Traditional GOTV and its affiliated practice of IDing the vote and playing the bingo game on E-day is a waste of precious resources and undermines the credibility of any party that claims to do politics differently.
The zealous attachment to this disrespectful practice stems from a conundrum that we face when recruiting professional operatives. As is so often the case in business, when hiring people, we place a disproportionate amount of emphasis on experience and fail to assess a persons ability to learn, innovate and strive for excellence. The trouble is that it’s hard to find people who have experience working for a successful alternative political party. So we end up hiring people who have been schooled in the old ways of the Liberal, Conservative and New Democrat’s machine to win at all costs even if it means compromising your own principles.
For these old line parties, voter ID is the holy grail of door to door campaigning and here is why. Their support is primarily made up of two distinct groups. The swing voter, who is persuaded by massively funded attack ads and media campaigns that plant fear and seeds of doubt in their consciousness, and their base who is loyal enough to vote blue, red or orange regardless of who is running or who is likely to win. It is this base that traditional GOTV campaigns are all about. They don’t choose to vote Red, Blue, or Orange. For them it’s not a conscious choice, made deliberately after careful consideration. They simply ARE Blue, Red and Orange because their parents are, their friends are, their professional contacts are. Their identity is all wrapped up in it and so to secure their vote, all these parties have to do is identify them and make sure they go to the polls.
Trouble is, new parties don’t have that base. Their supporters are deeply engaged in the political process and are emotionally attached to their vote. They have to be. They have chosen to abandon the safe path of voting mainstream and instead decided to place their trust in a party that is not likely to win. Why do they do that? Because the voters are inspired by something they do, something they say, something they stand for. The key phrase here is “They are inspired”. So if even one campaign dollar or one volunteer hour is diverted away from inspiring people to do what other parties do, it undermines the chances of success. What’s needed is a genuine alternative that inspires all citizens to re-engage in the political process. You need to grow the vote by earning the trust of the disenfranchised and speaking truth to power.
It’s been shown again and again that people don’t really hear your story until they have a chance to tell you their story first. We practice this in daily life all the time. To earn anyone’s trust, they need to feel like they are being heard, that someone cares enough to listen. That is why the listening campaign is a genuine and effective alternative
to traditional GOTV campaigns. Listening is way more respectful than prying confidential voting intentions out of a stranger. Listening shows that you care and sets the tone for the kind of representative that you seek to elect to office. It demonstrates that you care about the individual citizen and that you are not simply a machine that slices and dices the electorate for your own political advantage. A well run listening campaign stands in sharp relief to the mainstream parties and opens the public’s mind to the new policies and progressive solutions that need to be developed as we address the challenges of our time.
So why is there such a strong resistance to leaving the antiquated GOTV model behind? It is fueled by the old paradigm of how political parties operate: Simply put, they raise money to hire staff, to tell volunteers what to do. That’s why the mark of a traditional party is that ubiquitous donate button whenever you interact with them. They function in a world where money is everything and fundraising is their holy grail. Everything else is subservient to that one activity, that one measure of success. In that frame of mind, money, not a bold vision, solutions, trust, debate, or a genuine caring for people, wins in politics. Everything becomes click bait. Issues are fed to the base, not becasue the party necessarily cares about them but becasue it will trigger the donations and votes they crave.
And that brings us to one little secret about the GOTV game that traditional political operatives don’t want anyone to talk about: It collects signatures of supporters that can then be tapped for funds to help pay for the machine. That’s why they insist that even a campaign that is polling in the teens has to make GOTV their number one priority. Clearly even if a riding with 11% support identified all that support and got everyone to the polls, they still would only get 11% of the vote. Hardly enough to secure a win. Nevertheless, the GOTV game still adds names to the fundraising email list.
So in addition to undermining your credibility and integrity by disregarding the sanctity of the secret ballot, traditional GOTV also deceives candidates and campaigns by coercing them into becoming data collection services for central office. It does not have to be that way. You can read more about the alternative in my other post on the listening campaign.