Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Losing the Janes

Just prior to Election Day I did a post about my volunteer activism entitled, "Turning On the Janes and Phone Banking." I described my experience talking to a struggling single mother from Cuyahoga County, Ohio I called “Jane.” Jane didn’t want to vote due to frustration and cynicism. During our conversation Jane told me,

"I'm not waiting online all day like last time. Screwed up my whole day and my vote for Kerry didn't count anyway. It was stolen."
For good measure Jane added that I was,

"Wasting my time with these calls. It's fixed and the politicians never care about people like me."
As I wrote at the time,

”Jane is a single woman raising two kids and a nurse. She's living paycheck to paycheck and struggling to be a good mother. Her children are twelve and nine years of age. Jane's job does not allow her to be home for her kids after school. She's frustrated about not being able to attentively supervise their study habits and be more involved in their school. ‘I'd like to at least meet their teachers.’ Everything from groceries, clothing, utilities and the phone bill is a hassle. She has no time and money is very tight.”
Jane was also personally impacted by the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. One younger brother died in Afghanistan in 2003 and the other was killed in Iraq in 2004 when he was forced to endure another tour of duty. The one in Afghanistan signed up shortly after 9/11 even though he had a football scholarship. Her other brother enlisted in the National Guard prior to 9/11 and had no choice about going to Iraq. As Jane put it to me,

"My brother in Afghanistan might be alive but they don't get enough support because of Iraq. My brother in Iraq was supposed to come home."
We talked for forty minutes and I convinced her to vote after devoted listening and intense persuasion. It was an exhausting conversation and I was proud of myself for not giving up. I received an email from Jane today and she gave me permission to publish it as long as I continued referring to her as Jane.


I meant to keep in touch but I’m just too busy. I’m still going to mail that music demo like I promised. I haven’t forgotten about you. You’re so idealistic and you tried so hard to get me to vote. Well I did vote. But Robert, I have to ask? What are these people I voted for doing? Why is the Senate having a debate about having a debate about stuff that won’t make any difference? My neighbor’s son just died in Iraq. All the hurt about my brothers came rushing back when I heard. Who the hell is Joe Biden and that Warner guy? Why bother voting on something that won’t make Bush end the war? What are they doing? I don’t get it. I know you believe in this stuff but all these politicians talk like my first husband. Can’t trust any of them.”
I share Jane's frustration after watching this week’s spectacle in the Senate. I know Democrats are feeling their oats these days but they better not lose voters like Jane.


CitizenBoo said...

It is hard to convince people to vote when our politicians play politics with people's lives.

I'm curious to know what you wrote back to Jane. Do any of us have any answers?

Anonymous said...

We need to dump Reid. Between the man's shady land deals (ethics) and bumbling responses to Bush, he's proven that he's not the right man for the job.

He was a good underdog, but good underdogs don't always make bulldogs.

The Democratic congress is fully meeting my expectations so far; that is, they talk big and carry teeny, tiny, non-binding, little sticks.

The problem of course, is the Republicans. As I predicted, there is no way this congress could get it together to impeach Bush, withdraw funding, or invoke anything like the war powers act.

Unless something radically changes in the political realm, I take these first few days to be predictive of the next two years.

Deirdre Helfferich said...

So when are the Democrats going to learn that people want representatives with SPINE? This wishy-washy crap that they're doing these days (again, with certain notable and noble exceptions) is why people like me can't stomach voting for anybody but third-party candidates, and DEEPLY regret voting our fears and voting for Dems. Republicans seem to be about nothing but Follow the Leader (whoever that is)....

Jane should continue to vote, but not for anybody in the mainstream parties. It's pretty much a waste of time.