Vail Valley Voices: Cure for political fatigue
May 3, 2011
If you or someone you know is at risk of becoming a political burnout, contact your nearest campaign office immediately. The cure for the bouts of apathy associated with “campaign cough” lies in an old method: inoculation.
It’s easy to become disenchanted in a political cycle that’s always in motion. City councils beget county commissions, which beget legislative sessions that beget congressional sessions. Add some smiting and the whole thing starts to read like Genesis. In a culture now numb to the constant barrage of one-upsmanship, a pleasant political conversation with a stranger becomes an antidotal tonic to the cable news novocaine.
Recently, I signed on as a volunteer with a Denver mayoral campaign and found a lot more of those pleasant conversations than expected.
My first campaign experience came on a Sunday afternoon. I was wandering through Denver neighborhoods with a list of likely voters, a satchel of fliers, and the back of mind fear that any one of the front doors I visited could swing open, introducing me to the cold stare of a 12-gauge. The reality turned out to be just the opposite.
I’m not saying every person who greeted me at the door was thrilled to see me. Most of the time I think they were just relieved that I was there to talk about a mayoral candidate, and not trying to sell them something. However, more than a few times, I encountered interest that went beyond “polite-building-toward-dismissal.” I encountered people who appreciated my stopping by.
It is pretty amazing how the offer of something cold to drink on a warm afternoon, or a simple “thanks for doing what you’re doing” can juice the civic pride portion of the brain. The more doors I knocked, the more I started to understand that what I was doing had some value. By the end of the day, it was apparent that a lot of us still do care about politics, even if our knowledge gathering is motivated by a desire to criticize. Even fed-up voters are willing to listen. Really, I didn’t need to worry about the people answering the door, only the occasional angry dog. Some dogs don’t care for “soundbite politics” … just a sound bite.
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Relief through direct exposure. It just may cure what’s ailing the American political spirit.
Andy Cohen, a graduate of Battle Mountain High School and the University of Colorado, worked as a television news producer for the past five years. He’s currently volunteering as a communications strategist for the Colorado Center on Law and Policy in Denver. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His blog appears on andycohen.tv.