“Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead
We are less than a year from another presidential election. One that is mired in uncertainty. The economy seems to just being getting worse, as whispers of a double dip recession seem to be getting louder each day. We are still engaged in a bloody conflict in Afghanistan that continues to be fought by the upcoming millennial generation. Then of course there is the uptick natural disasters being caused by the “global weirding” Thomas Friedman and many others have been warning about for years. Yet, many of us will not vote, and those of us who do care enough to do so, will have to take the extra leap into campaign volunteerism if we want any hope of seeing our dreams for the future realized. As I look to yet another season of doing things that make me uncomfortable (campaign work), I thought it might be good to discuss the many ways one can get involved in the political process.
First up, we have the excellent world of phonebanking. Basically, calling voters on the phone and trying to convince them to support the candidate you do. This is probably the most intimidating of campaign work, as it involves calling lists of people and prying into their voter preferences, which believe it or not many people tend not to appreciate. However, it is through this work campaigns get an idea of where they should focus their efforts on. Whether it be who is still on fence and can be swayed to their side, or who the strong supporters that might be willing to volunteer are. While this is a vital activity that can make or break a campaign, for many of us, (myself included) this is akin to having your teeth pulled without Novocaine. Fortunately, (or unfortunately depending on your point of view) there are other means of involvement for those who avoid the phone.
Not a huge fan telecommunication, but still want to experience the joys of voter contact? Then canvassing is for you. This involves going door-to-door through a neighborhood, usually with some sort of literature. This is very similar to phonebanking, except it has a fitness component. Well that, and you get to carry a clipboard around, thus announcing to the entire neighborhood you are here to harass them. Not to mention the sweet joy of knocking on a door, knowing someone is home, then realizing they have no intention of coming to the door. The side benefit to this type of voter contact, is people are far more polite face-to-face, then over the phone. While a step above from its phone-based cousin, it still inspires a dread usually reserved for those facing down Xerxes and the Persian Army. Now if only there was some way to experience the joys of canvassing without actually having to talk to people…
Oh wait, there is. For those looking for an active way to get involved without actually having to interact with massive amounts of people, literature dropping is for you. Commonly referred to as lit dropping, this involves simply dropping the printed information of your chosen campaign in someone’s doors. While grossly ineffective for getting a bead on where a household’s voter preference is, it does allow for a quick, easy method of visibility that for some may make the difference on election day. This is great for us non-confrontational types. Though, occasionally the resident of the house will be outside watering their lawn or something. While it may be tempting to ignore their presence and proceed as planned, it’s probably best to hand them the literature and strike up a brief conversation, no matter how awkward it may be.
Phonebanking, canvassing, and literature dropping are the primary way the average voter can get involved in ensuring the candidate and policies they support win out on election day. Of course there are other more passive means of involvement like agreeing to put up a yard sign or stuffing envelopes, but these are minimal tasks that have a far lower impact on the outcome of elections. Then there is the “sexy” campaign work like speech writing, press interaction, and prepping the candidate for speeches. However, this type of work is usually reserved for paid staffers who have spent enough time engaged in the other campaign activities to last the average volunteer a lifetime. Fortunately, for those of us harboring a love/hate relationship with the world of political activism, we still have plenty of time before we will have to jump into the trenches. Well, unless of course your city has its municipal elections in an off-year (I’m looking at you New Brighton).