The phone rang for the sixth time that evening. “Your turn,” my husband said.
Sighing, I extricated myself from the love seat where Greg and I sat watching TV, and picked up the phone. I didn’t need to say a word. The robocall started, and I set the receiver down again.
In recent months, my home phone has bombarded me with political calls. Some were prerecorded; others were made by campaign workers; one was actually a live call from a local candidate. In addition, my doorbell rang on three or four occasions, pressed by campaigners and actual candidates for city office. All this attention, rather than flattering me, frustrated and annoyed me.
I wondered if I was going to have to get rid of my land line in order to get some peace. Or maybe I should call the voter registration people and change my party affiliation to Independent.
I conducted an informal survey on Facebook in which I asked three questions:
- Have you been getting a lot of recorded political phone messages?
- Have you received any on your cell phone?
- Do the phone calls influence how you will vote?
My Facebook friends’ replies fell along these lines: yes, yes, and no.
I think the final answer is highly significant. Some responders clarified that they do their due diligence before the election, checking legislative records of incumbents, looking for articles online that were not written by staff of the candidates or an opposing party. (I do that, too.)
Granted, my Facebook friends are highly intelligent people. But is there anyone in this country who votes for candidates on the basis of robocalls?
One day I listened to a tele-campaigner go through her spiel. She didn’t stop for breath until she said, “Can we count on your support?” I answered, “No. And I’d appreciate it if you’d tell (the candidate) that I am not voting for her because this is the fourth time this week that her campaigners have interrupted me while I was cooking dinner. In fact, I am no longer planning to vote for any (name of party) candidate because I am tired of being harassed.”
Amazingly, the calls stopped.
Until after the primary.
I can’t help wondering if it is even cost-effective to conduct a campaign through phone bombing. Maybe money is no object. A statistic I picked up on Facebook said that 5% of Americans are millionaires—as compared to 50% in the Senate and the House. How can our legislators represent us when they don’t live with our daily challenges? They are not typical Americans.
And why should people have to be rich to run for office? We live in the electronic age. We have access to the World Wide Web. (I know there is a lot of misinformation out there, so voters must beware.) But surely there are more effective (and less expensive) ways to get your message out there than by telephone. Or those horrible campaign flyers. I’m at the point now where I take them from my mailbox directly to the recycling bin.
I also like open forums where anyone can ask the candidates a question. Average people don’t consult the politicians’ talking points. They will ask different questions than reporters or professional interviewers. Of course, candidates in that situation often answer a different question than was asked. But that’s revealing in its own way, isn’t it?
If a politician ever asked me how to win my vote, this is what I would say:
- Be a person of exemplary character. Live your entire life in an ethical manner. Have a mission to make life better for your constituents.
- Be intelligent and educated. Know what you’re talking about. Have solutions—tell me your ideas instead of trashing your opponents.
- Don’t run for personal gain.
- Do let me know when you will be in my neighborhood to meet me. It should be at a neutral location, like a community center or a restaurant. This is your only reason to send me a post card.
- Don’t show up at my door without an invitation.
- Don’t call me. Don’t have your lackeys call me. And don’t try to make me listen to a recorded message.
How do you feel about political robocalls? Please weigh in below.