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Campaigning by Machine

By Paul Bolster

Candidates for elective office are now living behind massive electronic walls. For weeks I have tried to get in touch with various campaign staff. There are some candidates I’d like to help, but I am a person who likes to talk about it. A phone call would do. Occasionally I’ll respond to a message from, but I never receive a reply. I guess messages don’t go anywhere. I finally made contact with two campaigns through my state Senator, Nan Orrock. I must admit I’ve been trying to sell them ads in the Porch Press, which I think would be good for their campaigns. But I’m also interested in helping in other ways.

All this reminded me of an incident during one of my campaigns for the Georgia House of Representatives back in the 1970s.  I had installed an answering machine at home. It made sense because we ran our campaign out of the house and wanted to make sure people could communicate with us. We also wanted to appear “up to date” with the latest technology. We even had a Radio Shack TRS-80 computer to keep addresses and phone numbers. The first message on the machine (left by a friend, Don Watson) was regarding my opponent: “Audry’s neat. Audry‘s keen. Audry will win without a machine.”

The modern texting, emailing, and databases have become the mainstays of fundraising and bot-driven messaging. I am hoping candidates get out from behind their modern machines and find a way to talk to voters. How about some small group meetings via Zoom? People have good ideas. This is the time when “we the people” are supposed to be heard but the messages are just coming at us down the communication tube but nothing is going back up. Have a staff person or volunteer answer the phone or call someone back just to see how they are doing. What would they like their government to do? Answer the voter messages and listen.

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