What can I do? I’m just one person. I don’t know anything about campaigning, and I don’t have much money. How can I impact an election in which thousands or millions are going to be voting?
I hear that a lot, and the simple answer is: Pick your candidate and then do your very best to make sure that everyone you know, and everyone you meet, knows why you have picked that candidate. To further illustrate exactly how much influence one person can have, I’d like to present a real-life, fictional story.
I have a good friend by the name of Jim Tomes who is running for a seat in the Indiana State Senate. Jim is a modest, common-sense, working class guy who works hard for the things he believes in and who gets things done. He is in a very tough campaign against a woman who is better known, better connected, better educated and much better funded. Jim’s greatest asset in the campaign, besides his devoted wife and workmate, Margie, is his wide network of friends who are actively supporting him.
That is the real-life part of the story. For the fictional part I am going to create a character – a Jim Tomes supporter – and tell about some of the things he did to swing the election to Jim.
My fictional character’s name is Larry. Larry is a short-haul truck driver, a registered Democrat, and a member of the Teamsters Union. Larry met Jim and Margie through a group they have run for several years called the Second Amendment Patriots. Larry wanted to help Jim in his campaign, but he doesn’t have much money to spare so all he has to offer is his time and energy – which Jim gratefully accepts.
Larry figures that he can help a little by recruiting friends and getting them to recruit friends the way they do in network marketing. He started by talking with his wife and putting a “Jim Tomes for Senate” sign in his front yard. Then he put signs in the yards of his two daughters and his son and elicited promises from each to vote for Jim. He also asked them to ask their friends to vote for Jim and spread the word. Then he enlisted several of his buddies to help him put up signs. They and their families became committed Jim Tomes supporters. Jim’s commitment to the Constitution and the Second Amendment was what really sealed the deal for them.
Every day Larry made it a point to talk with folks at work. He told them what a good guy Jim is and how much he respects him and he asked each person he spoke with to please vote for Jim Tomes. Then he asked if Jim could count on them to vote for him and to ask others to do the same. Larry was amazed by how easy it was to get people to agree. He knew that many wouldn’t follow through on the commitment, but he was sure that a lot would.
Larry expanded his reach by writing a very brief letter to the editor of the local paper. In it he told a little about himself, that he was a registered Democrat and Teamster, and that he was voting for Jim Tomes because he knew him personally, knew what Jim believed in, and knew Jim would be a great senator for the people of his district and all of Indiana. As in his verbal pitch, he asked people to vote for Jim and to encourage their friends and family to vote for him too.
In just one week Larry spoke face-to-face with nearly 100 people and got voting commitments from at least 75 of them. He didn’t argue with anyone, but asked everyone to keep an open mind and really look at the two candidates. The paper published his letter, and he and his buddies put up nearly 100 yard signs and turned 3 of their trucks into rolling billboards.
Meanwhile Larry’s wife was emailing and calling her friends too, as were his kids, and his daughter printed a bunch of small signs for store and car windows which she and her siblings were actively spreading around town. The family called it their “Vote Jim – Tell a Friend” campaign.
By Election Day several thousand people who had been touched by Larry’s efforts cast votes for Jim – many just on a vague notion that they had heard he was a good guy – and those votes resulted in a slim victory.
In this work of fiction, Larry, just one guy who didn’t know much about politics or campaigning, but who wanted to help a good candidate get elected, actually swung the election. Everyone has the power to influence – if they care enough to try.
But this is a work of fiction. The election hasn’t happened yet, and Larry might still be sitting in front of the TV convinced that he can’t really do anything that can actually help.
Politics is personal, and personal politics is the most powerful. If you believe in a candidate, the most important thing you can do is tell someone – tell everyone – and ask them to do two things: Tell others, and vote!