I Was a Professional Left Wing Phone Canvasser (Telefundraiser)

Let no leftist ever complain of my having become a conservative in my thirties. I’ve done more for the leftist cause than 99% of these armchair thought police.

To cite just one of my many egregious accomplishments, I was a professional left wing phone canvasser. I raised thousands upon thousands of dollars to support all manner of leftist mischief. I even helped bring about socialized medicine.

I sat in a small carrel with a phone and a stack of contacts and dialed until I got a human.


“Hi! This is Slick Leftist Phone Canvasser with Socialist Leftist Bleeding Heart Lobby. Is this Bob?”

The company I worked for raised funds for many leftist organizations around the United States: the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group, Oregon Action, Citizen Action of New York, even the Democratic Socialists of America. For a fee, organizations like these could let us do the grueling work of fundraising for them, freeing them up to stage demonstrations, write propaganda, and sip lattes (I suppose.) In a way, my company was how these leftists kept their hands clean. Money, as we all know, is unclean. Directly acquiring it through work is for unclean people such as myself.


“Hi Bob. We’re just calling to update you on the fight for affordable health care, and to get your support. I can keep it to about sixty seconds.” Not true.

Silence. Let Bob talk first. Wait until it dawns on him that it’s his turn to say something. He who talks first, loses.

“Yes, hi, yes, okay.” Got him. Now set up the problem, create the damsel in distress, and identify the villain.

“As you know, prescription drug prices are skyrocketing. Seniors are being forced to make a choice between buying groceries and taking the medications they need to live. Meanwhile, the drug companies have been making record profits. Pretty crazy, right.” Down tones. Always end sentences on down tones, never up tones, even when asking a question. You get agreement more often with down tones. Science.

“Yeah, that’s pretty crazy.” Now send in the hero, stage left.

“Right. We’ve been working hard to fix that problem. We’re pushing for a prescription drug bill in Congress that would allow seniors to buy medications through Medicare. It creates a buying pool for Medicare to negotiate wholesale prices with the drug companies on behalf of seniors. Makes sense, right.”

“Yep.” That’s four yeses so far. The more you get them to say yes to innocuous questions, the more likely they’ll give an automatic yes when you pop the real question.

“Yep, pretty simple. We’re up against some well funded opposition in Washington, namely the drug company lobbyists, so we need everyone in the fight for affordable health care. Can we count on you.”


“Great! Folks are doing a dollar a day for affordable health care. Can you do that.” Let him try and work out what that means. The pressure should be on him, not me. Always control the conversation. Never let them take away your dominance.

“So that’s…how much is that?” He doesn’t know if I’m asking for a one-time donation, a month’s worth, or what. He’s off balance. That’s where I want him.

“Three-sixty-five, split up into two equal payments, one-eighty-two-fifty now, and one in a month.”

“Oh, no. I can’t do that. Sorry.”

Don’t skip a beat. He’s scared. Fight-or-flight has kicked in. That’s good. He’s feeling inadequate. Also good. Comfort him. But just enough.

“That’s okay! Not everyone can do the whole three-sixty-five. What matters is we have you on board. The fat cats at the drug companies don’t know how much you give; all they know is we’re going to win. To do that, a lot of folks are just doing the one-eighty. Again I can split that up into two payments. Does that work for you.”

I don’t know how much money Bob has. I don’t know if he’s a doctor or a dishwasher, but everything I’m saying and doing is assuming he’s a doctor. That’s where you want to be, no matter how much money they have. If you take their last $180, so be it. It’s their choice, even if I am the slickest fundraiser in the West. I once took an old lady’s last five dollars. Anything to make quota. It hurt my heart.

“Okay, I can do that.”

“Great. We take Visa, Master, American Express, but not Discover.” Put lots of emphasis on those last syllables. It makes them wonder if there’s some back story there, like maybe Discover is one of the more Evil corporations. Plus, it diverts their attention away from the dollar amount they just agreed to. Just get the credit card numbers and move on.

“One last thing, Bob. We’re asking everyone to write their Senators and Congresspersons. We’re sending a clear message to Congress that we’re tired of overpaying for prescription drugs and we want this bill to pass. Seniors are counting on us. Can you do that?” Don’t forget about the damsels.

“Absolutely.” Not that I give a darn. The “action step” is just for the appearance of legitimacy, as far as I’m concerned. It’s not that I didn’t believe in the cause, it’s just that I didn’t think letter writing had any real effect. I was just after the lobbying money. Money talks.

And that was it. That’s how a typical call would go. We got our call lists from field canvassers who had been out a few days, weeks, or months earlier, knocking on doors and gathering names, addresses, and phone numbers. The people we called had had face-to-face contact with someone from whatever organization we were calling for at the time, so it wasn’t exactly cold calling, but it often felt that way. Some people screamed at me, obviously not having been made sufficiently aware that we would be pestering them again and again over time for more and more money. Most were just not home when I dialed. I managed to contact a couple of dozen people a night, out of hundreds of dials. Of those, maybe six to ten would donate something. It felt like selling air in a bottle.

The money was primarily for lobbying the United States Congress. I took my barely-above-minimum-wage hourly cut. And my company took its percentage. As for the client organizations, who knows how they used their money. We were part of a leftist fundraising and activism network called Progressive Action Network, which is an affiliate of USAction. Member organizations included the National Abortion Rights League, Clean Water Action…just anything that championed the causes of the left.

I usually hit my quota of $270 a night. Sometimes I got a “hot night”, $365. I couldn’t pay rent on the wage I was getting from all that work (it was hard on my psyche, as being a leftist involves superhuman mental contortionism), but I believed in the cause.

You’re welcome, socialists.

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