Let's be polite during political season by Maya Ristic Ahh ? the smell of politics is in the air. The campaign season is fast approaching, and before you know it, endless billboard signs of candidates will be advertised along the highways, and anti- this and anti- that commercials will be displayed during prime time.
As funny as it may seem, I actually enjoy the most controversial time of the year.
Because I�ve been volunteering for the South Dakota Democratic Party for two years now, I�ve learned the ropes behind the wonderful world of political competition, as so to speak. Phone script after phone script, hours and hours of canvassing (not to mention the continuous miles of walking), handshaking, and of course, poster-sign making with the shouting of �Vote for?!� (my personal favorite).
Then there�s the fun part, but don�t get me wrong ? I wouldn�t work for the S.D. Democratic Party if it wasn�t all fun. The pizza at 11 p.m. that we all so crave after walking in the bitter cold, meeting local candidates for office, chanting at the Dakota Days Parade, and lastly, working with highly experienced political major students (the majority of them at least), and befriending community volunteer members.
Although I must say that the work that many of us volunteers put into during the campaign process would be much more enjoyable if more community locals would understand the position that we are put into.
We, as students, portray ourselves as salesmen; advertising and selling what we think would be the most beneficial for our state, and overall economy. It is hard when I make a phone call at 7:30 p.m. on a weekday, and as I�m talking about the social event that is coming up in Vermillion, the only response I get is a dial tone.
Or worse, �Miss, I�m tired of you calling� � click. Don�t worry, it�s been even uglier. We apologize that our calls sometimes interrupt your dinner ? but it�s our dinnertime too. It�s the time when most people are home, so we can answer to you, rather than your answering machine. Now I know how telemarketers feel! Whenever I answer to one these days, I simply say, �Thank you for offering, but at this time, we are not interested.�
The point is, what we do for the candidates is little compared to what we actually do for our citizens. Both parties, Democrats and Republicans, show two sides of the story. Each job is to represent quality, useful candidate information for our citizens to acknowledge, and then make the best decision. Our goal is to encourage people to vote � and this goes for both parties.
Also, when we come around knocking on your front step with some literature in our hand, please consider it. They make it for a reason � to learn more about the candidates and the election. Throwing it away isn�t going to let you see what positions the candidates are standing for or against.
Honestly, most volunteers wouldn�t walk around all day and meet strangers if it wasn�t for a meaningful purpose. And when we ask you how your day is going, we truly mean, �How is your day going?� Respond politely, too ? the answer, �It was going well until you showed up,� isn�t going to go over so well.
Remember, you can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar. We want to make friends with the people who make important decisions for our future.
Another thing ? when we are parading around downtown Vermillion for Dakota Days, with stickers of candidates� names, and we offer you one ? please don�t stick out your tongue at us, or yell, �I�m voting for ? instead!� In fact, a polite �no� would be much appreciated.
Whenever someone offered me a Thune sticker, I would simply say, �No thank you.� No harm done. End of story.
So for this year, I�m asking you to be kind. I enjoy volunteering so much more when the community gets involved and enthusiastic about the election. Just think of yourself in that situation; we are not trained salesmen by any means, so at times, we take it personally when someone has no desire to hear from us. The work really does pay off, however, when voters get excited about Election Day, and when people say to us that we�ve done a good job of standing by our candidates. Next time you see me or another fellow volunteer wandering around Vermillion with a Tom Daschle or perhaps a Bush sign, and even if you don�t plan on voting for him, just sweetly smile and say hello.
Maya Ristic, a 2003 graduate of Vermillion High School and experienced local political volunteer, also works as a correspondent for the Plain Talk.