I never thought I’d say this, but I kind of miss canvassing. Talking to voters in my city was interesting, and left me hopeful that there is actually some common ground here. Most people, Dem or Rep, cared about the same handful of issues around here. Healthcare, clean drinking water, roads, and education. We just elected a ton of people who can help fix these issues. Let’s get to work.
These words were posted on Facebook only days after the 2018 Election by Stefanie, someone whom I have been pleased to get to know over the past year or so. I know her as “my hero” for her willingness to put herself on the front lines of active demonstrations, even to the point of traveling to Washington, D.C., and demonstrating despite being arrested.
These post-election blues aren’t surprising or new – there is always a sense of let-down after you complete a project that you’ve dedicated yourself to, day and night, for months or years. Finding yourself with free time, without a demanding schedule of activity, is a bit unsettling. What am I supposed to do today? Where do I go? Who do I talk to? What do I talk about? If you’ve been absorbed by the effort to elect a slate of candidates, this is an empty time, despite the highs of victory and the lows of defeat.
But it’s also an important time for learning yet another lesson – politics never stops.
In our world, politics inserts itself into everything we do, into every day activities. Most of the time, it’s barely visible and not very impactful; sometimes, it’s highly visible, even intrusive. But politics is always there. And elections are always just around the corner.
It was two years ago – on the day after the 2016 Election – that this election cycle began and that many of us started working toward 2018. We didn’t all understand that we were campaigning, but we were. We posted on Facebook and Twitter and sent emails to friends, then to groups of friends. We met, had coffee, complained, took notes. Some of us organized and others of us joined in. We did things that were unthinkable only a month or two earlier – we made signs, we made phone calls, we stood out in snow and rain and sun, we appeared on TV and in the press.
We also argued with each other, fought over strategies and tactics and styles and goals and money. We gained friends and lost friends and reshaped our groups.
We didn’t stop.
We understood that it was a long campaign and that we could only succeed by each of us doing something every day to move one step forward.
Stefanie misses canvassing – that basic political activity of talking to neighbors and friends. Canvassing, she says, left her hopeful that common ground truly exists.
She’s right (again!). Common ground truly exists and it can only be found by talking to neighbord and friend – by canvassing.
But there’s no need to stop canvassing. Perhaps it’ll be less formal than a campaign might canvass – no mobile app, no careful selection of which doors to knock and which to skip, no glossy door-hangers to leave behind, no buttons to pin on or placards to wave. But canvassing is a formalized version of that most basic political act – talking.
In this way, politics never stops. It becomes more formal or less formal. It becomes more structured or less structured. It is run by paid consultants or by unpaid volunteers. It has a targeted deadline of Election Day or it has no deadline other than when the sun goes down (or comes up!).
Politics is about talking to people. And politics never stops – that’s a good thing!
Photo credit: Mark Felix for The Washington Post