Like many who live in Iowa who have had the audacity to have openly register with one of the political parties, we get lots of calls these days. This year in particular we are getting lots of calls because of the high competitiveness of this year’s campaign and the feeling among so many Americans that this year’s election will determine whether or not our country will remain a democracy.
Like so many people based structures in our society, campaign structures are built along a hierarchical structure much like an army. At the top is the candidate, the commander as it were who sets the vision and general goals. Directly below the candidate are the trusted advisors who are essentially the generals. These trusted advisors put together the staff and put actual numbers around the goals to be achieved. By what date do we want to have what percent on the polls, for instance. What kind of numbers do we need in a given congressional district on down to the precinct level.
Below the close advisors come what would be the mid-level officers – the colonels, majors, captains and lieutenants of the campaign. As we go further down the line the areas of focus become smaller and more specific. Having never been in a campaign structure myself, I do not know what titles these folks have. My guess is there are titles like state leader, district leader, county leader etc.
Like most organizations at the very bottom we find the people who are actually the ones who have the most contact with the customer. In this case the customer is the party voter. The folks at the bottom of the campaign organizations, the foot soldiers of the march of democracy are the campaign staffers.
Over the years we have had the good fortune to have met many, many of these folks. Some have become, at least temporarily, friends.
These are mostly young folks who are very politically aware. Most are imbued with some sense that they can make a difference. They attach themselves to a candidate whose ideals and policies are in alignment with their own and sign on to lend a hand.
Most have traveled some distance to come to work in a small state that probably be colder than most have ever experienced. They will often be living with host families but will be spending little time there as their days of meeting with local leaders and voters keeps them out most days and nights.
The cars they drive are much as you remember the first cars that you had. In Iowa a good car is so necessary because outside of about ten counties or so, Iowa is quite rural. For many, Iowa is often a nearly alien place compared to where they grew up. So along with this being a job driven by passion, it will also be quite an experience in their life’s journey.
We have met campaign staffers from the east, the west, the south. Some are from cities like Chicago, New York City, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Others come from towns that have one stop sign and a convenience store. Most have had some college experience, some have done a military tour of duty.
What they all have in common is that they have taken time from their lives to participate in the continuing drama of making our democracy stronger. For that we wish to express my deepest appreciation.
These young men and women are the foot soldiers of democracy. Their job is democracy at the in-the-dirt of the grass roots level. They will be working 15 to 18 hours a day until caucus night to persuade, cajole and even beg one more vote that may be the one to put their candidate over the top. Through it all they know they are the face of the campaign to the voter.
We are very fortunate in Iowa to have the great drama of the election play out right in front of our eyes. We have also been fortunate to have the staffers coming in to our state to work for their candidate. So when you get a chance to talk to one of the staffers, thank them for what they do, maybe buy them a cup of coffee. They don’t get paid a lot and they are a long ways from home, often dealing with folks who can sometimes be a bit cantankerous.
Then come the morning of February 4th, they will be gone to one of the next stops on the campaign trail. Hopefully they will have good memories of Iowa and Iowans wither their campaign was win or lose.