Today campaigning is in full swing, and unfortunately, so is COVID-19.
Prior to coronavirus, campaigning involved the standard handshake and “baby kissing” as well as usual crowded political meetings, coffee talks, fundraising activities, and get-out-the-vote efforts including knocking on doors, many of which now breach the very notion of social distancing.
During the Q&A with candidates for Massachusetts’ 4th Congressional District, which represents Brookline; The candidates were asked “What are some of the challenges that come with campaigning in a time of social distancing?” to what Jake Auchincloss, for example, responded “Right now, I think people are for support, not for politicians to be asking for their vote. It’s difficult to campaign without face-to-face interaction, but we’ve taken this opportunity to pivot and focus on providing as much support and resources as possible to the communities of the 4th district.” Or Jesse Mermell, who said “Our entire operation is based on being in the community with voters and on grassroots engagement and contact – but public health comes first. It’s new to everyone but we are rising to the challenge by using technology in new, creative ways to engage people wherever they are.” Each candidate expressed concern for the inability to visit neighborhoods and learn directly from the people regarding their concerns and needs, and yet they appear committed to flatten the curve and keep promoting social distancing.
But what are candidates doing to overcome these challenges?
Cavell, for instance, said” We’re trying to call attention to the lack of widespread testing, paid sick leave, and resources for medical professionals. We’re also trying to provide moments of levity and hope. We will get through this crisis the way we have gotten through every crisis in our history: together.” And Grossman responded “We are trying to think hard about using Zoom and other online platforms to be able to conduct meetings and virtual house parties and continue to have that direct contact with folks in a safe and responsible way. … We are leaning on our digital and social media platforms.” Today Voters may want that intimate relations more than ever before. Between live streaming content and responding to certain day-to-day issues, the virtual, digital movement is going to become part of a democratic trend for citizens living through the coronavirus pandemic.
After reading every answer to every question, I researched how other campaigns are behaving and noticed that even in the presidential campaign, they keeping up appearances. The Biden team, for instance, said on a memo “We held elections during the Civil War, the 1918 flu pandemic, and World War II, “We are confident that we can meet that same challenge today.” This is very inspirational but Then there’s the issue of getting out the vote, the process of voting itself, as the world is dealing with a pandemic virus, although this is said to be able to do online, some might not be able to, like elderly adults who might experience this as a challenge. Also Fundraising through this process seems like yet another obstacle, Not to mention the negative impact that the progressively weakening economy might have on the scale and amount of contributions, big or small. These Large dollar gatherings are nearly all in person. And usually, voters would want to shake hands with the candidate they are supporting, having this obstacle makes it hard because these voters won’t be as inclined to join or be part of these fundraisers, that will now have to be replaced with zoom fundraising meetings, call times or other online platforms. This new era is not only a dare to candidates but to voters as well.