Nuts & Bolts—Inside a Democratic campaign: It’s okay to be human

Nuts & Bolts—Inside a Democratic campaign: It’s okay to be human

Welcome back to the weekly Nuts & Bolts Guide to small campaigns. I’ve written about rest in campaigns and why I think it is important. Today I want to talk about rest and ease, and what both can offer potential voters when candidates embrace them.

Tranquility isn’t quite resting, but it is a way to humanize yourself with the voters in your district. People see candidates as untouchable figures who are somehow different than they are, who lead lives that are different, who have different experiences. Every cycle, people try new campaign ads to make a candidate seem like someone a community can relate to, or at least admire. 

There is another message you can send that isn’t all about being relatable or a hero figure. It is about being human. Stacey Abrams understood debt, and when people in her community struggled, she pointed out she had struggled with debt, as well. Republicans of course wanted to shame her for the debt in her life, but the reality was that many Georgians could relate—they also struggled with their own debt, and knowing that they weren’t alone with that struggle made Abrams a human and a candidate they could relate to. After her run for Governor, Abrams made good on that relatability when she put together funds to help her fellow Georgians get out of the crippling medical debt that pushed so many families to make difficult choices. Being human is an important part of connecting with voters.

The story of redemption.

Jermaine Wilson is my current city council representative, winning the most votes out of all candidates in a “top three win” election. He is also a former mayor of the town I live in, Leavenworth, Kansas. The community is famous for its prison, and its conservative roots. The election? It wasn’t particularly close.

CITY COMMISSION LEAVENWORTH (Vote For 3)
Precincts: 19/19

Jermaine Wilson
1810

Griff Martin
1689

Edd Hingula
1654

Mike Griswold
1573

What makes Jermaine stand out? Of the six candidates who ran, three won, including Jermaine. Unlike the other two candidates who wrapped up the field—candidates who ran on their strong pro-Trump agendas with the backing of the Republican party—Jermaine ran his own race, emphasizing who he was as a person, and why the city’s government mattered to him as a human. He told a human story of redemption.

Before Jermaine was mayor, and before he was a candidate, he was a person facing very human challenges. Jermaine had been a drug user at age 11, and was convicted later of dealing. Serving time changed his life.

He made the case to the community that this change, this act of redemption, made him human and understanding of the changes that could happen in a community like Leavenworth. Now, Jermaine and I don’t always agree on every issue, but the story here is important: Americans don’t need you to be a hero. They don’t need your candidate to be the perfect neighbor. Knowing you have faults and accept them? Voters love that—it acknowledges that there are opportunities for all of us in America.

Poke fun, but be real.

The campaign for U.S. Senate in Georgia was the difference between Democratic leadership in the Senate and complete gridlock or anti-Biden control, including no judges, no policies, and maybe a real dashing of cabinet officials. Instead, Rev. Warnock put up a campaign that didn’t focus on making him perfect, but human. He led with moments in his life when he was treated unfairly and talked about them openly.

Most of the voters who watched this ad did not have this experience. For many, it might have put them in an uncomfortable position. It was still a chance to say, “Together we can make things right. Join me in doing the right thing, and we can get it done.” 

At the same time, he embraced the humor of the campaign by dismissing attacks, as if to say, “Look, at a certain point recognize this is all ridiculous noise.”

Be human. Sometimes, laughing about your opponent’s obviously false facade is a good way to be relatable. Everyone has experienced that one bully in their life, the neighbor they wished they never encountered, or an in-law, family member, or that one strange cousin you wish you could ignore. Making people laugh at how ridiculous politics can be at times and pointing out we should just be okay with laughing can be very powerful as a message. 

When a joke really lands, it is hard for a campaign to respond without looking bitter. 

Talk about difficult subjects. It’s okay.

There is a fear among a lot of candidates to discuss difficult subjects. Abusive exes. Loss of a family member. The conviction of a family member. Abortion. Inability to have children. Loss of a child. There are several issues that are not campaign issues. They will never be voting issues. Unfortunately, they can be used against you in a campaign. If the opposition knows your brother stole a car in his youth, own it and talk about why you love your family member and hope he can find redemption and rehabilitation. If they challenge you on a DUI in college, you talk about a poor decision you made and what you learned from it. Be frank. If you can, talk about these issues first, before your opponent does so that they are off the table and cannot be used against you later.

If you think your opponent could use it against you, talk about it first. Do not let someone else define you when you are a human being that will be faced with tons of decisions in your life and not all of them will work out. 

Being human is A-OK. Letting someone else define you as doing something that “normal humans” would not do before you can talk about it? That is harder to circumvent.

From Daily Kos at Read More. This article is republished from DailyKos under an open content license. Read the original article at DailyKos.

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