Letter to my Son
Sunday, 10 August
|Richard Nixon works the crowd|
Good Morning Jack…
August is the beginning of the end for kids running free during summer vacation. Back to school sales are hard to avoid. Paper, pens and all the items needed for homework assignments are pushed right to the front of the store. It’s like a call from your boss on the last Friday of your vacation wanting to know if you can make it in especially early Monday morning because of the oversize stack of assignments waiting impatient for your return.
August also begins the serious push for candidates in the coming fall election. Between now and the first Tuesday in November there will be almost no days off for paid campaign workers. Organizers typically start in May and are given three days off during the period leading to Election Day. As of today, Sunday the 10th, there are 85 days remaining until ballots are cast. Chances are these organizers have used one of their days off by now which means they have a long stretch of 12 hour days ahead of them. Democracy is a fundamental principle of a free nation. The campaigns to elect a candidate for office are a particularly demanding business. Politicians serious about their profession expect to win their job once the votes are cast. Campaign managers, like the candidates they promote, are among the winners and losers. Winning keeps you on track for a shot at the title – a race with national prominence. With back to back loses you’ve earned the right to manage a city council contest in Palookaville.
It’s always good to start with a quality candidate – someone who relates well with the voters and has a message that resonates. Someone verbally sure-footed and dynamic is going to attract money, which is good since state-wide campaigns are going to be expensive. Big money flows to those who have a realistic chance of winning. There’s little upside to having influence with a politician out of office. Keep the race close in the polls and money is there. Fumble during the campaign allowing your opponent to take a double-digit lead and you economize while your rival cashes in. The race becomes theirs to lose. You’re left being the goat in the media narrative and that’s tough to shake. You call for a debate, hoping a couple of choice zingers will right your sinking ship. Why would the other side allow you such an opening to get back in the game? Unless the voters absolutely demand it, your opponent’s campaign will ignore your plea, sit on their lead and ride out the clock, all the while buying expensive air time to mercilessly trash your image with negative TV ads. Your audience dwindles and TV news loses interest in what you have to say. Here’s where we pull out the script that we don’t believe in polls. The only poll that matters is the one on Election Day. Only the die-hards retain any hope. Everyone else has bailed. The show is over. Curtain down.
Volunteers are fundamental to a winning campaign. People need to work for free on your behalf if you are to be a credible democratic choice. Making phone calls to voters for hours on end and spending weekends going door to door in unfamiliar neighborhoods requires a personal conviction in your candidacy that can’t be bought. Your volunteers aren’t slick professionals. What they bring to your cause is simple sincerity. Their importance is not in switching anyone’s opinion but in emphasizing the importance of casting your ballot. Grassroots campaigning is about making sure your supporters are sufficiently energized, if not totally enthusiastic, to take the time and vote. This is important because the candidate better able to rally their supporters to the ballot box is the one getting the job representing the people. That is no small accomplishment. By the first Tuesday in November people are sick of hearing about the campaign. They just want it over. Often they are filled with disgust. They don’t like their choices. Get over it. Hold your nose. Mark your ballot. Vote. Saints don’t run for office. Just folks like you and me.