Monday, August 25, 2014

Dear Candidate, Please Don't Call Me

I've been involved with political campaigns in one way or another since I was 14 years old, and I actually tried to make a living at it for a short time, until I realized I was losing with candidates I liked and electing people I wished I hadn't.  My friend, Joe Burke has correctly pointed out that once you turn a passion into a profession, a lot of the enjoyment quickly dissipates.

One of the things I remember in the 1960s and 70s was abbreviation for "get out the vote."  This involves spending months determining which likely voters are more likely to vote for your candidate, then making sure they get to the polls on election day, usually by phoning them to remind them and offer transportation if necessary.  It used to be a very fruitful and cost-effective endeavor that determined the outcome of many elections.

Fast forward to today, when many of us (especially younger voters) no longer have land lines, and the rest of us (even some with only mobile phones) are bombarded for the weeks leading up to the election by "robocalls"--recorded messages, often from the candidates themselves or from famous people supporting them--which urge us to vote for those candidates.  In addition, the GOTV process has been augmented by poll watchers who sit in the polling places and check off the names of every supporter when he or she votes, occasionally sending back the results to the candidate's headquarters.  If, like most of us, you don't vote until the evening, you are likely to receive several calls from someone reminding you that it's election day and you need to vote.

By the end of an election, after countless robocalls and reminders, you wish you had never purchased a phone.  I know this might sound petty, but there have been a few instances where this relentless bombardment has caused me to vote against a candidate that I otherwise may have supported.

In the 1970s and 1980s, when I called a candidate to offer my support, I was recognized for my experience and asked to help in several, meaningful ways.  Now that I am older and less involved on a daily basis, when I call to help a campaign, I usually get a callback from an 18-year-old who is excited to possibly enlist another person to call voters on election day.  I have even agreed to do so on a few occasions, only to hear people like myself begging me to stop calling them.

Here is the truth about these calls--I don't like them, and neither do most people.  In addition, it is an absurdly old-fashioned way to get out the vote.  Do you mean to tell me that in this age of social media, Twitter, emails, text messages, and hundreds of other points of contact, you still think that calling someone is effective?  It is is simply bothersome.  Anyone who likes these calls is probably a shut-in who won't go to the polls anyway.

So I beg you, Mr. or Ms. Candidate, please don't ask me to call voters, and stop your people from calling me anymore. 

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