By: STEPHEN M. SALISBURY
I’m running for office this election cycle. I’ll not tell you where or for what position because this is not a campaign ad. However, I do approve of this message! The position I am running for is an extremely low-stakes office in an extremely small town. In fact, the town in which I’m running is half the size of the student population at IU South Bend. So, you could say that when I ran for President of the Student Body here several years ago, I was taking on a much larger task than the one in which I am involved now.
I’ll not share my party affiliation either, but I will say that where I live, my party is very much in the minority. When I was asked to run for this particular office it was more like the party just wanted to have a name on the ballot, which is fine because I really have no expectation of winning. I’m not raising money, nor am I really spending any to pursue this office. What I am doing is learning about how the political process works. I’m also insuring that the current office holder isn’t just handed the job by default. That doesn’t seem fair, which was one of my motivations for accepting the appointment.
It’s easy to sit back and complain about what’s wrong with our democracy, but until one is willing to truly engage and participate in the process of what it takes to get elected to anything in this country, one cannot have a completely informed opinion which is another reason as to why I wanted to get involved.
I think many in our nation, and probably right here on our campus, have nothing but negative feelings about the word politician. I joke with people that I am a terrible politician. I hate confrontation. I’m extremely cautious about just approaching people to introduce myself and, now that I have several months of experience doing it, I hate knocking on people’s doors. Even though my party’s field organizers select doors on which to knock based on previous engagement with the party, it is still one of the most intimidating things I have ever done.
We all know what it’s like when we hear a knock at our door or our doorbell rings when we aren’t expecting it. We immediately get defensive and wonder who it is that is bothering us! It didn’t used to be this way in our society. When someone showed up unexpectedly, we welcomed the visit! But, in this day of random acts of violence coupled with our ability to spend a lifetime socializing with someone whom we never have to meet face-to-face, the idea of someone knocking on our door or ringing the bell, as the song goes, is extremely foreign.
What I have learned in this process is that the most effective way to get to know the people whom you wish to serve is to meet them right where they live. As someone who is far more interested in being a public servant than a politician, this approach has a way of peeling back the façade of what you think your community looks like and revealing the real life circumstances your neighbors are dealing with on a day-to-day basis.
One of the most frustrating things about “canvassing,” as it’s called in the biz, is after we’ve reminded the resident about the upcoming election, found out if they are planning on voting, learned about which candidates they are likely to support, we often ask them what issues they are most concerned about. Nine times out of ten, they can’t think of anything. In other words, they’ve made up their minds about who they are voting for, but they can’t articulate why. Of course that’s probably how many of us would respond if we were put on the spot by some stranger standing at our doorstep who we want nothing more than for them to just go away.
So, here’s my challenge for you this week. Think about it. Take five minutes and really try to have an answer for why you plan to vote the way you are planning to vote. Don’t take the easy way out and say, “It’s because I can’t stand such and such or so and so.” Have a reasoned argument. I believe you will feel better about your choice if you do. And then, if I end up knocking on your door, you can at least give me a good reason as to why I should take a hike!