As I mentioned on a recent article on examiner.com, recently Harrisonburg and Rockingham County Ron Paul supporters have taken to the streets, waving pro-liberty, pro-Ron Paul signs on the outskirts of downtown Harrisonburg. Although the weather has been chilly, I’ve spent time on the corner, publicly cheering on my candidate. However, prior to these recent episodes, the last (and first) time I participated in a sign wave for Dr. Paul was shortly before South Carolina’s 2008 Republican presidential primary.
Back in October of 2007 when I joined the Ron Paul campaign in South Carolina, very early on fellow campaign staffers spoke against sign waving. They informed me that Ron Paul supporters loved to do sign waves but that I should discourage these practices. Now you might ask why they would think this way. Well, although sign waving is certainly a visible way to let voters know that there are folks who ardently support Dr. Paul, it is a completely ineffective tool for identifying like-minded citizens.
Three of the most important functions of a political campaign are: to educate voters about the candidate and his or her opponent, identify supporters, and then make sure that those supporters get out to vote for your candidate on election day. Regrettably, sign waving does a rather poor job at accomplishing any of these tasks. True, it does raise some visibility and name ID for a candidate, but you really can’t delve deeply into areas of specific policy disagreements on a simple piece of poster board. Second, even when motorists honk in approval of a candidate, there is no feasible way to know who is driving that car and whether or not that person is even registered to vote. Therefore, without any method to keep in contact with these supposed supporters, sign waving does not further the campaign aim of making sure that the Ron Paul people come out to vote.
Given that my position within the campaign was in grassroots organizing, the task of convincing volunteers to participate in more productive activities like phone calling and going door-to-door fell to me. But, as you likely know, Ron Paul supporters are a very free-willed bunch of folks and quite a few bucked any kind of authority even when we supported the same cause. Therefore, from time to time, South Carolina volunteers would spontaneously sign wave anyway. Of course I never joined in. After all, if an official member of the campaign staff spent his or her time sign waving, it would lend credence to the activity and prove that much more difficult to persuade them to engage in more beneficial endeavors in the future.
But, as I stated at the beginning of this article, I did participate in a sign wave several days before the January 19th primary. But, Joshua, you might say, if sign waves aren’t very ineffective, why would you spend your time doing that sort of thing when you could have been more productive elsewhere? The answer to that question is Iowa.
After the Iowa caucuses on January 3rd, staffers who previously worked in Iowa came to South Carolina to bolster our efforts. Once they arrived, both the new and the old Carolina team gathered together to discuss the campaign. During this meeting, one of the leaders in Iowa candidly stated that Ron Paul would not win South Carolina. Believe it or not, this news did not come as any sort of shock. After all, we had seen the earlier results from Iowa and New Hampshire; we had spoken to thousands of South Carolinians and knew that a majority of them would not support Paul. However, openly declaring this unspoken taboo had a devastating impact on office morale. What was the point of our many months of hard work if the prospect of our loss was so apparent and could be discussed so seemingly flippantly?
Within a day or two of this announcement, the Greenville South Carolina Ron Paul supporters once again suggested doing a sign wave. This time, I not only offered no objection, another staffer and I actually joined in. We shook our signs vigorously and yelled “Ron Paul!” to passing motorists. Each time one would honk in approval, we would shout “what’s your phone number?” vocally illustrating the fact that the sign wave did nothing to accomplish those three necessary campaign tasks.
Fast forward to 2012. Although I’m back in my home state this time, I am very disheartened with the apparent lack of effort on the part of the official campaign in Virginia. I’ll admit that this feeling likely partially stems from the fact that this time I’m on the outside; I’m looking in. But I’ve begged for supplies and voter information in order to craft some semblance of a traditional campaign here in the Valley and have been rebuffed. You’d think that with only Paul and Romney on the ballot here, the national campaign would do whatever they can to win here. But so far, that idea does not seem to be widely shared. So with the traditional avenues of campaigning unavailable, what can we do to help Ron Paul? Hello sign wave, my old friend and enemy.
In case you are wondering, I still don’t believe that sign waving is the best method to promote a candidate. Nevertheless, I’m proud and honored to stand beside my brothers and sisters in liberty who enthusiastically brave the elements and volunteer their time, doing what they can to show our support for the best candidate, Dr. Ron Paul. So when they organize this kind of event, why not join in for an hour or two? We may win in Virginia; we may not. Either way, we’ll be doing what we can to help with the meager supplies we have.
Therefore, in the coming weeks, if you drive through the streets of Harrisonburg and see a group of people cheering and holding signs for Dr. Paul, chances are you’ll find me among them, waving at traffic.