On one side of Union Square this morning, an older woman with a big smile politely asked passing New Yorkers to grab a Hillary Clinton flyer. Not far down the street, a Barack Obama supporter flailed his arms in the air asking for all registered democrats to take a pamphlet.
Some pedestrians took a flyer or pamphlet. Others smiled at the campaigners. A few frowned and looked down at the street. But most people just passed on by. “Everyone is too plugged in to their ear phones to look up,” said one of the many Clinton campaigners handing out flyers in the park.
Campaigner volunteers in New York City have a particularly tough job. Many New Yorkers are too busy racing off to work, school or some other important appointment to stop and listen to a political spiel.
Julie Kleszczewski, a Clinton volunteer attempting to distribute flyers to voters exiting the Union Square subway station, has had to deal with her fair share of perturbed passersby. “Occasionally I get raw or negative comments,” she said. “This morning, two said, ‘I’m Republican,’ and one said something I don’t want to repeat.”
Even some campaigners were disinterested in politics. Many of the Clinton promoters in Union Square, for example, were handing out flyers not by choice, but because they were asked to do so by their labor unions.
One union member who requested anonymity said he was not a Clinton supporter, even though her name was plastered across his coat. One of his duties as a member of District Council 9 is to hand out flyers for the candidate whom the painters’ union supports—in this case, Clinton—at a specific location and for an allotted amount of time. Failure to do so could result in his expulsion from the union.
Another union member, a construction worker affiliated with Local 79 who also requested anonymity, handed out flyers on the other side of the park as he talked to a friend via a wireless headset.
Though most people raced past campaigners, some showed genuine interest in the candidates. “People surprise you many times,” said Kleszczewski. “One person crossed the street to get this flyer. I’ve never seen that before.”
At least one passerby—Fitzgerald Deverger, a Barack Obama supporter—enjoyed seeing so many campaigners promoting their candidates in the park. “This [campaigning] can bring community together,” he said. Still, he didn’t take a flyer.