Monday, October 04, 2004

Like baseball, it's all about percentages

A good baseball player fails to get a hit two-thirds of the time. This is a good thing to keep in mind in terms of this massive and messy effort called a campaign. The world in which I usually dwell, namely that of academia, is artificial in the way the scholar can single-handedly control and manage her work product. This world, and much of the non-academic world, is the total opposite of that blissful reprieve, which is probably why it is so appealing to types like me. I am discovering my truly visceral dislike of tasks that I find unproductive or meaningless. This probably isn’t a bad (or even uncommon) trait, but it certainly brings home to me the fact that I’m no Kerry martyr: I’m not going to turn off my brain and simply “do whatever” in some belief that it will be helpful to the campaign. But I suppose discouraging the performance of such superfluous or otherwise non-efficient tasks, both by me and other people, is a contribution in itself. I keep having to remind myself that any difference I can make benefits the effort, and is thus worthwhile—and for that reason, it is better to use my good judgment and identify important tasks and design efficient ways to perform them.

I’ve been put in touch with this recent Cal grad who is faced with the Herculean task of media tracking for all of Southern Florida. This means finding people to read and log articles from local newspapers, look out for all sorts of negative ads, or other Republican/anti-Kerry materials, like auto-dials, mailings, etc. The campaign is very into something I don’t approve of—namely, delegating problems and not tasks. I suppose though if you sign up to be paid by the campaign, you should expect such. But this poor kid was simply thrown here two weeks with essentially no resources, which, while it may not be unfair or usual for campaigns, it certainly doesn't seem very practical. So he comes to us, of course, since we are the office, and I’m trying to do what I can to contribute to this effort. I’ve started to log the articles from the Palm Beach Post every morning, since we get it here at the house, and I’m trying to find volunteers who are willing to listen to the radio. I listened to a bit this afternoon while I was in the office, and I caught one of our ads—which is what we are doing this week. It irks me that our office is not together enough to just instantly take care of all these things, so I keep having to remind myself that any progress I make, anything I can add, is good. It’s entirely unrealistic to think that every paper and every radio slot is ever going to be covered. But let’s see what we can get. This is the attitude you need here. You just can’t throw up your hands because things will never be done or perfect. You just do it anyway. You do it because you want to win.

In terms of our office, the staff continues to swell. People are arriving from D.C. and we also have two women who seem to be real GOTV (that’s “Get out the vote”) professionals who are ours for the duration. They told us yesterday that as the weeks pass, we can expect to see a flow of random volunteers descend upon our office, since “anyone who cares at all about this election is going to get in their car and come to a swing state.” The electoral system certainly frees up a good number of people in the country from bothering to campaign in their states.

As I mentioned, Edwards is coming to town on Wednesday, and that means I will be involved in another event. It will feel like old hat this second time around. We have passed on our suggestions from the last event, and we shall see if our advice is taken. If Edwards does well in the debate, this rally could be the beginning of a genuine swell of momentum. Let’s hope so!


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