One of the biggest misconceptions about campaigns is how much work and preparation it takes to be successful.
My all-time favorite alliteration is prior planning prevents poor performance. As my Algebra 1 teacher used to say, “People don’t plan to fail, they fail to plan, Mr. Jackson.” This was true for those of us who struggled with Mr. Quimby’s class, and it is even more true for political candidates.
As the country recaps and tries to understand the breakdown of the 2020 election, now is the time for you to start thinking about your 2022 campaign. As you build your campaign plan and chart your road map to success, do not overlook what young people can do for your campaign. They can propel you to victory.
Below, you’ll find six reasons why you should make young people a pillar of your campaign.
1. Provide Volunteers
If you spent any time looking into running for office, you might have been overwhelmed at all the things a campaign has to do to be successful. From scheduling to knocking doors, organizing events, building and placing yard signs, and more. It does not matter if you are running for dog catcher or President of the United States, there are only 24 hours in the day. You will need a dedicated team of volunteers to make sure you win.
After spending more than one million dollars, the last candidate I worked for won by fewer than 500 votes. Our campaign had more than 70 active young volunteers. My candidate would not have won without their help.
2. Provide Votes
There is a common misconception that young people do not vote. If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that young people are voting more than ever before.
According to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), 55% of eligible voters between the ages of 18-29 voted in 2020. Young voters are also growing as a voting bloc and make up a larger share of the electorate in years past. In the November 3rd election, young voters counted for 21% of the entire vote in Georgia.
It’s hard to win an election if you ignore one out of every five voters.
3. Create a Youthful Image
Having young people around you will also create a youthful image and, let us be honest -- youth sells.
If you were to turn on the TV right now, you would find commercials full of young people. Even commercials targeted to senior citizens have actors that are a little too young for the roles they are playing.
Candidates who surround themselves with young people look like they have a large range of support, more energy, and are more likely to win.
4. Create a Win Psychology
There is a lot of insider baseball in campaigns. One of the most complex elements in our game of 3D chess is to show that you are beating the other side on the campaign trail. You can do this with endorsements and fundraising numbers, but the easiest way to get it done is to surround the candidate with enthusiastic young people. More young people walking with the candidate in parades, more young people in photos of social media.
Young people help you show that you have a diverse group of supporters who will carry you to victory.
People like to be on the winning side. Sports teams have the greatest number of fans when they are having a strong season. Those fans come out and support the team, attend the game, and buy merchandise.
Having young people on your team presents you as a winner. If people expect you to win your campaign, more people will donate, and more volunteers will show up to knock doors next Saturday.
5. Train Leaders
It is frustrating to see, but the truth is fewer people are involved with their community than generations ago. Instead of spending the evening at a Knight’s of Columbus or Rotary meeting, most people just decide to head home.
Regardless of your political ideology, everyone can agree that more people should be involved in giving back to their communities and taking a leadership role.
A great way to give a local young person leadership training and get them more involved in your community is to enlist them in your campaign now. A young person on a campaign will learn important skills like public speaking and how to lead and organize a team.
Early involvement in your team will provide crucial leadership opportunities for the next generation. These opportunities will lead to more community leaders, to better neighborhoods, and maybe even to a candidate of the future.
6. Make Good Citizens
The bedrock of our republic is individual participation. From a very young age, people are taught to make their voices heard and be involved. A great example of this is when children disagree on a game’s rules on the playground. Instead of running to a teacher, most groups of students will say, “majority rules” and ask their peers to vote on the final rule verdict of a rule or what just happened. There is no instant replay in four square, but the third graders watching will vote and make their voices heard.
Some young people who volunteer on your campaign will end up voting for the very first time. If they enjoy their time on the campaign, they will continue to vote every election down the road. And more active local participation in the political process is good for society.
Those may be the top six reasons, but there are countless reasons why you should make young people a pillar of your campaign.
When planning, you spend a lot of time on data, fundraising, and endorsements. All these things are important, but do not overlook your local college campus or high school. If you find the right students, they will be worth their weight in gold and do much more for your campaign than 90% of the formal endorsements your campaign announces.
If you find young people in your area who are willing to help you, send them to one of the Leadership Institute’s Youth Leadership Schools, and our staff will teach them how to organize and get as many votes for you as possible. If you have any questions, feel free to email me at LJackson@LeadershipInstitue.org.