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Touchdown - Miami Journal #2

My immersion into Miami life and politics has been swift. I arrived Saturday afternoon in Fort Lauderdale, and had my first political discussion on the shuttle ride to Miami with a Dominican driver and Colombian passenger who were both vehemently anti-Bush. Once I started speaking Spanish they both really opened up, telling me about the political divisions between Latinos in Miami, which doesn’t end with the renowned conservativism of the Cuban community. They agreed with me that Bush has pulled the wool over the eyes of the people in the US, and they wished me the best of luck in getting out the vote.
Touchdown
Miami Journal #2
Saturday 10/30/04

My immersion into Miami life and politics has been swift. I arrived Saturday afternoon in Fort Lauderdale, and had my first political discussion on the shuttle ride to Miami with a Dominican driver and Colombian passenger who were both vehemently anti-Bush. Once I started speaking Spanish they both really opened up, telling me about the political divisions between Latinos in Miami, which doesn’t end with the renowned conservativism of the Cuban community. They agreed with me that Bush has pulled the wool over the eyes of the people in the US, and they wished me the best of luck in getting out the vote.

Thus inspired, I arrived at the ACT headquarters on Biscayne Boulevard near downtown Miami. It was not as polished as I feared, but more resembled the kind of rented activist offices I’m accustomed to, maps and calendars and announcements taped to the walls, bustling with activity. I noticed a few more resources than the average convergence center, including boxes of T-shirts, a row of fancy laser printers and at least two dozen cell phones for canvassing. The diversity of age, language, and race/ethnicity was also much broader than have seen. I received a warm welcome from the various coordinators, especially when I said I speak Spanish.

I spent the evening on the phones, calling registered Democrats in neighborhoods that can’t be canvassed door-to-door (mostly gated communities, beach condos and retirement homes). The point is not to try to convince undecided voters to cast their ballot for Kerry, but to make sure registered voters who are likely to vote against Bush get to the polls. And getting to the polls, at this point, looks like it may be the biggest barrier to a Bush defeat. Already there are lines outside the provisional polling places for early voting, and most expect Tuesday to draw huge crowds, and thus long waits that might turn voters away. So I encouraged each person I spoke with to vote early by going to the nearest polling place on Sunday afternoon, rather than waiting until the Big Day.

Most of my phone interactions were pleasant, talking with people who had already voted or were glad to know they could vote tomorrow. One woman, explaining that she already voted, asked me if I wanted to know for whom. I politely said that she could tell me if she wanted to, and she boasted, “John Kerry.? Other people were confused, usually due to language barriers or being hard of hearing. The most outrageous conversation was with a Cuban woman that another volunteer passed to me for my Spanish skills. The woman demanded to know who I wanted her to vote for, and I said she could vote for whomever she wanted. She declared she was voting for George dobleve Bush and here’s why: the security of this country is in jeopardy, you know what happened to las torres gemelas, John Kerry is a communist who supports Fidel and ese nicaragüense (Daniel Ortega), and so on. Whew!

Tomorrow I’m heading out with a bilingual team to canvas in Latino neighborhoods. In the meantime, I’m people-watching from a balcony in Miami Beach, where sculpted bodies sporting store-bought costumes parade around the trendy bars and restaurants. I feel like I’m in a different country, the kitsch and beach culture and pan-American ambience so different from the hippy-hipster vibe of Santa Cruz and the particularly Mexican influence on Californian culture. What a trip!

 
 


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