Political canvassing in 2020: challenging and gratifying
For the past two years, I have dedicated my summers to the profession of being a political canvasser. Unlike last year, this year’s efforts were successful.
It was a Saturday around the end of May when I got an email asking if I would be interested in coming back to work for the summer. I quickly respond to the email, and I got a response later in the afternoon. It asked when I could start and told where to meet up.
That following Monday, my dad drove me to the meet up point which was a parking lot in Elmhurst. There I met the field manager, Josh, with whom I had worked the previous summer. Once everyone arrived, he explained that unlike last year, we wouldn’t be going door to door talking to people. Instead, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we would be putting fliers on doors. Since I didn’t have a car or license for the first few weeks, I ended up working with other groups as they moved within their precincts. That was an interesting experience, since I got to meet new people interested in politics and work on the front line of a campaign.
In early July we moved our meeting point to the Mariano’s in Lombard, and it was also around that time that I got my license. Once I was able to drive myself, the entire experience shifted. I mostly worked by myself once we got to Lombard, which was actually better in my opinion. This was nice because I only had to check in with Josh when I needed a new packet or when it was payday.
Working by myself gave me a newfound appreciation for those who work in campaigns. A lot of people don’t realize the amount of time that goes into walking precincts and the energy it requires. Most days, I would get home, take a shower and fall asleep for a couple hours.
The company that I worked for is called NINE2SEVEN INC. It is a canvassing firm that works for political candidates in DuPage and Cook counties. The unsuccessful campaign that I worked on last year was for incumbent Representative Dan Lipinski, out of Illinois’ Third Congressional District. He ended up losing in the Democratic primary to Marie Newman.
This year, I worked primarily on campaigns for State Representatives Dianne Mazzochi and Amy Grant. Both ended up winning re-election, which was exciting. It its not often that you get to switch which parties you work for, but it is more common than you think. Lipinski was a moderate dealing with steep opposition from his own party despite being the incumbent. The organization I worked for was primarily conservative however its not everyday that you get offered to work on a congressional campaign,
Going door to door really does tell you a lot about people and their neighborhoods. Specifically that people can be very suspicious and angry when you hand out campaign fliers. That is why over the last two summers, I have had people scream at me, chase me off their property, call the cops on me (twice last year and five times this year), and my all-time favorite of yelling at me through a doorbell.
The biggest difference from last year to this year was the candidate. Moving from a Democratic to a Republican candidate, I definitely saw how each party reacted to each other. This latest election has shown a divide between people fundamentally. This was reflected in the results nationally which saw major Republican gains in many levels of government.
In my opinion, just based on the candidates I worked for, you saw a major shift away from the moderate platform and this hurt the Democratic Party. Voters didn’t like “leftist” polices on the state level specifically in the suburbs and accepted it on the congressional. However, that was dependent on how districts were structured/gerrymandered.
I loved what I have done over the past two years, and I hope to carry on with my activity in local politics both in and around Chicago, but also wherever I end up going to college. Being active in the political process is something I would recommend to anyone who wants their voice heard or wants to help create meaningful change in their communities. Having input in our democratic process is a key tenet to our republic, and without it we would not be the nation that we are.
Benjamin Fields is a senior at Mount Carmel High School. Fields grew up in Brookfield, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago and attended S.E Gross Middle School....