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Since September 26, I have been a volunteer with the Miller for Mayor campaign. Articles before that date represent my decision-making process and all articles on this site represent my views only. Join the campaign; we need your help.
Initial Reflections on the Political Experience
When I first joined the campaign to elect David Miller as Mayor of Toronto, I was overcoming hesitation on my part. I had never gone out and worked for a candidate before, and it felt a bit awkward at times. Nevertheless, I'm very happy I did it and might possibly do it again in the future.
Some other people, including blogger Armchair Garbageman, have commented on getting involved also. So, I thought it might be interesting for me to make some comments about what it was like and what I learned.
First of all, it is a lot of fun to do. Especially on "e-day" and the days leading up to it. You meet a lot of people -- and quite a variety of people, too.
Secondly, you are really needed. This campaign had lots of volunteers, but really, we could have done with a whole lot more. There were times we had under-utilized people on election day, but for the weeks before that we always could have had more.
I don't have a schedule that lets me participate in team sports anymore. And, I'm not motivated to be hyper-competitive in the office. So, being a part of this campaign let me really apply myself. I really wanted to win because I really believed in our candidate. This was a good opportunity for me to go all out for victory. That's a great feeling to have when you believe in both the means and the end.
When I signed up, there were certain things I didn't want to do. I ended up doing them because I couldn't say no. They turned out not to be so bad.
Knocking on doors and talking to people was fine. People were usually very receptive, even if they were supporting somebody else. Working in groups helps, because if you're having a bad night, someone else in your team might be getting lucky.
Phoning people was fine too. No one was as rude to me as I usually am to telemarketers.
It helps to have a good candidate. I never found myself questioning why I was supporting David Miller.
It also helps to be working in an election when there is consensus in the community that there needs to be change. People really wanted to hear what I was saying to them.
Don't have high hopes about the role you're going to be given. If you're joining a campaign at election time, they already have strategists, etc. You are probably going to be doing grunt work, and you might get a chance for something managerial or organizational. But accept it, because someone really needs to do all those little things.
Bloggers who are thinking about volunteering should be encouraged. Having people on the campaign who know the issues is really helpful. I was a much better canvasser than I otherwise would have been because I was able to discuss and debate with people on their porch.
Without polls, it's hard to know what's going on. Especially in a race over a broad geography like this race for Mayor of Toronto. There were certainly many times when I could see the momentum for David building, but there were other days when I felt like we were losing it. Those bad days actually were probably just based on impressions I was forming from the media. It's a tricky thing, because morale is so important and sensitive.
I was surprised by the support I got from my friends. Instead of asking me if I was crazy, they all told me it was very cool. My enthusiasm rubbed off on most of them, and they were talking up David Miller wherever they went.
In this election there was good comraderie between the different camps. I had some good discussions with John Tory supporters, but also people working for other candidates, in other races. Instead of an intense rivalry, there was mostly mutual respect.
I think that that respect was derived from the pride we all felt for being part of the process. As we attended the debates, it was hard not to see that -- no matter who won -- there was something good going on.
I have to expect that municipal politics is probably quite different from party-based provincial or federal races. Municipal races are based more on individuals, and also rely less on advertising.
Will I do it again? It depends on the candidate and the situation. There's going to be a federal election coming up soon, and I don't know if the issues at stake will motivate me enough. And there's just something about party politics that has distanced me.
I seem to be more interested in municipal stuff. The next election is three years from now, and that's a long time. I might be curious, however, in working on someone's campaign for city council in an open race. After a megacity-wide mayoral race, there's something about focusing on just one ward that seems almost easy.