Confessions of a phone banker


Brennan Eberwine

Phone banking is an extremely important, if not boring and annoying, way for political parties to get their messages across and supporters counted.

Brennan Eberwine

The good, the bad, the necessary.

I’ve been watching the 2020 election closely for the last year and half and, like most people, have been driving myself insane over hypothetical situations and what could happen. The most excruciating part of it all is that because I’m only 15 I can’t vote, donate, or do any of the typical ways most people support the campaigns. One day, I got an email from the Biden campaign about phone banking and I figured it’s probably the only way I could meaningfully do something for the campaign I want to support. So I signed up.

Even before I started calling people, I got on a Google Meet call with the organizer and other volunteers to do a rundown of how to call voters, that we were calling into Pennsylvania, and reminding us to be polite. There were about 10 other volunteers there, all old, all excited to be there. This definitely wasn’t the “Settle for Biden” Gen Z crowd I was used to, these were retired Baby Boomers wearing “No Malarkey” pins and hats who were excited to see Joe Biden run and hopefully win. It was an interesting experience to get out of my echo chamber and see people who weren’t necessarily where I am politically. So after a Powerpoint explanation from the organizer about how to connect to what he called the “Dem Dialer” we were set loose to begin calling Pennsylvanians about voting for Joe Biden.

When I connected to the “Dem Dialer” I had absolutely no idea what to expect from the people of Pennsylvania. It turned out that people who have been getting political phone calls from candidates for the past 2 months aren’t too keen on taking another one. So when I connected to the first person and said “Hi! My name is Brennan and I’m a volunteer for the Pennsylvania Democratic Party. Is ____ Available” they were immediately very angry and hostile towards me. They. went. Off. We were instructed that if a voter is hostile then we’re just supposed to hang up and take them off our call list, so after he was done yelling at me I did just that. Immediately afterwards I disconnected my phone because I already needed a break. What the hell did I get myself into?

Phone banking is probably the most humiliating thing I have ever done in my life. Usually people either hang up on you immediately or verbally abuse you for a little bit then hang up. One of those situations by themselves is awful, imagine doing it over and over again for an hour. I remember one woman after I had said my spiel and it turned out I had the wrong number said “you got the wrong number and the wrong party.” and hung up. Probably the worst call was on the second night of phone banking, when I got nothing but hang ups and wrong numbers until this one guy pulled me into an argument for 30 minutes and tried to bait me into getting angry by saying racial slurs, however I remained polite and tried to tell him Joe Biden’s policy proposals because otherwise the person on the other end would just have another story of a “triggered liberal.” The other volunteers apparently also had similar experiences as me too.  I just kept on thinking: “How do these boomers stand doing this?”

Now that I’ve told you that phone banking is awful, I will say that it is still important to elections. Even though being on the receiving end of these calls can be annoying, especially in swing states where my call was probably a dime a dozen, they still do serve a purpose. Some people really do need help and may not know where to go. I remember that one voter was having trouble getting her mail-in vote and was worried she wouldn’t be able to vote. I told her to contact her county clerk office about it. Another voter tried to vote early but was held up because 3 men blocked the entrance and turned away 300 people, I told him to contact the  U.S. Department of Justice Voting Rights Hotline. Some people truly do need help and may not know where to turn to, and recieving a cold call from a volunteer gives them an option. It’s also a great way for young people to get involved and use their own agency to help their candidate.

Phone banking isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. So why not next election, open up your laptop and sign up for a phone bank to help your candidate and make your voice heard.