I’ve been going door to door for a couple of weeks now. My wife asked me what it was like running for office, and as I was answering her, it occurred to me that this might be a question that people generally have. The short answer: it’s strange (but fun too).
It’s an odd feeling having to market myself to my neighbors
I generally try to be relatively humble. I don’t do this in order to set up sweet humble-brags, but for quite the opposite reason. I believe that to be human is to be mostly ignorant, and so, no matter how much I think I know, there is an incredible amount more to learn. But running for office, in some sense, is like walking around and saying “hey, I’m awesome, you should make me your leader.” Or at least, that’s how it generally appears, and its a perception I am genuinely striving not to give.
As I am out walking, knocking on doors, and talking to people, I am continually struck by how wonderful it is to live in a country like ours, where, even though a strange bald man is walking up your drive way, you will come out and have a conversation with him. And when I get to have those conversations I can feel something deep happening that clarifies for me what is best about the American process: I am not out asking for a vote for me, I am asking for my neighbors to work together for a common purpose. I’m just a cog in that process. I am making a pitch for the way I see things, and if my neighbors agree they will vote for that vision, and I will work to bring that vision into reality.
It takes a little getting used to approaching strangers (or as I call them: “soon to be friends”)
Actually, this one is not quite as hard for me as it might at first seem. I have discovered in going door to door that I basically have the personality of a Labrador retriever. I find it really interesting to meet different people and hear their perspective on what is right and wrong with our state government (and whatever else they happen to want to talk about). But this is consistent with my personal philosophy I noted above. Since I am pretty sure that I have only a small slice of available information, it’s interesting to trade notes with others and see where the pieces of my own understanding are incomplete.
The thing that is difficult about walking up to doors is that I think people generally like to be left alone (and I feel bad for interrupting them). That said, almost everyone I walk up to on the street or on whose door I knock is pretty friendly and willing to engage with me, even if minimally … which is a relief 🙂
I have not gotten yelled at (yet)
Even without the branding problem that NJ Republicans are currently experiencing, politics and policy can lead to divisiveness. I’ve only been to a couple of hundred doors at this point, so I’m sure I will run into some vitriol before I am done. That said, I have been going to independent and registered democrat doors and so far have had really positive, friendly conversations. There have been some passionate people who are really invested in some issues, but its always civil. I’ve met people in tough life situations, who think the state is hurting them, but who are nonetheless willing to talk to me.
So, despite the potential for divisiveness, I’ve found that when we actually have an opportunity to talk together, the humanity that underlies public policy comes to the forefront. By speaking face to face we get the opportunity to understand that, for all the flaws that any particular policy position might have, in the end its about people of good faith trying to use their limited perspectives to put together solutions for the wellbeing of the community.