Over the last two weeks, my fellow Oles and I have learned a lot about campaigns and American presidential politics. Independent of party, all of us have mastered the art of the “hard ask:” asking the voter who he or she will be supporting with the correct balance of respect and persuasion. We’ve all figured out how to best navigate a canvassing map, taking care to avoid massive ice patches, and how to elegantly recover from a nasty fall. After two weeks, we know how to take a no at the door or on the phone, but we also have developed a knack for knowing when a supporter can be pushed to get more involved with the campaign. The past few weeks have been a crash course in grassroots organizing with ups and downs along the way. More than anything else, though, I believe this experience has taught me just how hard organizing is and why campaign addicts keep returning call after call, door after door, year after year.
Whether it’s at the door or on the phones, I never know exactly what awaits me. Somedays, I might knock thirty doors without a single answer or call 100 people, only to end up with their voicemails. On the other hand, some voters might shut the conversation down with a brisk, “I’m all set,” before I have a chance to say a word. On one memorable occasion, a woman shouted, “no, thank you” from her open window. These setbacks can be disheartening at times. Campaigns are all about connection and the building of communities. Without direct contact with other people, it can feel as though you’re going nowhere.
Each day, however, I watch the campaign’s heart pump steadily on. Whatever the setbacks that yesterday brought, the campaign faces the new day with an open mind and fresh outlook. Volunteers, interns, and organizers set out to canvass voters, start new conversations, and grow the organization. This cheery outlook, I believe, stems from supporters’ and campaign members’ sheer belief in their candidate’s vision for the future. At the doors, I’ve been told repeatedly that politics is a young person’s game. But from what I’ve observed, politics is game for anyone with hope for change. Sometimes, even most of the time, we don’t agree on exactly what that change should be. But for me, these dreams for change unite all of us involved in the noisy, chaotic environment of American presidential politics. Young and idealistic, old and wise, people of all ages and backgrounds get involved in politics when they want to have a say in their futures. What other force brings people of all ages together?