This was the first election where I knocked on people’s doors, called people, wrote postcards to people, and stood outside the polls handing out sample ballots. I also made campaign videos specific to North Carolina. So my top take-aways (for helping out with local races) are:
1. Human contact trumps social media. At least, I think. Everyone wants to make a viral video that millions of people watch. But I’m probably not going to do that. My videos were watched by a couple of thousand, at most. And, most likely, those few thousands already agreed with the video. Did those videos help tip any of them into making sure they make it to the polls? I have no idea. Whereas when you go canvassing, you talk to individual people and you can see them nod their head, or you can have a conversation, or you can respond in a way that’s adapted to what issues they’re bringing. You’ll reach less people at a blow, but that face-to-face contact is probably a richer haul than most of what is flung out on the ethernet.
2. But make material for social media anyways. So that the Ethernet is not just drowning in the lies of the other side. But as to what extent you should make video ads that give positive information about your own party, versus creating negative ads about the competition, and whether those negative ads should be about tangible things like school-cuts or more intangible but bedrock things like not cheating and lying: I think I’ll write another post about that.
3. Canvass with a friend, and to friends. There was a very nice lady in my county who was going out knocking on doors, so I just joined her. And our lists of houses to visit were mostly people, based on their voter registrations, who were going to be friendly to us, not run us off. We didn’t want to debate anyone. We just wanted to encourage people who think like us, but who don’t always vote, not to sit this election out.
4. Do most of the work ahead of time. Because the last weekend, I was just frozen, hopeless, and scared, and couldn’t do much of anything.
5. Take note of things you don’t like in your own party. I thought there were definitely things happening that were racist. I am going to try to bring this to the attention to some of the higher-ups. It’s definitely not just the other party being racist.
6. Manipulation of the early vote polling lines. One of the candidates was outside the Board of Elections, apparently every day of early voting, passing out a half-sheet flier promoting herself. This was for a school-board position. That means there’s no “Democrat” or “Republican” or other distinction by the name on the ballot. You could go to the polls intending to vote a straight ticket, and then just have no idea who belongs to what party when you get to the school board section. If someone was standing by the election line telling you how great they are just before you head in to vote, that could very well be convincing.
7. Give recognition where due. Especially the people who volunteered like crazy and kind of ran the show for no money while getting yelled at by the county leader. Maybe flowers, lunch, a card, a movie, or all of it, would be nice.
8. Be a little evil. I was at a polling station distributing information – a polling station in the heart of Racism, USA, to be specific. The wife of one of the opposing candidates running for judge was also there, stumping for her darling husband. That was all fine and good and she seemed nice enough, but then an old man came by in a ‘Make America Hate Again’ hat, and he decide to plop his fine self just in front of where all us poll workers were stationed – about 6 Republicans and 2 Democrats – and start spewing a bunch of hate. It flashed in my mind that this man would have been attending the Hitler rallies with fervor had he lived 80 years ago in Germany. Then Mrs. Doting Wife of the Judge walks up to him and passes out her fliers and helps him figure out where he needs to go, as if he’s just a kind old man and not a monster that wouldn’t mind plucking me up and throwing me into a fire. After that, every time the Doting Wife of the Judge wandered in front of me, I started airily conjuring up any and all sordid stories of passionate affairs I could think of, starting with that weird one of the lady who killed her husband’s lover in Delaware, and ending with a confident statement that any woman who has worked in order to put her husband through law school will likely one day learn her husband is a cheater. And then I couldn’t think of more stories, so I searched on my phone, and struck gold with ‘Anna Karenina’, but before I could get to that, Mrs. Doting Wife departed. Was that evil of me? But I don’t actually care.
Oh, and her husband lost to a Black woman.
9. John Knox is trying to save the republic. Who is John Knox, you ask? I didn’t know either till one day I was at an early voting polling site, and an old gentleman strolled up and took his place with his fliers next to me. He was a Republican, but I decided he must actually be nice after an old lady exited the polling station in her wheelchair. It had just started to rain and she had no umbrella. Me and all the rest of the poll workers just kind of stared vacantly at her, but Knox suddenly left the line with his giant umbrella and walked the lady to her car under its shelter. So I concluded that he is not evil, and later on, I realized something. Knox was running for a judgeship. He was running as a Republican, but he was not the Republican the county had endorsed. They’d backed another guy. And there was a third candidate, the Democrat. Now the thing is, in our county, the Republican almost always wins. But because there were two Republicans running for this single seat, about half the Republicans voted for Knox and half voted for the endorsed guy (actually, Knox got more votes than the endorsed guy.) And the Democrat therefore, although she got less votes than the two of them combined, got more votes than either one of them individually. So she won, and she is the first Black woman to hold this judgeship. And given my observations that John Knox is not evil, maybe he joined the race on purpose to make sure the Republicans split the vote and the Democrat wins.