My turn: Confessions of a volunteer in Congressional District 10

By Andy Furillo, Special to CALmatters

I’ll admit it – I let Donald Trump get into my head, and I couldn’t get him out. Rachel Maddow didn’t help. Neither did downing a couple IPAs and ripping him on his Twitter feed, fun as that was.

Finally, I found something that worked – I helped flip the House on him.

Thirteen times from February through election day, I left my lovely little liberalistic cocoon of Davis and drove off to another America, to Modesto and Manteca, Patterson and Tracy, Ceres, and way over yonder to the other side of Oakdale. (Very nice out there on Orange Blossom Road, by the way.)

I figure I put 2,000 miles on the Corolla. I must have knocked on 450 doors. I talked to some 100 people. I registered a half-dozen of them to vote. I got a few to sign up for the vote-by-mail ballot.

I even hand-carried one ballot back to campaign headquarters to be cast, encased in a plastic baggie, its chain of custody documented at every handoff – in case the vote suppressor-in-chief wants to investigate.

It’s not like I did this sort of stuff very often. In fact, it had been 40 years since I put in some miles back in college for Tom Hayden, rent control, and the farm workers. Once you commit to the newspaper business as I did, you give up your right to overt political participation.

Liberated from the shackles of journalistic objectivity a year and a half ago, I looked around for an opportunity to stick it to Agent Orange, our leader who opposes the rule of law, the First and 14th Amendments, the Western Alliance, e pluribus unum, the welcoming of huddled masses yearning to be free, and the theory of relativity.

Plus, he made his kids wear suits to baseball games.

The best place to check him, I thought, was in California’s 10th Congressional District. The Republican incumbent, Jeff Denham, looked ripe. Tuesday night, he officially got picked, by my guy, the Democrat, Josh Harder.

Hundreds of other volunteers joined me. Make that thousands. On Election Night, we had so many people on the streets the smart guys sent me halfway to Sonora, to knock on 15 doors on dark and windy country roads. I went 13-for-15, and none of them needed me to remember to do their civic duty.

You learn a little bit about people when you politick them at their door. Mostly, you learn that they’re busy. They know the tax bill was wrong. They just don’t have time to yak about it. They have Little League games to get to.

Some felt the situation a little deeper. Like the lady in the wheelchair with multiple sclerosis who worried about her health care. And the middle-aged guy who wanted a better-paying job closer to home. And the dad pitching BP to his kids in his garage who listed education as his top concern. And another dad in another neighborhood after another mass shooting. He wanted something done about guns.

The Trumpers, they were all right. They were perfectly polite in telling me to get lost. Maybe it’s only when people get on TV that they act nutty.

Democracy, it turns out, is fun. At least it’s a lot more fun than it was on Nov. 5, even if we still have an autocrat on the loose in Washington, D.C.

I hope to have some more fun at his expense in 2020. The only problem is, it’s a longer drive to Phoenix than Modesto.


Andy Furillo, a former newspaper reporter in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Sacramento, is the author of “The First Year,” a crime fiction novel, [email protected] He wrote this commentary for CALmatters.

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