The Never-ending Campaign Season
Here at the Chamber, we think a lot about when people start paying attention to an upcoming election cycle. As political campaigns and issues become increasingly associated with information overload that can generate skepticism and even indifference among voters, the old adage that “timing is everything” seems as relevant as ever.
In truth, there isn’t really an “off-season” to the campaign cycle. So while it might feel normal and less mentally taxing to put off the time and leg work that goes into being an informed voter as long as possible, our local and state future depends on you not giving in to that temptation.
Political maneuvering for the next election typically begins the day after one is over – and sometimes earlier. We’re still months away from actually making voter decisions in the 2018 elections, but candidates and various political interests have been working for months (years?) on campaigns, ballot initiatives, targeted messages, voter turnout strategies and other essential groundwork – whether the public is paying attention yet or not.
The Chamber isn’t waiting to get started on the campaign season. Late last month the Chamber teamed up with the Traverse Area Association of Realtors (TAAR) on a Political Candidate Training event where it brought in a team of experts to help people understand the complex nuts and bolts of setting up and running a bid for public office. It was encouraging to have more than two dozen area residents participate – several with no connection to the Chamber or TAAR. With our area in desperate need of more men and women willing to step up and play a role in leading our communities – particularly those with business experience – it was heartening to see people wanting to at least explore the possibility of public service.
Ever vigilant, the Chamber is busy doing its homework on the approaching campaign. Led by its exceptional Director of Government Relations Kent Wood and its Governmental Relations Committee, the organization is researching several potential ballot proposals that could go before voter this fall. Some of them, including a major overhaul to Michigan’s re-districting procedures, could have a significant impact on federal, state and local government operations in Michigan for generations to come. As a result, it’s critical to understand as much as possible about these initiatives. Whether they’re about drawing political boundaries, legalizing drugs, setting wages in the marketplace, or changing energy regulations, it’s of the utmost importance to understand who or what is behind these initiatives (including who’s funding them), how they’ve played out in other jurisdictions, and how they align with existing state laws and Michigan’s Constitution.
Think back to your days in school. Did you do better when you attended every class, paid attention and kept up with assignments throughout the semester? Did you pay a price when you skipped out on Fridays, missed some chapters and pulled all-nighters before final exams? That’s sort of like the responsibility of being an informed voter. Keeping up with issues and candidates as they evolve over months and years is time-consuming. But it’s simpler and less stressful than tuning out all things political until the waning weeks or days of a campaign season and then being a sucker for soundbites and political ads. It’s a much better feeling to enter a voting booth with a grip on candidates and issues than deciding based on a letter after a name, or skipping key seats or voting “no” on referendums with major policy implications because of a lack of information.
It’s really no surprise that in this age of unprecedented information, people’s private data is being utilized more than ever to shape the political landscape. That’s not going to change. Instead of feeling detached, cynical, or overwhelmed, voters need to pay closer attention than ever to ensure their fact-based knowledge remains the power behind our democratic republic.
Doug Luciani is CEO of TraverseCONNECT and the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce. Contact him at doug@TraverseCONNECT.org