James Magazine May-June 2020 - Magazine - Page 8
S P E C I A L
oting does not come naturally to most citizens and
government enforced quarantining creates new challenges
to mobilizing the electorate. The
ban on groups larger than 10 and
the requirement of keeping six feet
apart has transformed campaigning.
A deputy finance director spoke for
most operatives when he observed that campaigns today
have no playbook. Traditional activities like meet and
greets, door knocking and passing out literature or signing up voters at the mall have ceased. Yard signs and billboards become less effective as shelter-in-place reduces
travel. In place of tried and true approaches, candidates
are struggling to make effective use of Zoom, Facetime,
YouTube, Twitter and other social media.
By definition, candidates are people persons. They
and those who work on campaigns thrive on back slaps
and hugs. A virtual meeting does not provide the emotional fuel to run a campaign.
Not only are candidates having to master new approaches, most of them must operate with fewer resources. Fundraising has become more difficult. Meet
and greets on Zoom attract fewer participants than an
invitation to a friend’s or neighbor’s house. Joining an
on-line gathering lacks the appeal of attending an event
headlined by a celebrity with the opportunity to get a
selfie— an opportunity that individuals interested in
a candidate will pay for. With travel curtailed, out-ofstate fundraisers are no longer feasible which cuts off
lucrative venues for some high-profile candidates.
Even closer to home funding sources are drying
up. Hard-pressed donors are reneging on commitments as the coronavirus costs them customers or
forces closure of their businesses. As soliciting dollars
becomes more challenging, it magnifies the advantage
enjoyed by candidates who can self-fund.
R E P O R T
As important as money is in campaigns, candidates
need foot soldiers to disseminate their message. Shelterin-place has shut down the volunteer pipeline. Closing
colleges and universities has dispersed students, the
eager College Republicans and Young Democrats who did
phone banking and other grunt work. Nor can candidates
make pitches to county party organizations to recruit
older, experienced volunteers.
Door knocking is more effective in mobilizing voters
than irritating phone calls at dinner time or mailings. Yet
even if a campaign had volunteers to canvas neighborhoods, who would answer the door?
About the only unchanged feature of campaigning
has been online fundraising. Eligible candidates continue to pump out solicitation for money. But even General
Assembly incumbents are hamstrung since, with the
legislative session suspended with 12 days remaining, office holders are in time out— barred from raising funds—
even as their challengers make appeals. continued on page 10
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