remember trying to get money for cancer and never understooding how “No thank you.” was even considered a possible answer, I was not selling cookies. Trying to start a conversation, more power to you. Had the Liberals won the election, I know that you would have done a marvelous job to make life better for everyone. Thank you for trying.

  20. Thank you for the kind words of support Rose. The saddest and most frustrating reaction I received at the door was “I’ve never voted and I certainly don’t intend to start now!” (said in a tone of righteous indignation). Of course these people are the first to complain long and loud about how the government has let them down. It’s enough to make you want to grab them by the scruff of the neck and give them a good shake, unfortunately that would give politicians a bad name 🙂 Best of luck on your efforts to raise funds for cancer research.

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