Road Trip Toolkit
Congratulations! You are about to embark on a political road trip – a fun and gratifying way to make a huge impact on a campaign that really needs you. So take a deep breath and be prepared to become a very important agent of Democracy.
How to begin?
Confucius say, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Here are your first three:
Step 1: Pick your targets. Go to our handy-dandy targeting map and click on your home state to check out hot races nearby. Click on neighboring states as well. Heck, click on states where you have friends and family you might like to visit. Focus on close races, candidates you love, and places you want to explore.
Step 2: Educate yourself. Learn the basics about the candidates and the district where you’ll be canvassing. You don’t have to know everything, just enough to get totally psyched and to speak convincingly to your friends and family, and ultimately to voters, whose doors you’ll soon be knocking on. Work on three good points about why your candidate is so much better than his or her opponent. Call the campaign, ask for the volunteer coordinator, and ask what their specific needs are.
Step 3: Recruit! If you have a café where progressives gather, put a sign up. If you’re in college, tell everyone in your classes. Grab your friends, grab your family. Tell them you’re taking an exciting trip to save the world from those crazy people on Fox News! You’re all going to be super-heroes! Tell your friends that the ONLY way they will get to hang with you between now and November 2 is on a political road trip. Post that you are taking a trip on our rideboard.
Step 4: Inform the campaign. Let them know you are coming, when you are arriving, how many are in your group, and whether or not you’ll have a car at your disposal. You’ll also need directions to the campaign office and at least two cell phone numbers for people working on the campaign. Try for the canvassing director and the volunteer coordinator.
What to Pack?
The goal is to hit the ground running once you arrive, which means you’ll want to pack well. Here is what you’ll need.
- Good walking shoes
- Driving directions to the campaign
- Phone numbers for the campaign’s volunteer coordinators
- A canvassing bag — big enough to hold campaign lit and walking lists
- A clipboard, in case the campaign runs out
- Glowing endorsements of your candidate to read in the car as you and your group drive off to save the day!
What to do once you’ve arrived?
Once you arrive, the greatest need a campaign will have is invariably canvassing — that is, going door to door to speak to voters about the election and to distribute campaign literature. This is absolutely the most effective thing you can be doing with your campaigning energy and here are some do’s and don’ts to ensure you do it well.
- Be safe. Work in pairs on opposite sides of the street, and never go into a home, even if invited. In apartment buildings always remain on the same floor and within sight of your partner.
- Exchange cell phone numbers with your partner before you start canvassing.
- Write down phone numbers for the rest of your team and the campaign’s volunteer coordinator.
- Write a quick personal note on campaign lit for those voters who are not home. Simply, “For XXX – Sorry we missed you!”
- Use visual cues to get a sense of the voter. Yellow ribbons, religious imagery, a Greenpeace decal in the window – this can help you better target the conversation.
- Leave literature in the mailbox or mail slot. It is illegal! Instead, put it in the door handle, between doors, or under the doormat.
- Lecture the voter. This is not effective and it wastes precious time. Just tell people why you are most excited about your candidate, encourage them to contact the campaign with questions, and MOVE ON.
- Read the campaign script word for word. It’s only a guide! The more conversational, the more persuasive.
- Record responses while you are on the voter’s doorstep. Wait until the door is closed and you’re on the sidewalk.
- Lie to a voter. Ever. If you don’t know something, just emphasize that you are a volunteer and that the campaign has a website and phone number.
What comes next?
Once you’ve completed your first road trip, your goal is to keep building your group. Your main challenge is going to be that people will think they won’t be good at it. They’ll say, “What if a voter asks me a question and I don’t know the answer?” That means, it’s your turn to say “That hardly ever happens, but if it does, you just tell them you’re a volunteer and direct them to the campaign website. Your job is to make positive, face-to-face contact with voters. Your job is to make sure that every progressive out there knows there is a make-it-or-break-it election coming up and that they’d better VOTE on November 2.”
Yes. There is an added benefit to the political road trip, which we have not yet mentioned. That is, you will make amazing friends. Just think: YOU are the kind of person who sees an opportunity to change the world and YOU are actually cool enough to get off of your duff, into your car, and TAKE that opportunity. There are other people out there who are just like you. Those are the people you should be hanging out with. Find them, recruit them, mobilize them. You will not regret it.