Next year is year six of a controversial presidency. The 2014 midterm election cycle will not only be a referendum on the direction of our nation, but will stand as a referendum on the purpose and strength of the local activist groups that have formed over the last several years.
We’ve all worked hard for over four years now, experiencing various successes and disappointments along the way. The enthusiasm of the citizen activist and the organic privatization of political engagement that we’ve seen have been remarkable.
Local groups must be strategic about their involvement as we move into the 2014 midterm election cycle. Here are five things to do between now and next November to help bring about success:
1) Stay Strong
This should seem like a no-brainer, but while many local activist groups were firing on all cylinders up until 2012 and throughout 2013, others have let their involvement wane. Don’t let discouragement or burn out kill your group’s influence.Going into the 2014 election cycle, the power of the people must be stronger than the power of the interest groups. All of the rallies, all of the speakers, all of the events will have been in vain if your group fades at the most important time. Speaking of…
2) Ditch the Rallies
The time for protesting, the time for talking, the time for being inspired is over. The time for doing is now. While some local groups have elected not to endorse candidates, at the very minimum your group should be encouraging all of its members to connect with their preferred candidates and volunteer as much as possible to do essential grassroots work – organize, knock on doors and make phone calls.
Any event between now and the spring or fall elections should focus on practical grassroots action. This means precinct organizing, door-to-door surveys in preparation for GOTV efforts, and training on the latest and greatest GOTV technology. Our time is severely limited and every minute spent at a rally is a minute that could be spending talking to our neighbors.
Your local activist group should be THE source for information about elections in 2014. Here are a couple of ideas: Organize a community-wide candidate forum. This gives your community the opportunity to hear specifically from your local candidates on local issues. Make the event non-partisan and professional, and work with other organizations (Ruritan clubs, small businesses, etc) to increase visibility and community appeal.
Use your website to publish (or link to) materials: Voting information: locations, early voting if applicable, voting times. Candidate information: candidates on the ballot, their websites, local endorsements, your organization’s voting guide. Volunteering information: list of contacts for local campaigns, calendar of scheduled door-knockings, phone banks and sign waving.
If your group legally can and chooses to support any candidates, they should consider organizing their own door-knocking, phone banking, and other GOTV efforts, paying close attention to campaign-coordination laws. Some benefits of this include: Showing organized outside support for the candidate, multiple messages of support reaching the same people, and reaching an expanded audience.
If your group has chosen to remain non-partisan, they should funnel their membership into campaigns of the participant’s choice. Regardless, every group member should be asked to volunteer a certain amount of time. Victory is going to require some effort from everyone.
5) Lead by Example and Work Together
It’s one thing to instruct others what to do; it’s another thing entirely to lead by example. If the leaders are not doing these things, no one else will either. You will have to be out in the trenches working alongside your neighbors and setting an example for others to follow.
It’s also time to shelve philosophical or personality-driven differences that have crept up over the last few years. Your reasons for supporting someone may be different from your neighbor’s, but you are still working toward the same goal. In order to achieve success, we must all work together – fiscal conservative, libertarian, social conservative, moderate, independent.
Winning elections doesn’t just happen. It takes planning and lots of elbow grease from a lot of people. In order to win, we must consciously choose to put aside our differences and focus on what we have in common. 2014 is just around the corner. Now is the time to roll up our sleeves and get to work!