Inside a Democratic campaign—problematic help

Not all problems are problems

Remember, this series is largely focused on down ballot and small races, state house and below. In all cases, you’re likely to run into advocates and supporters, even party officials, who may be farther to the left than the candidate or support issues the candidate doesn’t. In some cases, they may say things that will infuriate Republicans. Every election cycle we get into a debate somewhere because a county chair or a local elected official decides to rant on an issue that you may agree with (or not) but you wish wasn’t said. 

Before we get into problematic supporters, we have to understand that this isn’t a problem, it is both an opportunity and their job. Advocates for the party, or for local organizations, may take more “red meat” approaches in order to help motivate low prop voters or to continue to keep discussions alive and make a point. They also give a lot of candidates cover for their campaigns. 

For all the talk of “we need Democratic candidates in the middle” I hear throughout the midwest, the only way to establish a center is by also having a left and a right. When Democratic candidates are dropped into a void where no one is on their left, it makes it VERY hard to come up with a central message that isn’t just moving the Overton window further and further to the right. 

It’s okay to have people who are off-message from you on your left. Unless …

What is said outside the campaign can’t come from the campaign.

You can’t control people on social media, and trying isn’t worth the effort. That said, what you need to make sure of is that your volunteers and those who do work for your campaign are far more disciplined. This is where problematic volunteers and support comes into play. 

In a recent meeting I attended, a story was told about how an unhappy canvasser decided it was his job to not just talk to all Democratic doors, but he wanted to talk to every door on a block, despite guidance from the campaign to do otherwise. There was a reason for this—the campaign wanted either the candidate himself or someone who could be better received to go talk to Republicans. How did it work out? The overzealous help told a story about an extended argument at the door with a Republican planning to vote against the candidate he was supporting.

This is, of course, a bit of a problem. Outside of the fact that they probably increased the likelihood that Republican voter goes out and votes for the Republican, they certainly left behind a conversation that gets shared and doesn’t look good for your small campaign.

If you know someone who really, really wants to support you but can’t contain his or her frustration, anger, or any other trait that isn’t helpful, see if you can find something else for the supporter to do that puts him or her out of the public view. 

If the person isn’t part of your campaign, then it is out of your control. If the supporter is someone who has done work for your campaign directly, however, you need to make sure that his or her issues don’t become damaging ones to your campaign.

Next week on Nuts & Bolts: Avoid these simple mistakes

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