Political campaigning - how do I get the jobs I can do?

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Joined: 19 Aug 2007
Age: 30
Gender: Male
Posts: 108
Location: Dubuque, IA

13 Jul 2019, 8:23 pm

Hey, folks. I'm not sure if this will need to be moved to Work, since it refers to volunteering that could yield jobs but is at its core a very social thing.

I've been volunteering since last spring for campaigns, usually left-leaning or even socialist ones, in a mid-size city with a college but not a lot of youthful energy sometimes in the Midwest. The city's in Iowa, so it's abuzz with campaign activity for the caucuses that kick off the U.S. presidential season for those of you disengaged or unfamiliar with U.S. politics (I realize that's many Americans, perhaps even more so than some foreigners). I'm 30, 8 years out of college, so quite a bit older than the green college students and much younger than the retirees, basically using some of my time off of my quasi-full time (32.5 hr) job. I'm working below my capacity arguably, same job for six years now at a call center despite my B.A., but get along well with some of the co-workers, and struggling to find the motivation to publish reference works or otherwise use my humanities education, good memory, etc. My mother's been struggling to make ends meet but hopes to sell a screenplay, and in the meantime, I'm living a lower-middle-class at best existence among volunteers who are often well-heeled or at least upper-middle-class and ambitious, and sometimes don't fit in with them.

I seemed to get on well with a lot of the people in mainstream Democratic groups, and personally know some of those in the local Dem Socialists (currently supporting Sanders, of course) including my college adviser and an old high school and college friend. The latter DSA (Dem Socialists of America) crowd has been pricklier, though, and is a bit less forgiving, I think, of my difficulty thinking creatively or embracing a solidarity mindset. Some of my best times were hanging out with and getting to know people on a Dem campaign for State House, though I found watch parties a little opaque and often struggled with getting others' attention, feeling like a third wheel if I had to spend very large amounts of time. Door-to-door canvassing was difficult unless done with partners so I could focus on recording responses while the partner did a lot of the interaction, and when I did it on my own, I felt self-conscious in the neighborhood and was once asked what I was doing there. Phone banks, though very similar to what I do at work, were sometimes annoying because of that, and I always felt a tinge of jealousy at the Congressional one (though we did beat the incumbent, thank goodness) of the people with connections that got data entry jobs that are sparser but more suited to my talents at work and play. This year, I've been getting back into DSA meetings, but had a bit of a silent meltdown at a recent one after a tornado passed nearby, in which I kind of looked at my phone most of it after trying to start convos and getting shut down amid worse-than-usual food since people didn't show up with the lousy weather (at least I didn't put my head down like at the first one last spring). Interestingly, one DSA member and quixotic city council candidate is on the spectrum, mid-20s and more obvious than me, and I've chatted with him off and on, suspecting he may go through the same issues. I feel passionately that a redistribution of obsecenely concentrated wealth and more fair regulation of economic practices in our society, particularly with a view toward defeating the climate change maelstrom that could decimate life on this planet within my lifetime, are needed, but my middling (for someone the spectrum) social skills (only child, no local connections where my single mom moved me at 12, motivation struggles and some Tourette's/ADD issues) make me ill-suited to most political tasks save for crunching the numbers, which I don't have the pull to get as a gig.

Case in point today--I'm once again invited to an organizing meeting for Sanders, partly by a representative of the campaign. She's one of those 20-something female operatives (there's one for Warren, who I think is rising to be a more formidable candidate in the primary, though head-to-head polls are shakier, who's like this) that seems to employ subtle flirting as a way to encourage male volunteers to participate, since they're who are often under-represented on canvas staff and get those Y-chromosome voters that the party struggles with. I fully realize it's a semi-professional volunteer thing and accept that little is possible, though her harping on needing a place to board and inviting me to an event after we took down a table at a community thing before revealing during my first real canvas that she had a boyfriend in passing was kind of over-the-top; she had no intention to "seize my means of production" or "let me pack her Supreme Court" (as Community Johnny Bravo would say:lol:), friendship's great, out of my first relationship a few months ago, fine. A few weeks ago, at the end of a watch party for the second debate at which I'm having trouble connecting with local DSA folk who seem to be ebbing away, she asks what's wrong and has us discuss on an outside patio at the same lounge my diagnosis, ideas about the campaign, etc. on the outside stoop; she says she has ADD, understands why it's difficult to feel like an underachiever in life and work in this very social field, and to my mention of data entry says her boyfriend works in the field and might have contacts.

Things are going a little better, but today I finally get to the organizing thing this afternoon and she drafts me to do intake, claiming it's sort of data entry. There's someone else at all times taking people's info, and I never get to take any, and the added expectation I was too eager to prove myself to turn down screwed up my ability to start socializing confidently there. Once I finished, we did some icebreakers where I feel I was fine in convo though rejected in one instance, and prepared for her long, cliché-filled spiel about connecting with voters in ways I'm not sure I've ever been able to connect to another human being, and when she discusses the faraway data team she won't help me find work on or indicate has an office in town, I tell the last person I chatted with who was registering people "That's it, I'm voting for Warren, see you later," rip off my nametag, and leave. Not noisy or anything, but the volunteer registers it and says "OK" in a redirecting tone, and I felt embarrassed in front of the others and a bit humiliated, maybe they thought I betrayed them somehow. I message her afterwards, and several hours later she responds that she thought I didn't want to work with the campaign anymore, claiming data entry's not being done right now due to some disclosure rules (maybe my favoring another candidate makes it look like I'd steal info, not smart I know), I ask her what disclosure rules are, no response in 20 minutes and I explain the way being sprung a job completely different from what I expressed interest in at short notice (no discussion in advance whatsoever these last 2 weeks) felt intimidating after she made it seem like she was accepting what I could bring to the campaign.

I feel like the bridges, if they were there, are burned with them, and don't want to make the same mistake with Warren, but I'm not sure how to get volunteering to work for me and be this social vehicle it is for passionate NTs. The Meetup group I'm in has several old ladies and others who sign up but don't seem to attend when I do, I like the ones who do go there but sometimes wonder. Work friends are considering going to a trivia night soon, but I don't know if they'll wriggle out like they did before. I just am trying to take initiative and get more than spectatorship out of life. For a year and a half I've been working to get out of my rut, and I just am struggling to make progress right now.

Mona Pereth

Joined: 11 Sep 2018
Age: 61
Gender: Female
Posts: 1,847
Location: New York City (Queens)

14 Jul 2019, 1:55 am

You might find it easier to work on voter registration drives than political campaigns. My boyfriend and I did voter registration drives a few years ago. With voter registration, you set up a table (use a folding table and folding chairs), and interested people walk up to you.

Be sure to look up the relevant laws on voter registration drives in your state. That's important!

Then obtain a bunch of voter registration forms, plus a few clipboards and pens, and also print up a few hundred small leaflets with instructions on how to register online. (Some people will prefer to use the forms, which you will need to mail in at the end of the day. Most people will prefer to take a leaflet and use their smartphone.) To save money on printing, print four small leaflets per page and then cut each page into four pieces.

Also you should prepare some large signs to attach to your table, so people can instantly know what you are doing and approach if interested.

Note that voter registration drives must NOT be done with the aim of promoting a particular candidate or party. (At least that's the law here in New York, and I would guess elsewhere too.) But, of course, can be strategic about the neighborhoods in which you set up your table.

- My WP Friendship Board - Age 19 Onward post, November 2019.
- My WP Regional Meetup & Networking Thread Index post, August 2019.
- My WP "Getting to know each other" thread: Hello from NYC, begun October 2018.