The Parable of the Gracious Homeowner
With the advent of “no-call” legislation designed to prevent those annoying telephone solicitations from interrupting the dinner hour or your enjoyment of Monday Night Football – now that it has, once again, some expert commentary -- those who design and conduct political campaigns are relying less and less on political phone banks to get-out-the-vote. Instead, they are opting for greater use of direct mail appeals and for more door-to-door calling or “precinct walking” by party workers.
This gives rise to the age-old question: How should one respond when a party worker comes knocking on your door? Should you be gracious? Should you be rude? Should you not even answer the door? Perhaps, the best way to explain this is through The Parable of the Gracious Homeowner.
“Hello,” begins the precinct worker. “I’m walking this precinct this evening urging concerned citizens to vote for my candidate, Mr. Karl Marx Lenin of the People’s Progressive Party. Our motto is: Soak the rich, and down with the vast, right-wing conspiracy!”
As it happens, you are a member of the vast, right-wing conspiracy and your candidate is Adam Smith von Mises. So, your first reaction is to tell your caller to take a long walk on a short pier. Wrong. Be courteous. Be gracious. Be smart. The Judeo-Christian thing to do is to invite him or her into your home.
“Please come in. Tell me about your party and your candidate,” you begin.
“Thank you, but I can’t stay long. I’m supposed to call on 39 more homes before 9:00 p.m.”
“Of course. But let me make some fresh coffee, so I’ll be more alert. It won’t take but a minute. And, while I’m at it, I think I’ll whip up a coffeecake and slip it in the oven.”
“That’s very kind of you.”
While the coffee and the coffeecake are making and baking, ask to see the campaign literature your caller is supposed to distribute. Insist on going over each piece of it in detail. Ask lots of questions that will allow your caller to demonstrate his vast (probably, half-vast) knowledge of economics and the great issues facing the nation, your state, your county, your town and your precinct. This will take some time.
“This coffeecake and your coffee are very good,” says your caller. “But I really do have to get on my way.”
“Yes, you do; however, I didn’t quite understand your point about taking tax dollars from the filthy rich and giving the money to the poor. And, since the vast majority of the taxes are already being paid by a small minority of the population, I am wondering if it is fair to make them pay more?
“By the way, I just happen to have some single-malt Scotch whiskey and no one to drink it with. While you are explaining the economics of socialism, I thought maybe we could share a taste. I would consider it a personal favor. Okay?”
“Well, maybe, I could just leave some of our campaign literature,” says your caller, “ so I can get on my way. It is getting very late.”
“Quite right,” you say, as you pour a couple of fingers of single malt into his glass. “Actually, I was going to ask you to leave all of your expensive-looking campaign literature with me. I know I can find places to put it.”
“I suppose I could do that. Anyway, there really isn’t time for me to take it around the neighborhood this evening. If you would distribute it for me, it would save a lot of time. By the way, thissss whissskey is really good. May I have another taste?”
Eventually, it is 9:00 p.m. And, as your caller weaves his way to the door, he says: “Thank you, I really appreciate your hossssspitality. And ssshanks for taking all my campaign literature, Mr. Machiavelli.”
William Hamilton, a nationally syndicated columnist and featured commentator for USA Today, is the co-author of The Grand Conspiracy by William Penn – a novel about a terrorist attack on the water reservoirs in the Colorado high country.
©2002. William Hamilton.