Things Political Organizers Want You to Know

So, most of my first of ten 14-hour days is almost over.  I handled it a lot better than I thought I would, especially considering I only got about 4 hours of sleep last night.  (In that respect, caffeine helps.)  I’m fatigued and shaky now, even though I’ve spent all day sitting down, but that’s okay.  Hopefully I’ll get some better sleep tonight.

So, since I can’t rant at people on the phone, I have a rant about things that drive organizers crazy/things we want you to know.  (And by “organizers” and “we,” I basically mean me, although I know a lot of these things drive other organizers crazy too.)

  • We’re actually not all that excited about knocking on your door or calling you at home.  In fact, a lot of volunteers and even paid organizers have perennial anxiety about it.  I mean, it’s everything most of us are taught not to do in polite society: don’t bother people, don’t talk to strangers, don’t talk about politics.  We do this because we believe it’s important to get people engaged with the electoral process.  In the 2012 election, only 57.5% of registered voters actually voted.  In the 2010 midterms, it was only 42%.  We do this job because we truly believe that our government will work better and represent us more accurately if more people get out and vote.
  • There are also statistical reasons we get up in your business before elections.  We have studies that show people are mostly likely to vote if someone knocks on their door and talks to them face-to-face.  Phone calls also increase the likelihood that someone will get out and vote, although not as much as face-to-face contact.  We also have studies that show that the more times someone is contacted, the more likely they are to vote.  With inconsistent voters (people who vote in some elections but not every one), it takes an average of three contacts to ensure that they vote.  So yes, it’s probably annoying to get a bunch of calls from us, but we do it because it works.  There’s math and science and stuff.
  • But we really are sorry we annoy you.  We don’t mean to.  We just believe in our candidates so much and value your vote so much that we really want to make sure you do go and vote.  Think of it this way: your vote is your voice, and we really want to hear your vote.  When we call you a bunch of times, it’s because you’re important and we value you.
  • Please be nice to us.  Really, we’re nice people.
  • Even if you don’t want to talk to us, you can still be nice.  It’s not that hard, I promise.  I’m basically an asshole, so if I can get cussed out and say, “Okay, well, you have a nice day,” then you can be polite too.  If you don’t want any more calls, all you have to do is say, “Please take me off your list.”  We’ll do it for you, even if you don’t yell or swear.  We have a little checkbox on our computer and everything!  We’ll still think you’re serious and take you off even if you’re polite about it.  (I actually think it’s an FCC regulation, but even if it weren’t, we’d still do it for you.)
  • Also, you don’t have to lie to us if you don’t want to talk to us.  It’s really okay, and we’re not going to force you to listen.  You can just say, “Thanks, but I’m really not interested.”  Don’t say, “Hang on” and then hang up.  Then I’m sitting there for two or three minutes thinking you’re going to get the person I asked for, in which time I could’ve made two or three other calls.  When you’re trying (as a team) to call 25,000 people every night, two or three minutes really does make a difference.
  • If I ask for your spouse and you yell to them, “It’s somebody from Jane Smith’s campaign,” to them, we can hear you.  We can also hear your spouse when they yell, “I don’t want to talk to them.”  So when you come back and tell me, “Oh, s/he’s asleep/in the shower/not home,” I’m going to laugh at you as soon as you hang up.
  • When I say, “Hi, my name is Kyra, and I’m a volunteer for Jane Smith’s campaign,” you can just tell me that you don’t support my candidate.  You don’t need to yell, “Awww, SHIT!” and then hang up the phone, or say, “Joe Smith sucks” and then hang up the phone.  You could just say, “Thanks, but I’m voting for John Jones instead.”  I won’t even be offended, even if I think you’re wrong.  I get calls from candidates I don’t like too, and sometimes I want to tell them what I think of their candidate, which generally involves a lot of swear words.  But you know what?  I don’t.  Callers are people too, and they’re just doing their job.  Most of them don’t even get paid for it; they do it because they genuinely believe in their candidate.  So if I can politely inform them that I won’t vote for their candidate, you can too.
  • If you really like my candidate, tell me!  Canvassers and phone bankers really like to engage with enthusiastic voters.  Generally, we do this because we’re enthusiastic about the candidate too, but sometimes it can get exhausting and demoralizing.  Enthusiastic voters give us a little cheering up.
  • We also like it when you’re kind to us.  Little things make a big difference.  For example, my intro on calls is always, “Hi, my name is Kyra, and I’m a volunteer with Jane Smith’s campaign.  How are you doing tonight?”  I really appreciate it when people also ask how I’m doing.  It’s also nice at the end of the call when people say, “Have a nice night” or thank me for the work I’m doing.  I always make it a point to say these things when other phone bankers call me, even if I don’t agree with their issue or candidate.  Kindness, people.  It makes the world go ’round.
  • We like to hear a little bit of your story about why you’re supporting the candidate (e.g., “I’m a schoolteacher, and I’m supporting her because she wants to guarantee universal preschool”), but I really don’t need your whole life story.  It may sound cold, but I don’t have the time to make a personal connection when I’m canvassing or phone banking.  As I mentioned earlier, we often have huge goals for the number of people to talk to, and we can’t meet those goals if we have heart-to-heart conversations with a lot of voters.
  • Don’t tell us how we should be running the campaign.  Seriously, don’t.  We have a campaign manager for that, and consultants, and a field director.  These are people who have gone to school to study this stuff, and they have a lot of experience on a lot of campaigns.  We have studies and data that tell us what works and what doesn’t.  Also, with the rapid pace of technological advancement, the best ways to reach voters are constantly expanding and changing.  We base the decisions on how to run the campaign on lots and lots and lots of data.  Also, the person who just knocked on your door or called you is probably a volunteer, and we have no say in those decisions.
  • We can’t control the ads that other candidates or PAC’s put out.  I’m really sorry you think our opponent’s ads are too negative and are dragging down the tone of the campaign.  I happen to agree with you.  But what, exactly, do you think I can do about it?
  • I also can’t tell you why any other campaign is running their campaign the way they do.  I don’t have access to their data and internal numbers.  If I’m calling you on Election Day, I don’t know what the results are until they’re officially released.  I am not psychically connected to my campaign manager, any other campaign managers, or voting machines.
  • I won’t tell you anything about our internal numbers.  That data is confidential.  No, I’m not kidding.  If we wanted everybody to have access to those numbers, we’d put them on our website.
  • If you’re worried that the poll numbers are really close, come help out!  The more volunteers we have, the more doors we can knock on and phone calls we can make.  The more voters we contact, the more votes we win.  Do you understand the math here?  Just complaining or worrying about the polls doesn’t help, but working to shift those numbers in our favor really does make you feel better.
  • No, you can’t get a yard sign.  I have a whole rant about yard signs that involves studies and data, but the gist is that yard signs are a ridiculous waste of money.  If you keep asking about or glorifying yard signs, I will shove a stake up your butt and you can be the yard sign.

I think that’s all my rants for tonight, but expect more in the next 9 days.  Apparently ranting is how I cope with basically everything, especially since I have to be nice and not offend anyone in real life.



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8 responses to “Things Political Organizers Want You to Know

  1. Love the humor (and TRUTH) in this post. So good to see you smiling and joking and doing something you are passionate about. (and duh, obviously I can’t SEE you smiling, but you are in my head 😀 )

  2. Just want to say I love seeing you use your new name, kyra!

  3. This is all stuff that needs to be said to make people understand the political process more. Great post!

    • I really wish more people would get involved! I don’t expect everyone to have my level of interest and engagement, but at leadt do some research, pick a candidate, and vote.

  4. I hate yard signs. So I am thrilled to know they are a waste. Now if I could wiggle my nose and make them all vaporize.

  5. Great rant, Kyra. I never realised you had such huge goals. I hope you managed to achieve them this go round. There really is a lot involved in politics. I never realised just how much was involved until I got to know you. xoxo

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