Transparency + Overcombing

Actually, in Silicon Valley.  On a recent neighborhood walk, I experienced a rare sighting in Palo Alto.

This is a lonely sign.

This is a lonely sign.

A Trump lawn sign.

I imagine that there are more Trump supporters in Palo Alto than one might suspect. What’s noteworthy to me, however, is our neighbor’s willingness to be transparent. While my own views could not be more opposite, on one level, I admire their courage to display views that are so clearly in the minority here.

It’s election season. (You’ve noticed, no doubt.) Political lawn signs are multiplying by the day, popping out of the dirt like Naked Ladies. In Palo Alto, this is the first election season during which we’ve had both local and national elections at the same time. This change has created a certain conflict for me as for the last eight years, I've been able to be involved in both, regardless of the election cycle. This election season I’ve had to choose. For many years prior, I was not able to endorse local candidates or take sides on other local ballot issues because I served on the management team of the Palo Alto Weekly and ran Palo Alto Online. In 2009, all of a sudden, I was a free political bird.

While I was still at the Weekly, I focused on national elections. I jumped into the 2008 Obama campaign whole hog and found a community of fellow volunteers that came to feel like family in the office between the laundromat and Happy Donuts on El Camino. The local organizers were phenomenal.  I volunteered at phone banks for every primary, calling voters in swing states and recruiting volunteers.

Then I traipsed to Nevada on the weekends to canvas during voter registration season and early voting. A week or so prior to the election I traveled to Longmont, Colorado with an assortment of friends and relatives to be part of the “ground game,” canvassing in the land of pit bulls. Gloria Steinem appeared on the campaign trail one afternoon. So did then Senator Ken Salazar. In between, I helped raise some money for Obama and worked hard to ensure that voters paid attention all the way down the ballot - especially the Senatorial and Congressional races. We stayed with cousins in Boulder who, in turn, helped find friends to host others in our delegation of 14 foot soldiers. We were successful. Our chief field organizer stationed in Longmont was a remarkable elixir of badass commando and inspirational leader.

Upon my return, I was asked to speak to a church full of hundreds of volunteers about my experience as an election volunteer. Come January, I trekked to the inauguration for a frozen and transformative collective experience on the Mall. I remember watching Bush and Cheney lifting off in their helicopter right after the moving inauguration ceremony and then wandering the mall hugging people somewhat randomly. I wrote the cover story for the Palo Alto Weekly about my experience.

This year is different. The stakes could not be higher. I have both received and sent far more emails for fundraisers with Hillary, Kaine and other surrogates than those recruiting for phone banking, voter registration and canvassing. Hillary lawn signs live alongside City Council and School Board candidate signs.

My first political act of the season was to create a drawing for an “Election Collection” featured at the big box stores nationwide. Back in February, when the notion of Trump as a serious candidate was still far-fetched, I drew a picture of Trump’s hair. My ace greeting card maker/marketer friend, Lynn Felter of Across the Line submitted our card for consideration with the caption, “We Shall Overcomb” and it was actually selected for distribution as part of an Election Collection. I suggested that they change the background from red to blue when I reviewed the artists’ proof. They did.

Our greeting card is available as part of the Election Collection at select large retailers nationwide.

Our greeting card is available as part of the Election Collection at select large retailers nationwide.

And then, after about a month at one particular large retailer, my card colleague was informed that the whole Election Collection (including our card) was removed. Hmmm. 

Back to transparency. While I don’t agree with my neighbors’ political views, they are demonstrating the courage to stand by their views in what might be considered a hostile environment. Some other stores - not so much. You can still get the card throughout the country. In fact, my sister (and fellow canvasser) just sent it to me for my own birthday. That was an experience. I really do hope we “overcomb” on November 8th.

Now back to work on the campaign.

Slightly revised 9/11/16 lcv