A small group of local, long-time political activists met last week with one of the 80 or so paid organizers for the Coordinated Campaign of the Iowa Democratic Party. Electing Bruce Braley as Iowa’s next U.S. Senator was at the top of our to-do list.
We don’t see each other often, but share the experience of working on election campaigns over many cycles. We know what it would mean if power in the U.S. Senate switched from Democratic to Republican leadership. If it’s up to us, that won’t happen, and each person at the meeting was willing to invest resources of time, money and thoughtful participation toward electing Braley to the U.S. Senate.
What does that mean in 2014?
It means participating in canvasses organized by paid staff, attending candidate and party-sponsored events when our schedule permits, and writing checks to campaigns when we have resources. That’s only part of the picture. Increasingly, it’s a small part.
More than anything, modern political campaigns require each of us be engaged in a community, without regard for political affiliation, and do things that make sense to advance our views. In rural communities especially, the human landscape of society doesn’t change enough from one election cycle to the next to pretend neighbors and friends don’t remember what was said in a letter to the editor, or at an event the last cycle. This persistence of memory can be a blessing and a curse in political campaigns.
Campaigns send a lot of requests for political donations, almost none of which get acted upon. The rationale is a variation on a theme that the numbers justify them. That is, if a request is sent to 10,000 people, there will be a financial return. This cycle, I am hearing more about Charles and David Koch, The Heritage Foundation and political action committees than ever. Campaigns keep sending the messages reinforcing a negativity that is hard to ignore.
At the grassroots, people understand the difference between a political action committee and a candidate, and at the end of the day, when there is an extra $25 in the checking account, a donation will go to a candidate, not a third party. Plenty of folks feel that way.
The summer’s string of parades, picnics, car races, music concerts, annual gatherings and county fairs is only just beginning, and political candidates are attending. We don’t put a lot of stock in what a particular candidate may say at an event, but there is an unspoken expectation they will show up in person from time to time, and that through these and other presences in person and in media, we will get to know them.
The weather has been exceptionally good for outdoors gatherings, and 2014 will be a summer to remember if for no other reason than that. Politics affects our lives, but we go on living.