Why you, I oughta…….



I toned down the headline on this post. It’s Sunday. No use carrying a grudge forever.

Yesterday, canvassing for Barack, I ran into the rudest householder so far. I’ll call him Mr. Blowhard.

I asked for his wife. He wasn’t on our list, which usually indicates he’s a lost cause.

“She’s studying. Who are you?”

His clipped tone indicated I should get right to the point.

“Obama. Well, not really Obama……”

“No thanks.” Thanks being the last civilized word I would hear from this man.

The door slammed. And as I headed down the driveway, I could hear his tirade.

“Four more years, my a–!. Blah, blah, blah. A bunch of other vitriol that I don’t remember right now. I just know my mom would have washed his mouth out with soap.

Now, being a pretty tolerant free speech person most times and a Christian raised to turn the other cheek, I would typically ignore this type of behavior. Maybe even say a prayer for the guy. I’m sure he’d appreciate it….Not. But as I walked down the drive I shouted back as well. The gist: you don’t need to be such a jerk. But I’m sure I used a more potent word.

His behavior was over-the-top. Most other people just say they are for the other side and politely shut the door without knocking it off its hinges. I guess he forgot his wife was studying. Good for her. She’s trying to expand her mind. Maybe get a better job. Pursue the American dream. It’s just a shame that her husband wouldn’t give her the consideration of asking whether she would like to speak with the canvasser. I guess her thoughts don’t count. He has enough for everybody. And I presume, I have enough too, which is why I’m drawing all these conclusions without knowing the whole family dynamic. It’s just that I’ve experienced this frustrating phenomenon several times on past campaigns. The alpha-male hiding the little woman in the tower and not handing over the phone or calling her to the door. Note Mr. Blowhard. I don’t care what you think. Think whatever you want. But you don’t need to be a first-class jerk. I was only going to ask a simple question. Is that not allowed in America?

I wondered if this man shows a different face to the rest of the world. Is he a beloved softball coach, on the Knights of Columbus, on the board of directors of some charitable institution? I don’t know. Too bad first impressions are so hard to shake.

But this whole episode is but a pimple of the rear-end of my life. In a couple months, I will be celebrating Obama’s victory, because the race is likely to be decided by Independents, who are carefully considering the options and deciding which man would be better for the country. My job is to try to lay out the evidence, several times to the same person, if need be. Just doin’ my job, ma’am.


Was it good for you?

Really, Barack. It had nothing whatsoever to do with you. Sometimes I’m so busy living the American Dream that I get overcome with sleepiness. And it didn’t help that Bill Clinton wore me out the night before.

So I’m really sorry to fall asleep on you right after you said “thank you” about a million times to shut the audience up and after you professed your affection for Michelle and Joe Biden. Maybe you could have saved that for the end.

So I missed the whole thing. I’m counting on my friends to fill me in. C’mon friends. Don’t let me down.

Sometimes I just want to cry


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Today’s canvass made me a little weepy. I mourn the loss of community. On a single street I met a woman who was alone in the world, struggling with a minimum wage job, who could not get health insurance. Her eyes were as blue as cornflowers.

She said she thought everyone was afraid. I have to agree. For different reasons, so many people have lost the faith. But I feel we canvassers are like apostles who are there to remind people that things will get better with time. But will they? Who knows? No matter who takes office. I asked the lady to be sure to vote for President Obama because this will be a tight race and she needs the kind of help he offers.

A few more minutes into it a man in a blue Corvette pulled up and asked me if I were passing out money. I said, no, I was trying to round up votes for President Obama. He told me to count him out, but he must have had one iota of sympathy because he wished me better luck next time. Obviously, he thinks this race is decided. I certainly do not think it is.

I wish there was something I could personally do to help this lady. She’s one of many people I meet that I want to help. I get weepy a lot. I can’t help everbody single-handedly. We need to do that as a country. I’m willing to pay my taxes and pay more to help the needy if need be.

I can turn away from a door to head down the street to my next destination, but it’s so hard for me to turn a downtrodden person out of my heart.

Where’s Walter?



I’ve decided that I really miss Walter Cronkite. I miss him the way I miss Sunday mornings as a kid, when Dad spread the newspaper out over the kitchen table and we got our crack at the various sections. We had to be careful not to touch our church clothes with our ink-stained hands or dunk the corner of the funnies into our Captain Crunch.

Come to think of it, I don’t remember my one brother reading the paper. He was too busy stuffing his hand down to the bottom of the cereal box for the prize or agitating one of us other kids. I should have known then he’d grow up to be a Republican.

I enjoyed newspapers so much that I grew up to become a newspaper reporter and editor – for a period of time, until I realized there was no future in it for me. Now I hate to say that I don’t subscribe to any newspapers because even the weekend editions would lie there at the end of my driveway, in their plastic bags until a Good Samaritan came and threw them in the recycling bin. That was wasteful spending – even this bleeding heart liberal could see that.

It’s sad that a lot of people don’t feel we have time to read the newspapers any more. I do try to make up for it by catching the most important news online, but I know I’m missing a lot. I believe this is why we have such an uninformed electorate. You just don’t find the depth stories online as you do in the newspapers, unless you go out of your way to find them. It was nice for a while when the New York Times online edition was totally free.

But pay? For information? That you can’t even hold in your hand? I’d feel like a narc – or a mobster.

So how can you blame those frustrating swing voters who can’t make up their minds on a presidential candidate yet? They probably are looking for unvarnished information and they’d like somebody to drop it into their lap, because digging takes time – otherwise they would have already done that. Lacking this direct statement of the facts and the votes and the projected outcomes of policy, the only information they get is from negative political ads, tale-spinning politicians, and the exploding heads on cable news.

This is a flaw of representative democracy. The people just don’t have enough time to keep their eye on the politicians and it doesn’t help that Uncle Walty is already dead and newspapers are struggling for readers.

Panera used to be one of my favorite places to eat



Who doesn’t love Panera? All those yummy soups and salads, no long lines, orange and yellow paint to stimulate the appetite and a civilized clientele. You don’t usually hear screaming kids in Panera. It’s the place go to catch up with your girlfriends, to grab a bite while shopping or to hook up your laptop and do your schoolwork, apparently. You see lots of people in there with their textbooks, sitting alone or in twosomes.

But I was dismayed the other day to see they are letting the riff raff in. I’m glad I was only getting coffee and didn’t plan to eat, because the people across the aisle ruined my entire appetite. It was the dreaded Tea Party, or some other group wearing t-shirts proclaiming the benefits of a small government.

This is AMERICA and people are free to assemble and express their political viewpoints and who should better appreciate that than Mrs. Liberal. But Geez Louise. I was trying to hold an Obama meeting less than 20 feet away from them and they made for an unpleasant distraction.

It’s nice Panera doesn’t mind that groups come in, commandeer an entire section of tables and maybe buy three cups of coffee and one pastry between them.  When I was starting to organize the Lake County volunteer effort the early part of this year, we had no other place to hang our hat than Panera or the library. Thank goodness our headquarters opened when it did because we were bursting out of the private Panera meeting room by March. The real party faithful were the people who joined up the earliest and happily they are still with us as we grow the ranks with newer volunteers.

This past week the North Mentor team I now lead had to once again meet at Panera because headquarters was too full. Eat that, Tea Party. But we’re opening offices throughout the county so we can have more room. Read: We have a great ground game.

I’m glad this group was almost done with their business before we got started. It was nice to see the rear end of them. Oops. That doesn’t sound right. 🙂

I think the Tea Party influence is waning. Maybe too much small-mindedness was more than most people could take. As they left I yelled after them that I hope they enjoyed their Social Security and their Medicare. I don’t think they heard me.

When Barack wins the election, it might be safe to go to Panera’s again. I feel bad that I can find an entire group of people revolting. That’s usually not like me. 

Breaking through (or not) to the people who have had Rush Limbaugh lobotomies


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She stood in the driveway with her husband – cruising for a fight with a cigarette hanging out of her mouth. Even without the nic stick, her head would have been smoking.

Too much Fox News watching, you see. She’d been brainwashed by the Wizard of Oz himself, Rupert Murdoch, and all of his on-air “talent”. This woman whom my canvass partner encountered a couple of months ago was armed for bear. Unlike many “Conservatives”, who close the door in our face and go back into their caves, this defiant woman was going to take us on in front of her house and she didn’t care who heard her.

I was beckoned across the street so I could provide reinforcement. What chance does a 15-year-old girl have against a resolute grandma?

The woman railed on about too much government, how the government wastes money, how Solyndra was a big mess.

I countered with the jobs saved by the auto bailout, the extension of unemployment benefits to people out of work and I noted that Solyndra was but one company. I said I would not trust a super wealthy man or a corporation to tell me what’s good for me. Think about it. Companies are in it for the profit. And they will just keep taking a bigger and bigger piece of the pie, leaving no services for the average person.

The anti-government crowd is purely EVIL. They want to take away your Social Security, your retirement security, your Medicare and your teachers and cops. Teachers and cops work for the government. Teachers and cops have worked for the government since the founding of the country. There was no problem with that arrangement back then. So why now?

Pointing toward the lady’s cigarette I told her that I hope she never gets really sick. She can smoke if she wants to. I don’t care. It’s not my job to save people from themselves. But I feel it is my job to help keep people from making stupid political decisions. I’m not even doing it for myself. I have excellent health insurance and a well-paying job. But I know that all good things in life are at risk and I also know that others aren’t as well-off as me. And I truly care about those people. It’s how my parents raised me. Dad made sure we went to church. Mom made sure we were never cruel to other people.

Do these people know that spending on government agencies is down – not up? Do they know that Conservatives are now crying debt reduction when they had no problem going into debt to fight a meaningless war or two. They are just jerking the country around and too many people are falling for it. They are marching – like lemmings – toward their own extinction.

And the Democratic party – the party of the people – are trying to talk some sense into them, or if not sense at least a little compassion and it’s like trying to have a conversation with Penn and Teller.

The right likes to paint us pointy-headed intellectual snobs who are out of touch with reality. Not true at all. I’m a very humble person. I don’t think I know all the answers, but I know that dismantling  the societal benefits we’ve established over the last century is not one of them. 



Cake and Flake


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Mentor Neighborhood Team Leaders Frank Hribar and Donna Miller cut President Obama’s birthday cake Saturday at Garfield Park.

This past weekend was another big “Day of Action” for the Obama grass roots team. Day of Action means we do the same things we always do, but we try to get a whole lot of people to do it with us. Paid staff and volunteers were burning the phone lines last week trying to line people up to help with the canvassing and phone calling and to attend President Obama’s 51st birthday celebration this past Saturday at Garfield Park in Mentor. These little get-togethers serve a couple of purposes. It’s easier to get new people to show up at something that seems like fun. And it provides a chance for the local field organizers to get pictures of the masses of people supporting the president. This shows they are doing a good job. These young paid staffers are highly competitive. I suppose in the big picture competing against our compatriots in other counties is a good thing because if everyone is competitive we get more people working for the president statewide and we know Ohio is important to the President’s reelection hopes.

But it’s a lot of stress on everyone – especially them because their jobs are on the line. But we volunteers feel the pressure too. We’re the ones who are making the phone calls and doing the canvassing, with a little help from the paid staffers if turn-out is not good.

Going into this past weekend, the field organizer for Western Lake County was pumped. Eight people had signed up to go out canvassing Saturday. If you read my Avon Lady post, you would understand this is no small feat.

Turns out the only people who showed up were me and my usual partner Erik. The people who didn’t show up – well we refer to them as people who “flake” – that is say they will come and then don’t show up. This is probably a term the group would rather not me put out there. But it matters. It matters that people who commit to something follow through with their commitments. Sure excuses could be accepted for a trip to the emergency room, an unexpected work deadline, a death in the family. But I somewhat doubt all six of these people had that level of emergency.

More likely the prospect of walking in high-80s heat with tropical humidity was a turnoff. Ok, so the grass roots team needs people who are more committed to keeping their promises and we need more people who have a soldier or mailman mentality.

I had rivulets of sweat running down my face and my chest was drenched. Kind people on Pear Tree Lane offered me a bottle of water and a refill. You try to hydrate before you go out, but on those kinds of days, it’s not long before you look pathetic. Look, I’m the woman who pulls weeds on these kinds of days and has to go into the air conditioning so I don’t develop syncope. I’m no suburban cowboy by any stretch.

But the point is that Erik and I lived and we helped in our small way to fight the powerful moneyed interests who are brainwashing people into putting more money into the pockets of the very rich! Wake up Mentor people. You are NOT the very rich. That’s a nice Corvette in your garage – but you are NO Donald Trump.

We had an easy canvass in an area that took us in basically a circle. We each hit about 40 homes. We got a lot of nobody answering the door (WE KNOW YOU’RE HOME – YOU HAVE 6 CARS IN YOUR DRIVEWAY), but some nice Obama supporters (like Water Lady from Pear Tree Lane) and some people who said “no thanks.” I usually push them before they can close the door in my face. Does “no thanks” mean you just don’t want to say how you vote or are you a Romney supporter? Yesterday, it was mostly the latter. OMG that makes me crazy. Average people voting against their own self-interest.

But that’s for another post.

Ding Dong: We Need Avon Ladies


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What’s the most difficult thing to ask a political volunteer to do?

Did you guess give money?

Wrong!!!! Or should I say “buzzzzz”?

I’ve found that otherwise very extroverted people gasp in terror when you ask them to go knocking on doors. Either that, or by the time people get old enough to be very relaxed in their own skin their rhutabaga is giving them trouble. I know rhutabaga is a vegetable, grammar policewoman! I’m just using it to describe a vague set of symptoms that affect movement from the waist down. If I can’t be silly, I just might cry.

How did the old-time Avon Ladies do it? I suppose times were different in the ’50s and ’60s. A lot of ladies were home, bored to tears, boiling baby bottles and cabbage. The Avon Lady was probably a welcome distraction — Avon Lady and potential customer sitting elbow-to-elbow at the kitchenette, having a cup of coffee in their pink Melmac cups and discussing the merits of the cream products vs. the sprays.

Everybody today is much busier and volunteers can relate to that. They know they don’t like to jump up when they are having dinner, so they don’t want to “bother” people. Or some have found a few remarkably unfriendly people the last time they did this – unfriendly people with big dogs and menacing dispositions.

To heck with all that, I say. This is the future of our country we are talking about. Get over yourselves! Actually, we don’t turn anybody away. If volunteers prefer to sit in the back room and enter data, we’re happy to have those people too. But we need data to enter. And we get that by knocking on doors several times a week and asking people how they plan to vote, or calling them on the phone.

Why don’t we just ask them their bra size while we’re at it, you might ask. But I’ve only had a few people tell me it’s none of my business and I’ve been knocking on doors since April. Two cheers for the volunteers who are willing to go talk to people. We have some real stalwarts. Thank you, Erik, and Sue, and Janet and others who go out regularly. Some may do it out of a sense of duty. But me? I think it’s fun!

As I put in a pitch for more canvassers recently, it’s important work, you burn calories, you get to see neighborhoods you didn’t know existed and, if you like looking at flowers, you will find, as I have, that Mentor, Ohio is one of the most garden-friendly cities anywhere. Note to fund-raisers: this is a great town to do a garden tour. Plus you meet some very nice people and, even if they aren’t on our side, the most they do is say “sorry, not interested.”

So c’mon. Don’t let me have all the fun. If you would like to canvass for President Obama and if you don’t want to see a return to those days of capitalism running amok (remember the sorry state of your 401ks a couple years ago?), drop me a comment. I’ll take it from there.

A Blue Dot in the Red Sea


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A blue dot in a sea of red – that’s the way I felt when I first moved from an inner ring Cuyahoga County suburb to Mentor 21 years ago. Conventional wisdom was that EVERYBODY here is a Republican. Not true. It’s safe to come out of the closet, fellow Democrats. The party of the people is alive and well in Lake County’s largest city. You just have to go out and find them.

You never know who you are going to run into volunteering for a national election. Here is a photo of herself in Lakewood with Vice President Joseph Biden. He asked me to call him Joe. What a guy.

That’s my job – I’m Donna Miller – mild-mannered, sometimes grumpy, desk jockey by day – political warrior on the weekends and weeknights. The D in my DNA stands for Democrat – or the Do-gooder party for some Republican cynics.

I have to laugh at the idea that a civilized society can live with a limited government. Not the roll-around-on-the-floor, teenage giggle-fest over the stupid things Archie Bunker used to say. More of a sad laugh, mixed with a sigh. The laugh of the adult who has seen and heard it all.

A new connection on LinkedIn asked me how I got to be the first person to run Mentor’s volunteer effort to reelect President Obama. I just started doing it, I told him. He thought that sounded implausible. But, as Woody Allen said, 90 percent of success in life is just showing up.

Actually I had some direction from the Obama campaign. I’m on just about every liberal and Democratic email list and saw an intriguing invitation to apply for a summer organizer fellowship. That was last summer. I went to Columbus to learn all the grass roots campaigning tools and “Best Practices”  and things just blossomed from there.

Now I’m working with a new class of summer fellows, mostly young college students and high school students, who put in 20 to 40 hours a week – for free. Ah, the enthusiasm of the young. If we could just bottle it.

If you are on my side politically, I hope you’ll follow this blog. The News-Herald was kind enough to offer me this platform to educate people about the grass roots political process.  Of course I wouldn’t be a political animal if I didn’t use it to promote my own agenda.

If you play for the other team, or are just burned out by politics, maybe you’ll come here and tell me I’m a fool. That’s OK too. I know politics is a touchy subject and I’ve been called worse.