Canvassing Lessons From A Beginner

On Sunday, April 15th, I went out to Everett, MA to canvass with the Greater Boston Young Democrats to engage voters around Elizabeth Warren. First thing about canvasing is that you don’t get to choose where you’re going to be. You are where the need is. For me, this meant two things:

  1. I had to travel to the end of the city… a different end
  2. I got to see a whole new part of the city

I found knocking door to door is really exciting, especially because I was with a friend who I could chat the waiting-on-the-door time. In about two hours, we knocked on more than 50 doors. Here are a few tips I learned along the way:

Be Cautious: No trespassing here. If you aren’t let in the first door, don’t try. Even if you are super eager to talk to folks and tell them all about the amazing qualities of your candidate, reign it in. This isn’t the time or place to go evangelizing your political message.
Know Some Facts: It’s good to go into canvassing with a few ideas for different interests about how to share how your candidate sympathizes with THEM! For example (real example) if they mention their brother is in school (and you’re a Dem) talk about student loan forgiveness or how the healthcare act extends a parent’s heath insurance to their child till they are 26.

This is Not the Battleground: You’re not going to have any drop-down-dirty-abortion-gay-rights-EPA-defending argument, most of the time. If you do get someone at the door, and they give you the time to talk to them, they are going to tell you about their personal troubles: affording their son in college graduating to a terrible job market; their elderly mother or grandmother affording her medications; their son back from war finding a job.

Two Way Street: Not only was I canvassing for a great candidate, I was also adding to the combined influence of GBYD. I was reminded that in those hours, the three of us on this one Sunday gave six hours and knocked on more 100 doors. Add to that the next time, with more people and GBYD could deliver a large amount of support. In turn, we would get a seat at the table, have our platform heard and our issues discussed.

Talking to people, or preparing to talk to people, about policy is a great way to solidify your own beliefs. Participating in the process, helping my political interests, and engaging my community is an opportunity I look forward to having again.

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