It’s another Sunday, so for those who tune in, welcome to another discussion of the Nuts & Bolts of a Democratic campaign. If you’ve missed out, you can catch up any time: Just visit our group or follow the Nuts & Bolts Guide. Every week I try to tackle issues I’ve been asked about. With the help of other campaign workers and notes, we address how to improve and build better campaigns, or explain issues that impact our party.
Volunteers provide an incredible service to the party and to their candidates. Without volunteers, the party itself simply cannot function. We need people who will commit parts of their own time to help build the party up and make the connections that can help us raise money, build candidate recognition, or just create the ongoing standard of contact to make sure our voters show up to vote. What happens if your candidate loses in a primary? If you volunteer for the party, do you also volunteer for the candidate? Who should you volunteer for and if you’ve volunteered for one, what kind of commitment is that, really?
I signed up to work for my candidate and they didn’t win
So this is where we have to make a few things clear right off the bat. A large number of volunteers come in because they have a personal connection to the candidate. They are joining the campaign for a local office because the person running maybe their friend or family member. If their campaign ends in the primary, it’s a 50-50 proposition as to whether or not the volunteer decides to continue to work to elect candidates.
So you have volunteers who are committed to working for their candidate, but not necessarily all Democratic candidates. Or you are that volunteer, and you wonder why you should stick around. The answer to both of these questions is largely based on the environment that volunteers are presented with from the beginning.
You’ve signed up. Your candidate didn’t win. Do you stick around?
In the end, you volunteer for your community
At the end of the day, when you volunteer your time and effort into any Democratic campaign or Democratic candidate, you are actually putting your time into helping your community and all Democrats. The more you learn about the community and the more information you can provide to your county, state, and national party, the better your community will be and the better the chance will be for Democratic candidates at every level of the ballot.
It can be heartbreaking if your candidate doesn’t win. There are a lot of volunteers who leave after that point. The work you put in during a primary still benefits the party and the eventual candidate. Work in local elections, spring elections, and general elections, win or lose helps the health of the party at all levels. Your work will not be lost.
Should I just work for the party directly?
There are volunteers who go to work straight for their county or state party. They might also go to work for any other Democratic organization that means something to them. Is it better to volunteer for one or the other? Should you choose to volunteer for a candidate, a county, or a state party?
This is where I think campaigns, county organizations, and state parties can give you bad advice by strongly pushing one over another. Instead of worrying about which is better, think about which organization or campaign you are going to be more excited about working with and you are excited to work with. If you can bring that energy to any organization, at any level, that is where the benefit lies for the Democratic Party. It is easier for you to have a good experience there, and find that you like the culture at another level. Make friends who move on to work for another campaign or for the party itself.
Follow your heart when you volunteer, not your head. If you’re fired up to work, it will show and that is the goal.
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