Hello, hello, and welcome to another installation of "The Gods Are Bored!" I'm Anne Johnson, hardy volunteer at Netroots Nation! Wow, did I bust my chops today!
EXHIBIT A: SELF AT NETROOTS NATION, WITH BOXES OF T-SHIRTS
Netroots Nation is a convention that pretty much gathers every sort of progressive group, from labor unions to First Nations protesters, Daily Kos, ActBlue, plus old standbys like the ACLU and the Society for the Separation of Church and State. On Saturday a few presidential candidates will drop in as well.
My volunteer shift, right at the opening of the convention, consisted of doling out swag bags and free t-shirts. I was part of a team of six volunteers doing this, and we all rose to the challenge.
Do you remember that "I Love Lucy" episode where the candies are coming down the conveyor belt and Lucy and Ethel have to wrap them up? It wasn't quite that intense, but readers, I flew around that swag table like a dervish for three hours straight! There were all kinds of steps for each person and each bag, from making note that they had received the bag, to stuffing it with a few pieces of swag that arrived late, and then getting the right sized t-shirt for the person. Plus, do you know me? How enthusiastic will I be to greet people who hate fossil fuels, love LGBTQ rights, believe in unions, and -- needless to say -- detest Donald Trump? I was all smiles and good cheer!
I've lived near Philadelphia for more than 30 years, and I've spent lots of time at the Convention Center. I know full well that the place never has enough water and snacks available. Today was no different. The bottle of water I brought was gone in the first 90 minutes of my 3-hour shift. And although many attendees wanted to refill it for me, none of them knew where to go to do it. It was okay, though. I made it through those hectic 3.75 hours and crawled panting to the water fountain ... and in a little while I felt fine again.
In the afternoon I attended the Labor Caucus, and it was good old-time union organizing and notes-comparing. Everyone was upbeat despite our current political climate. There were lots of unions represented too. Always a good time when a teacher can rub elbows with a Teamster. It was also interesting to hear about innovative ways that unions are gaining membership. There was no particular speaker, we just talked to the people at our tables and then sent up a brave soul to report out what we'd said that was important. No PowerPoint, no blah blah blah. Then we all gathered in the front of the room for a photo. Oh yeah, and they had snacks and lemonade too! Union, yes!
And then the 21st century came rushing up to club me like some kind of embittered cave man. Oddly enough, this happened at the kickoff for Elizabeth Warren's campaign in Philadelphia.
I've always loved Elizabeth Warren, and in the last year or two she's grown on me more. I started a monthly donation to her campaign awhile back, and she actually called me to thank me. So It was with great excitement that I attended the kickoff, and it was made even better because my daughter The Fair joined me there.
The Warren bash was extremely well-attended. The rented room filled up fast, the organizers put out all the extra seats that were available, and it was still standing-room. As is often the case at such grassroots things, the attendees were mostly (but not all) people of a certain age.
The nice young volunteers stepped up and -- of course -- thanked us for coming. Then they told us they were going to roll out something brand new and really special that they hadn't revealed before at any other event! Wowsa, what could it be? A Skype with Liz?
Turns out the really special thing was an app designed to gather voter data for the Warren campaign.
The Fair's phone was almost out of juice, so she downloaded the thing on my phone. I tried to follow the PowerPoint, but as is ALWAYS the case with me, the presenter flew through all the great things the app could do, and she lost me at the first slide. Haven't I written about this before? I'm a fucking fossil. If it's a new computer program, I just. Don't. Get. It.
My daughter The Fair is not a fossil. She's a sweet flower. As the event wound to a close (with more than a quarter of the attendees leaving early in a thunderstorm), she turned to me and said, "I can sure see how this app will help with organizing, but this is not what I expected this evening to be."
That made me feel a little better.
Elizabeth has a plan for everything, and her campaign will be whiz-bang on the smartphones. (It already is. I get texts all the time.) But on this flash-flood evening, a large number of older liberals were left shaking their heads as they sneaked out into the rain.
Well, what are you gonna do, after all? You can't call people on the phone and expect to speak to them. Heck, Elizabeth Warren called me, and I let it go to voicemail since it said "Unknown Caller!" It's even worse to knock on a door. When was the last time you answered the door to a stranger? So it makes abundant sense to be able to text people and be in touch with them nearer to election day. I just can't do it myself. I'll put my money in the collection plate and feel like a good church lady.
When I went to the elevated train this morning to ride into Philadelphia, I got down on the platform, and every single person was looking at their phone. Every last person. It was so unnerving that I began reciting Walt Whitman poetry. No one noticed anyway, so why not?
People don't own smartphones. Smartphones own people. It only stands to reason that this is the single best way for a geeky candidate to mobilize her base. But I don't like it.
You know what sucks about being a Baby Boomer? Knowing that your best century is behind you.
I'm returning to Netroots Nation Friday and Saturday. Elizabeth Warren will be there on Saturday. Perhaps she'll pat my hand and say, "There there, you can just donate. You don't need to use the app."
Missing the days when phones were attached to walls I remain,
Your reporter from the front lines,