At Sharron Angle HQ, Working the Phones: "Do You Trust Harry Reid?"

by Natasha Vargas-Cooper

I spent yesterday at Sharron Angle for Senate Campaign Headquarters, in a strip mall in northern Las Vegas. The phonebank volunteers were targeting likely Angle supporters in rural parts of the state to take advantage of early voting, which ended last night. Most of my fellow volunteers (I was, I believe, the only fake volunteer) were over fifty — with the exception of Summer and Jordan, two bubbly seventeen-year-olds who both had family in the military — and white and not originally from Nevada. By coincidence, the three women in my adjoining cubby were from all from Pennsylvania, having moved to Nevada after their children were grown. The ladies, with their various shades of silver hair, would take a few minutes between phonecalls to gab, mostly about Social Security: how much they were getting, where it was all going and the general future of the entitlement program.

“I told my daughter not to even dream of relying on it! It will be all spent — on bridges, or planting trees, or whatever! — by the time it’s her turn,” one of the ladies, Loretta, said, as the others nodded in solemn agreement.

I know these women and their lack of scariness is what makes them so damn scary. They are neither devils nor crazies, necessarily. These are angry, modest white people who are pouring their frustrations into an abysmal candidate. When I was a union organizer working in Nevada, it was these sort of women — the fired up, pissed off, anxious about the future types who were the most willing to pick a union fight. In a different context, it’s easy to picture myself working alongside them trying to fight the sort of employers that liquidated worker pensions.

“We’re fighting the good fight!” said one of the ladies. She has a wet smoker’s cough and chuckled out loud after getting abruptly hung up on by a Reid supporter. She was emboldened for her next call, in which she hurriedly introduced herself as a volunteer for the Sharron Angle campaign, and immediately asked: “Are you happy with the country? Do you trust Harry Reid to fix it? I don’t!”

On the phones, the ladies were getting the most traction with a message that resonated here in Nevada two years ago: hope and change. In other words, anyone who is unhappy with the current way things are going in the country — and Nevada has quite a bit to be unhappy about, with a 22.3% “actual” unemployment rate and the highest rate of foreclosures in the country — then Sharron Angle offers an opportunity to “do things differently.”

This close to election day, the majority of people we reach on the phones have already made up their minds about who they want to be the next senator of Nevada. For the few undecided, the ladies will mention how expensive “’Obamacare’ has made medical treatment” and how Angle wants to keep “Social Security in a locked box.”

As is typical with the final push phonebank of these type, there’s very little discussion of Sharron Angle. Instead, a favorite tidbit on the phones, one that was not a part of our official script, was discussing Obama’s just announced, first-ever two-day trip to India on November 6th.

“He’s staying at the Taj Majal!” Lorretta, three hours into her shift, said. “Boy, I’d sure like to take a vacation and stay at a palace! Wouldn’t you?”

Then she encouraged those she reached to “watch Fox News!” and “turn on Glenn Beck! He’ll tell you the truth.”

I don’t know even know what the counterpoint would be for the Reid campaign. “Watch Rachel Maddow, she’ll tell you the truth”? You could point to the Stewart/Colbert rally as some kind of contrast but from here, those rallies just seem like some therapeutic get-together for people who wish to repudiate Glenn Beck and his influence on Loretta. Or is it just against the Lorettas of our country? Everyone’s angry, and everyone needs somewhere to go.

Natasha Vargas-Cooper is in Nevada through the election — you can reach her via Twitter.