November 6, 2008

Campaign Round Up

It has been a long few weeks and I thought by now I would be winding down and catching up on life. While it is true I have gotten several loads of laundry done today, caught up on the pile of paperwork and bills I was basically ignoring and got the upstairs of my home (kids rooms excluded) basically presentable I still feeling like we are living in chaos. The unexpected Senate recount is throwing a wrench into our plans as are some sick kiddos. Still we are slowly coming out from the whirlwind our lives have recently become.

The campaign work this year was fun, at time demanding, at times disappointing and at times encouraging, overall I am still glad we were as involved as we were. I really thought this year I would let politics go and we would have a lay low year. I should know by now that is not really possible for me, it must be in my blood or something. Then once it starts it builds and builds until we are at a whirlwind speed that takes us through the finish line.

This year we incorporated a civics class into our studies. Along with two other families the students 2nd-6th grade learned about our government structure and responsibilities, elections, campaigns, separation of powers, basic civics overviews and even concepts like the electoral college and presidential line of succession which are often difficult concepts and certainly not exciting ones to teach kids in that age group. They had fun though and learned a lot along the way.

As for campaign work this year with our own family we did our usual door knocking, voter identification and registration, lawn sign assembly and delivery, poster creation and added to that a lot of time at campaign headquarters. Maria even made over 100 phone calls this election cycle and they all assembled literature drops and helped around the office however they were able. Ciaran was quite disappointed that we were unable to do any sign waving on election day, one of his favorite things and Maria was excited I assigned less writing about the process and opted for more hands on and interactive lessons. Sirah was just thrilled to be able to design posters and craft every day and have a multitude of adults praise her work and be blessed and excited by it.

I ended up much more involved personally then I intended to be and even now still find myself continuing on with assisting in the MN Senate recount process. Yet for all its craziness I am proud of what we accomplished and please with doing it together as a family. The election results were mixed for us with several of our candidates being elected and some not, this provided good learning opportunities for the kids on dealing with both victory and loss after working so very hard to accomplish something.

I met some very interesting people from all around the country and in my own neighborhood, several whom I think will become life long friends. I encouraged friends and acquaintances and yes even complete strangers to me to get involved in the political process, some for the first time this year. I made more phone calls then I think I ever want to do again, but I know I will do it all over again in 2, 4, 6 and 8 years and on down the road. I knocked on doors, discussed issues and candidates with complete strangers at Starbucks, swim team, church and within my homeschool group. I did a ton of research and really learned a lot about a variety of individuals and subjects I never cared about before.

Overall the work over the past few months has blessed me and has really shown me how one person can make a difference and effect change. One day I was feeling particularly discouraged and decided to do the math. For every volunteer I brought to the office around 200 phone calls were made, often more over a typical 3 hour shift. If they came back or brought friends that number increased. Through relationships I had, cold calling lists and previous volunteer lists I called I probably made over 300 volunteer calls. While I do not know how many volunteers I actually got to come through the door or get involved in volunteering in some way I know it was over 50. Mathematically that adds up to somewhere around 10,000 calls - that was worth making 300 calls wouldn't you say? That does not even account for all the personal calls and doors I knocked in this cycle. I never did keep track, my goal was to make 3000 contacts and I think I came close to that but somewhere in the middle I switched to focusing on getting more volunteers. This does not mean we talked to 13,000 people - we left a lot of answering machine messages and got a lot of wrong numbers and some people hung up on us before we could speak. Still those are good numbers and in a state where the senate race came down to several hundred votes I feel like that made a difference. I don't take credit for all the volunteer calls made, the volunteers made them not me, but I do see how I personally and my family who helped and enabled me made a difference in this election. I am one person and each person who got involved made a difference.

At one point on a particularly crazy week Maria asked me why we couldn't be just like any other normal family which actually led to some really great discussions about "normal" and our family choices and lifestyle. I answered immediately and explained how important we see this election as and how we need to take responsibility and be good citizens. I told her that in 2 and 4 and 6 years (Congress, President, and Senate) I wanted to be able to say we did everything we could, win or lose we tried our best. I can honestly say that to my kids in 2,4 and 6 years whether we got the candidate we wanted or not. And in 2 years we will be doing it all over again. That is not to say we are not involved in between election cycles because we are.

One day while working at the campaign headquarters four representatives came in, the woman sitting next to me did not know or recognize them and I realized many of the volunteers in there had never met them before even if they recognized them. It was when I called the one by first name and he used my name that I realized - yes I really am involved. I got to know my representatives, local house and senate as well as US House through calling, emailing and visiting them and working on their campaigns. We are not friends but I feel comfortable calling them and letting them know how I feel on an issue or asking them to take my homeschool group on a tour through the state capital building. To one I said how are you feeling about the election and told him he didn't need to worry he had been a good representative and he thanked me and told me he appreciated hearing that and then said he doesn't hear that much at all. He gets re-elected by substantial margins which clearly means people like him but they don't take the time to say so. If you haven't recently send your local reps a thank you card or email or phone call - letting them know you appreciate the job they are doing. Then next time they run for office help them out with a literature drop or phone bank. In between get to know them and let them know how you feel about issues.

Democracy truly is a precious gift even when we end up with candidates we didn't want or don't agree with. We can always work for change tomorrow and work with our representatives to be accountable today. Citizenship is really important and as much as I am truly exhausted now and wondering where the stores are going to come from to help volunteer for a long likely unpleasant recount I know they will come and I know it is important. I know that my kids will grow up and remember all the things we did together as a family and remember that they have been involved their whole lives, I pray that will translate into lifelong citizen activism for them as well. Even when I am tired, not fond of the candidates, or absolutely disgusted and frustrated with the bureaucracy and system I still find myself pulled back into the world of grassroots politics. It is there you see heart and grit and passion, you meet great people, those who are doing it for the first time and those who have done it for the past 60 years. Together you affect change and make a difference. If our little family can help a chain of effects that led to over 10,000 phone calls so can you. Imagine how different our elections would be if that was the case.

If you made it through this post I am amazed as I feel like I am rambling on and on now without any clear direction. Still it was a good campaigning season and I am glad that I ignored my desire to not get involved this year and fell back into old habits and brought my family along for the ride and even grabbed some friends along the way.

How about you? Any good stories from this election season? Did you volunteer? Anyone for the first time? Good experiences, bad experiences?

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous7:50 AM

    I did make it all the way through your post! Do I get something...maybe a brownie or a hug? I so very much appreciate everything that you did. I observed first hand your dedication and hard work this election. I truly am amazed by all that you did. I admire your dedication. As a first time volunteer, I do feel good knowing that I actively participated....that I walked the walk and did not just talk the talk to get me candidates elected. It was truly informative. Thank you again for everything!