I recently finished up my summer internships for Congressman Bob Dold’s re-election campaign and Rod Drobinski’s 62nd District Illinois State Representative campaign. After 100+ hours of making phone calls, recruiting volunteers, and collecting information through surveys, I have realized the power of grass-roots movements and the importance of civic engagement. Honestly, most days I dreaded canvassing in unfamiliar neighborhoods by myself. Although it wasn’t an easy job, each time I went out canvassing it was a pretty rewarding experience for myself as well as for the campaigns. Constituents were happy to see a young college student engaging in the political process.
One of my favorite memories of canvassing occurred on Sunday, August 7th. I was out with the Dold campaign in a retirement community in Grayslake, Illinois. Some people were nice, but not everyone was friendly or even willing to come to the door that day. Towards the end of my shift, I rang the doorbell at one of the last few houses on my walk book, and a man in his early 70’s came to the front door. I explained to him that I was from Dold’s campaign and that I had a brief survey. As I reached out to hand the man the campaign’s flyer, he said “NO! NO! I hate the Republicans.” Used to this response, I said, “No worries. Bob Dold is actually one of the few moderates left in Congress”. The man didn’t seem to care about Dold’s moderate record at all. He started spewing lines about how Republicans are ignorant and how if Dold was so moderate that he should switch parties and run on the Democratic ticket. I tried to interject with facts such as that Dold was the first Republican in Congress to be endorsed by the Human Rights Campaign and that he has and will continue to fight for common sense gun reform. Little did I know that this encounter would turn into a crucial opportunity for an important 20 minute conversation with this gentleman. We talked about everything from college tuition to property taxes in the 10th District of Illinois. Even if I didn’t necessarily convince this man to vote for Bob Dold, I was able to engage in meaningful, productive dialogue about important issues at the local and federal level. I hope to bring the skills I learned this summer from my internships straight to Wake Forest’s campus. I’m excited to reach across the aisle and learn from others’ life experiences and stories. Perspective is key in politics and in policy-making. Curiousity is key in the business of politics and interacting face-to-face with constituents is cruical.
Canvassing this summer taught me the importance of active listening even in times of extreme frustration, as well as the importance of personal connection. Canvassing is all about picking “the right battles” and knowing when and how to engage with citizens. And what better way to #wakethevote than by knocking on hundreds of doors in local neighborhoods encouraging people to exercise their right to vote?