The Great Schlep goes mainstream

THE GREAT SCHLEP GOES MAINSTREAM…. You’ve probably seen Sarah Silverman explain the significance of “The Great Schlep.” If not, the idea is pretty straightforward — Florida is important in the presidential election, our elderly relatives in Florida are skeptical about Obama, so it’s incumbent on young people to schlep down to the Sunshine State and convince them to vote for him anyway.

What’s especially amusing at this point, though, is that quite a few people are taking the Great Schlep and the related concept very seriously. CNN had an interesting item on the “campaign” and the many people who are involved with this effort, highlighting the example of Mike Bender who’s been trying to persuade his reluctant grandparents.

When Bender recently returned to his grandparents’ retirement community in Tamarac, Florida, near Fort Lauderdale, he was greeted with several surprises. Months of telephone conversations and his trip had paid off: His grandparents told him shortly after he arrived that they were going to support Obama.

The next surprise was that his schlep had generated interest around their retirement community. A lot of interest. So many other seniors wanted to hear about Obama that the venue for a meeting on the subject had to be changed from the Furst’s living room to a ballroom in the community’s clubhouse.

An hour before Bender started to make his case about Obama on Sunday, groups of senior citizens were staking out space in the ballroom. Soon there were more than 100 people and no more chairs.

Bender said Obama wasn’t a Muslim and is a staunch supporter of Israel. He sealed the deal, though, by explaining that if Obama wins, Bender could focus less on politics and spend more time “finding a nice Jewish girl to marry.” The ballroom full of seniors applauded.

This has become surprisingly widespread. The Obama campaign recently launched a new program aimed at college students: “If your family isn’t already supporting Barack, it’s time for you to have ‘The Talk.’ With so many rumors and misperceptions out there, it’s incredibly important that you sit down with parents or other family members. Tell them who Barack is, what he stands for, and why you’re supporting him. You may be the only person who can convince them.”

There’s also MoveOn’s Youth Vote program, which puts a satirical spin on drug prevention spots that have been on television for years: “Talk to your parents about John McCain. For my sake? Please?”

I’ve got a new slogan for the Democratic ticket: “The Obama campaign brings families together.”

Washington Monthly - Donate today and your gift will be doubled!

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation

Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.