Talk Is Cheap: Lessons From Working On A Political Campaign
Closing out the end of another election, I reflect upon what it feels like actively taking part in the political process once again. I can honestly say it actually feels like I made a difference. Walking over 50 miles throughout the course of 35 hours and hitting almost 750 houses in a week is a tangible measurement of just how many people I directly affected while working on the campaign.
I walked for a Republican candidate in a special election for Florida House District 44 in Orlando. The campaign was close too. In a district with 157,485 voters, only 12,477 people actually voted and the candidate won with 56% of the vote. This means that he received about 7000 votes and only won by a margin of about 1500 people. Had it not been for the hard work of myself and the other people working on the campaign, it could have easily gone the other way, especially when considering that most houses have multiple voters.
During the 2016 Presidential election, the mainstream media spoke a lot about “echo chambers.” On Facebook and other forms of social media, people easily became caught up in a web of opinions shared by themselves and their friends that they rarely even heard what people with other opinions had to say. It was common to see people post news stories or write statuses representing one side and then see these get shared between people with similar opinions. This “echo chamber” issue continues to cause problems today and will probably do so in the 2018 Election as well as other future elections.
The main problem is that people think they are actually making a difference by using social media for politics. There might actually be some advantages when using social media to share political opinions but at the end of the day, nothing beats walking door to door. It is easy to reach many people quickly over Facebook and Twitter, however, some people do not use social media and other people prefer to have someone to take the time to speak with them personally about voting. In the 2016 Presidential Election, 56% of the voters were over 45 years of age. Not counting Facebook, most of these voters do not actually use social media platforms and therefore are not actually reading shared articles or opinions.
For those people unfamiliar with what walking actually entails, it is quite simple. You first contact a campaign or a local party chapter that you are interested in walking for and ask about information for organized walks. Usually they occur on Saturdays in the morning because most people are not at work at this time and the volunteers have the best chance of reaching people. From there you are given a walk-book full of addresses, names, and other information along with a stack of voting material. Then you simply walk door to door talking to people about the upcoming election and why they should vote for your candidate, all while passing out the voting material. It may seem intimidating some people to knock on stranger’s doors, and I will admit that sometimes the occupant does not welcome you. However, when you people give you words of encouragement, you know that you are making a positive difference.
Though this all seems very simple, most people are not interested in walking for candidates because they do not feel like they have any time to give to a campaign. The important thing to remember is that most candidates are just looking for any sort help. One day of walking is more than enough for most candidates. The average person can hit about 50 to 75 houses in a 4 hour period and candidates appreciate every little bit of help.
In the 2016 Election, I spoke with many people about their desires to get involved in the election cycle but sadly, most did not care to walk for local candidates. People forget that state representatives, county/city commissioners, mayors, members of the school board, and other smaller governmental positions have such a large impact on their day to day lives. Yes, the president can have a great impact on people’s lives but a president does not determine local taxes, where to build roads, and when to renovate parks. These smaller positions in government usually have a more direct impact on people’s lives and the candidates running for those positions are always looking for help. With the upcoming midterm election, call these candidates. Ask them if you can help. Midterm elections are especially important since their turnout rate is significantly lower than presidential elections and therefore it is important to encourage people to get out and vote. Walking definitely helps raise awareness about elections and why people should vote.
If you cannot walk then volunteer at a phone bank. If you are afraid to speak to strangers on the phone then volunteer packing mailers or attending hob nobs. There are many more aspects to an election than just someone submitting their name to be on a ballot. Candidates can use all of the help they can get and every little bit of help makes a significant impact in your community.
I say all of this because I have now worked on 7 different campaigns since 2014 and every time I hear about a candidate that I worked for making a positive change in the state and local community, I become joyful. I feel directly responsible for helping them get elected and I know that I am. Talking on Facebook or with friends with similar viewpoints may be easy and it may feel like you are making a difference but once you hit the streets and actually get invested in an election, you legitimately have the chance to make a difference. Most importantly, you actually have to educate yourself to talk to people and it helps inform you about the candidates. Most importantly, though, working on an election gives you a firsthand lesson in how our democracy functions.
Talk is cheap and Facebook posts are effectively meaningless. Contact campaign managers and political offices, make a real difference in your community. Actually learn about candidates and do not vote for them just because they have an “R” or a “D” next to their name.
As Thomas Jefferson once said:
“An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people.”
Stay educated and free.