Days until election: 17
ONE LETTER AT A TIME
“At the Post Office,” I said. “Trying to sway the election.”
“You mean, there’s still a Post Office?” the politically astute marsupial asked.
“Still standing, despite Trump’s attempt to wreck yet another beloved, historic and essential American institution,” I said.
“That’s good to know,” he said. “What was the occasion?”
“The Big Send,” I said.
“I’m supposed to know what that’s about?” Mr. O replied, annoyance creeping into his usually refined, if tiny, voice. "The Big Send?"
“It’s the culmination of the Vote Forward initiative,” I said.
“That explains it,” Mr. O said, sarcastically. “You are getting more obscure by the minute. What’s ‘Vote Forward'?”
“Vote Forward organized a humongous letter-writing campaign to encourage people to vote, including those in battleground and other critical states," I said. “Volunteers have been preparing the letters for weeks, but holding them until the national mailing day, which is today: Saturday, Oct. 17.”
“How many?” the opossum asked.
“At least 15 million letters,” I said, “and maybe a lot more.”
“I meant how many did Our Humans send?”
“The Grouchy One did 40, and the Nice One 94,” I said. “Total of 134."
“I can do the math,” Mr. O snapped. “And it figures that the Nice One would turn out lots more than Grouchy. But how are 134 letters supposed to ‘sway the election,’ as you put it? What can you say about Trump or Biden that people don’t already know?”
“Now, you're really losing me,” Mr. O huffed.
“It’s actually kind of subtle,” I said.
“I don’t think subtle wins elections,” he said.
“The idea is not to harangue people about this candidate or that one, but just get them to vote,” I said. “And just increasing the numbers of people who vote can help Democrats.”
“But what if the people who get the letters DO vote for Trump?” Mr. O asked.
“Some people might do that,” I said. “But a lot of them might not.”
“What makes you think that the letters will persuade people to vote?” he asked.
“The organizers say that the letters do work, especially if they’re handwritten, hand-addresses and mailed with real stamps,” I said. “They tested it out three years ago in an Alabama special election: places that got the letters had a turnout of 52.9 percent, compared to 'control' areas that didn’t get letters, where the turnout was 49.5 percent.”
“That’s not much,” Mr. O said, “3.4 percent.”
“You are the math wizard,” I said. “But in a close election, 3 or 4 percent is enough to, as they say, 'sway.' ”
“It sure beats sitting at home and just yelling at the TV,” Mr. O said. “You get to write some letters, address some envelopes, attach some stamps - and you still get to sit at home.”
“You’re not only a math wizard,” I said, “you’re a pretty good skunk-at-the-party, even if you're an opossum.”
“But honestly, Phoebe,” Mr. O said. “Do you think the Nice One and the Grouchy One are kidding themselves about really making a difference?”
“Nope,” I said.
“Nope?” he replied.
“There are millions of people, just like Nice and Grouchy, who are really, really frustrated, because they really care about the election, but live in a state like Rhode Island, where the outcome is predictable,” I said. “Meanwhile, voters in ‘swing’ and other states like Florida, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, actually determine who wins. The Big Send gives everyone else something to do.”
“That’s what I mean,” Mr. O said. “Maybe that’s all it is – an illusion of doing something.”
“The Vote Forward people say it works,” I said. “And just as important, if Trump is defeated, it will be because lots of good people all over the country are doing whatever they can. Some people demonstrate. Some work for candidates. Some send money. Some carry pitchforks. Some make phone calls. Some pester their relatives. Some people pray. Some people post. But they’re all doing something.”
“Point made,” Mr. O said.
“This how democracies rescue themselves when they’re in trouble,” I said. “The letter campaign seems innocuous because it's so simple. But it’s part of something much bigger. It's part of an awakening, an uprising. It’s inspired. And, yes, it matters.”