There is every reason to hate our current state of politics. The people who shout the loudest, the people who name-call, the people who refuse to consider other views, they are the people who often get the most attention.
These political tactics are not unique to the left or the right. Too often it seems that everyone has reverted back to a form of tribalism that halts the progress of society. Nothing gets done with this, “You are with us or you are against us,” mentality.
I spent a few months working on a state house campaign that was trying to change that. Our field strategy was unique. Traditionally, volunteers are asked to learn a quick pitch and to sell the candidate at the doorsteps of voters. There is no conversation, there is no listening, it is just, “Vote for my candidate” and move on.
Instead, our campaign used a technique called Deep Canvassing developed by the Leadership Lab, an LGBT activist group in Los Angeles. Canvassers are trained to ask questions, listen and engage in lively conversations with voters. The premise is that each voter is more than just a vote, that voters are people with opinions, with emotions and with stories. Stories that need to be heard.
Our campaign’s goal was to engage in a process of community building, a process that changed the way we think about politics. Through my time knocking on doors I learned that politics isn’t just a battleground where progress is measured in wins and losses. It is also about those stories. Stories allow people to empathize. They help us to recognize that we all really want the same things. We want to feel safe, we want to have opportunity, we want to feel empowered.
I’ve lived in House District 24 my entire life. I feel like I have driven on every street and walked past every house in the district. But it was only in the past few months, working for the Igor Limansky campaign, that I felt like I discovered my community. Knocking on hundreds of doors has taught me about reaching out to people, empathizing and engaging with them.
On July 10, the official results of the primary came in. We lost by 55 votes out of a 4,878 vote total. That’s a little more than a 1 percent margin. Yes, that stings. But, trust me, this isn’t the last time you will be hearing about Igor or his team.
Election Day was unbelievably hot. In our final push to get out the vote, everyone on the campaign was out of the office and knocking on doors by 11 in the morning. Later that afternoon, after having knocked on what felt like my thousandth door, I remember stopping by a local coffee shop to cool off. I noticed the barista wearing a red “I Voted” sticker.
“I voted for that guy today” she said, glancing down at my blue campaign shirt. She continued, “I’m not really interested in politics, I do not like to talk about it very much. But a friend of mine told me that these local elections are where I can actually make a difference.”
She’s right, if there is any election where your vote will make a difference, it is a local election.
Walking out of the coffee shop I thought: Things are changing. It might take a while. People feel angry, people feel disenfranchised, but things are changing. What better place to start that change than at the doorsteps of the people in our community.
Isaiah Poritz, Salt Lake City, graduated from Rowland Hall High School in June and will be attending Emory University this fall.