Who are the NERD fund donors Mr Snyder?
Why The Grunt Work Matters
By Kevin Rex Heine, Section News
Promoted, because longer direct involvement is indeed key
Around 430 BC, Pericles - a prominent Athenian statesman and general - said, "We do not say that a man who takes no interest in politics is a man who minds his own business; we say that he has no business here at all. Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you." Though I am hardly a fan of many of his policies (apparently free-spending liberal-democrats are nothing new under the sun), I will readily concede that the man has a point.
Talk to most people about political involvement, and if they answer you at all it will normally be along the lines of conventions or rallies or speeches (or perhaps even blogging); things that make for great souvenir or photo opportunities and even the occasional great story. But for as nice as that stuff looks in a photo album or hanging on a wall, all that dog-and-pony-show stuff doesn't come close to being what it takes to actually win an election.
The fact of the matter is that winning any given election involves a good deal of behind-the-scenes work that starts at least a year before the general election in question. In the case of the November 2010 election, the work started in October of 2009. In almost every case, this work is done by an all-volunteer force (seriously, no one's getting paid for this) and involves things like phone banking, neighborhood walking, candidate and issue research, and various other forms of voter identification. It's thankless crap work, for which the return-on-effort - on a good day - is about 20%, but without it elections are not won.
A candidate for office may have great ideas and solid policies, but if he (or she) doesn't know what the voters' concerns are, then he has no way to target his message to engage the voters. Put another way, if the voters that a candidate wants to reach don't hear anything in his message that reflects what they're most interested in, then they're not going to care at all about what his ideas and policies are. Yes, as of right now, independent voters are breaking 46% to 32% in favor of Republicans this election cycle; but that isn't going to count for anything if the Republican candidates and their staffs don't know how to translate that into votes at the ballot box.
In any race further up the ticket than County Commissioner, there are very few candidates who are capable of personally canvassing their entire districts, let alone willing to do so. And even in the state house or state senate districts that are compact enough, canvassing enough voters simply isn't possible without the assistance of a decently-sized full-time staff. While I will readily admit that getting usable information from every single voter is a nigh-impossible task in any event, the trick is to get a large enough sample size to provide a fairly accurate indicator of what's important to the voters in the district in question.
And this is where the grassroots crew comes in handy.
By either law or policy, the county and state party committees are not permitted to get involved in contested primary races except to protect an incumbent who is running for reelection, so their ability to get involved before the dust settles in mid-August is severely limited. However, what they are allowed to do is develop what is commonly referred to as voter identification. And, as I said before, this is a critical element of collecting information for not only candidates, but also the party platform. It's also critical for establishing a friendly voter base (both republican and republican-leaning independents) for get-out-the-vote efforts on Election Day.
But the critical data needed to accomplish this doesn't just magically appear at the county headquarters or state field offices. Nor can either the candidates or party committees, individually or combined, possibly pay for enough people to do all of the canvassing needed to obtain that information. So what happens is that volunteers are recruited to accomplish most of the research work.
Some of the volunteers are reliably employed and doing this on their spare time; others are unemployed (or retired) and are doing this as "something to do." Some are seasoned campaign veterans; others are novices who are newly-involved due to the circumstances of the moment. Some are hardcore party faithful; others are independent-minded individuals who realize that the best hope of preserving liberty and freedom is through the party of Lincoln, Coolidge, and Reagan. Some are so reliable that you'd think they were getting paid to be here (and they often get assigned to leadership positions); others are so unreliable that if this were a paying job, then they would've been fired by now.
The list could go on, but I think that you get the point. About the only things that the volunteers have in common is that they believe in what they're doing, and that they're not getting paid for their work. But what they do is indispensably vital to any campaign that aspires to a successful election day.
The ultimate grassroots volunteer is, of course, the Precinct Delegate. As an elected official, the PD is the official liaison between his neighborhood and the county and state party committees. Properly employed, precinct delegates can be a wealth of information when it comes to voter identification in the neighborhoods they represent. Further, candidates who are campaigning in contested primaries frequently rely upon the precinct delegates to provide them with information about neighborhood tendencies, as well as to provide personal endorsements (which precinct delegates are allowed to do). Not to mention that the precinct delegates are also the main channel for get-out-the-vote efforts, both in the primary and general elections.
Get-out-the-vote (GOTV) efforts, incidentally, are the other main focus of volunteer staffers.
Depending upon whose math you believe, somewhere between 64% and 70% of the voting age population are relatively either clueless or disengaged from a political standpoint. They'll show up to vote in a general election, maybe, but other than that just aren't all that concerned about politics. Granted, one of the good things about the tea party movement is that more people are engaged in the political process than in recent memory, but the core point remains.
The chief excuse that most people offer for non-involvement is primarily along the lines of being thoroughly disgusted with the options that they have when it comes to the general election. Apparently they are unaware of - or conveniently ignore - the fact that the real choice is in the primary elections. Primaries are where candidates competing for the same slot on the same side of the ticket will be sorted through by those members of the electorate (that 30% to 36% that are more interested than most voters) that are willing to make the decisions for the rest of us as to whom we'll have a choice on in the general election in any given cycle. And how those voters go about making their decisions could be motivated by anything from name recognition to campaign loyalty; sometimes it's even driven by actual personal research.
However, whether it's in the primary or general election, every vote matters. And while some of us political nerds really do wish that the politically clueless would just stay home on Election Day, the plain and simple fact of the matter is that those disengaged voters are absolutely crucial to actually winning an election. Think about it this way; if all of the politically active voters voted one way, and all of the politically inactive voters voted the other way, then the politically active voters would lose big. (67% versus 33% is a huge margin.)
The statistical reality is that the typical non-engaged voter is most likely to vote when he or she is prompted 8 times during a campaign cycle. And that's a combination of phone canvassing, door knocks, mailings or e-mailings, and various forms of advertising. Mind you, this isn't prompting a voter to vote a certain way or for a certain candidate; this is prompting the voter to vote at all. You would think that Americans wouldn't need such reminders, but apparently way too many people just don't give a rip about anything other than their bread and circuses.
And that brings us back to the grassroots crew. These are the people who man the phone banks, canvass the neighborhoods, process the mailings, and generally do anything and everything to maximize the local GOTV efforts. These are the people without whom no election can possibly be won. And in this state, in this election, every single volunteer is needed . . . All hands on deck, we've got an election to win.
Why The Grunt Work Matters | 1 comment (1 topical, 0 hidden)
Why The Grunt Work Matters | 1 comment (1 topical, 0 hidden)