On September 11, along with a few friends, I started going to the Staten Island Ferry Terminal in an attempt to bring a series of brief messages and questions to passengers.
About 18,000 passengers use the ferries between 7 AM and 9:30 AM each weekday morning.
We are wearing sandwich boards made of corrugated plastic with signs on them saying “44 straight months of 8% unemployment” and “When is it finally his fault?”
We also use signs saying: “May college grads 53% jobless –WHY?”
“Young women 14.4% jobless – WHY?”
“I’m NOT better OFF; are YOU – WHY?”
Of the thousands of passengers who walk by, it has been our experience that about 8,000 see the messages. Moreover, about 4,000 actually seem to look at the messages. From the very first day, we noticed that our best readers were African-American females. About 15% of these ladies have come over and read the signs, and many have reacted very positively. Some smile, and some have said “God bless you” to us.
Up until today, African-American males have displayed a mixed reaction. Some grit their teeth and look away, others bark out “Obama”; but a small number have actually smiled and said things like, “You know, the real number is more than 8%?”
Today was our first day of sandwich-boarding at the terminal since Wednesday night’s debate. The atmosphere has definitely changed, but not in a way most would predict. What we saw this morning were white liberals grunting out negative responses such as “Yes, I’ll vote for four more years” and “It’s still Bush’s fault.”
Not a single African-American male or female or Hispanic male or female exhibited a negative response. Moreover, of the positive responses that we heard, 75% were from minorities.
The white liberals are angry, and some minorities are embarrassed. My reading of faces tells me that the enthusiasm gap between Republicans and Democrats is real. I believe it has gotten bigger since Wednesday night.
You can do your own sandwich board campaign in your town. Figure out where the traffic choke points are-in front of shopping centers , in front of colleges, outside when a college football game is being played, at any kind of large gathering-but get out there with your own signs. Just ask pointed questions and make brief statements. Avoid party labels and names at this point; get them reading and looking for your signs at the same time each day. Then two weeks out, use names. Good luck.
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