Thursday, June 10, 2004

"Excuse Me, Do You Have a Moment...?"

So apparently the DNC is taking a page from the Nader playbook and setting people up on streetcorners with clipboards a la the various "PIRG" groups and asking passersby "Do you have 5 minutes to defeat Bush?"

For those who haven't been on college campus in a while, this is what the PIRG groups do. They typically take a group of four and put them on opposite sides of a street corner and ask pedestrians if they could spare 5 minutes to save the environment (yeah, that's right, just 5 minutes! to save the environment!). Then they hit you up for donations, about 90% of which actually go to them funding more people on street corners with clipboards. For a while they were doing this thing where they arranged a group of four clipboaders in a square on a single sidewalk, two facing people coming from one direction, and the other two facing the direction. They thus created an unavoidable gauntlet of solicitation, making it virtually impossible for anyone to get by unmolested. I haven't seen that formation in a while. I'd guess it probably wasn't too efficient, as I's also guess that it merely annoyed people and used up a lot more manpower.

Anyway, the DNC is now aping the process. They're even using the same recruitment methods. Flyers for PIRGs would appear ubiquitously in the spring that read "Work for the environment this summer." Now, in addition, you see "Work to defeat Bush this summer."

Being the generally surly simian that I am, you might think I look at all this with distaste, but that's actually far from the case.

I rather like talking to clipboarders. I don't engage them in hour-long debates, but also don't hesitate to exchange a few affable words now and then. For instance, every few days you'll see a few bright-eyed, red-headbanded ideologues trying to sell copies of the Socialist Worker where Telegraph Ave. butts up against the campus. They really are the best for this sort of thing.

A typical exchange:

"Want to learn about justice for workers?"

"No thanks, I'm a libertarian."

(cheerfully) "That's awful!"

(even more cheerfully) "As awful as killing 100 million people?"