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Political Campaigns May Never End
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Six weeks after Ohio helped re-elect President Obama, the campaign supporting and opposing his policies continues. Their current target is negotiations over how to avoid automatic tax hikes and spending cuts. Some say campaigning should end on Election day, while others say engaged citizens are what democracy is all about.
Neighborhood Team Leader of Ward 18 in Clintonville, Mike McLaughlin organized Barack Obama supporters all summer and fall. Even though the election is over, heâ€™s still organizing, hosting a call to action meeting with community volunteers earlier this month.
â€œTo have 12 people come to an impromptu meeting on Sunday to pick up postcards to circulate them. They knew what the job was. It was a short hour meeting. It was purely procedural; this is what weâ€™re doing. But to have 12 people show up and take postcards and say yes Iâ€™ll have them back to you in a week is very, very encouraging,” says McLaughlin.
McLaughlin says he and the volunteers are trying to preserve tax cuts for 98% of the U.S. population. He says the postcards will be sent to Congressmen Steve Stivers who currently represents the area, and Pat Tiberi who will be the new representative for Ward 18. U.S. senators Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown will also get postcards from the group.
Former state director of the Obama for America campaign in Ohio, Greg Schultz says the volunteers know how to organize on their own.
â€œThe Obama organizing style is not dependent on staff and not dependent on fixed offices. Itâ€™s a very decentralized approach where you put a lot of power and influence in volunteer leaders,” says Schultz.
The Obama campaign had more than 140 offices across Ohio, but Schultz says while those shut down after the election, volunteers remain connected with home bases.
Schultz adds online tools like Facebook and Twitter enable President Obama to promote issues with community volunteers.
â€œSome of them have their own Facebook page where they give updates or they have twitter handles on twitter where theyâ€™ll tweet their successes to their other neighbors and really encourage one another. So not only is it a way to get information out, but itâ€™s also a way to mobilize,” says Schultz.
Ohio State political science professor Paul Beck finds the Obama campaign used some of the same tools as previous presidential campaigns, but their volunteers organized for the long-term.
â€œThe idea was that you donâ€™t have just a six month or a one year campaign for office; for any office, but politicians, people who are in office are campaigning all the time. And so they are keeping people in place; they are raising money all the time. Thatâ€™s less the case for a President in his second term,” Beck says.
Tom Zawistowski is president of the Ohio Liberty Coalition, made up of conservative groups that include the Tea Party. He worries that Ohio voters will be subjected to an endless campaign.
â€œWe are just bombarded with these election campaigns that seem to be never ending as it is and what in effect the left is doing is theyâ€™re in permanent campaign mode and if the right does the same thing Iâ€™m not sure how much we want that,” says Zawistowski.
However he admits conservatives must pay attention.
â€œItâ€™s a positive thing for the campaign. We donâ€™t know if itâ€™s a positive thing for citizens, but because it worked, I think youâ€™re going to see not only them continuing it, but I think youâ€™re going to see people on the right emulating it. So, youâ€™re going to have a lot more activity four years before the presidential election on both sides,” adds Zawistowski.
Neighborhood volunteer Mike McLaughlin says his group will take their efforts on issues door to door if necessary.
â€œLiberty is eternal vigilance and we need to keep the fire to the feet of these elected representatives so they do the will of the people,” says McLauglin.
And OSUâ€™s Paul Beck says strong voices get heard by elected leaders.
â€œOne thing that really is powerful as an influence is the feeling that a lot of people are behind a particular cause and politicians take note of that. They take note of the letters and emails and other messages theyâ€™re getting in their offices,â€ Beck explains.