Thursday, 4 November 2010

Phone A Friend

I don’t know if, or what, you’ve been reading about the aftermath of the US midterm elections. I certainly get the impression that there’s a huge sigh of relief that the Tea Party’s success was limited. In the build up to the midterms, the fear here in the UK was not so much that the Democrats would lose the House of Representatives, but that the Tea Party would sweep to victory in Republican seats.

Obama was probably right when he said voters were ‘frustrated’, and this probably led to many people switching from Democrat to Republican, and therefore the Tea Party depending on where you were voting. But thankfully, people had the sense to come out in vast numbers to vote against high-profile Tea Party candidates like Sharron Angle in Nevada, and Christine O’Donnell in Delaware.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s no denying the increasing influence of the Tea Party in right-wing America, but I don’t think their success was as bad (or as good!) as generally feared.

I met someone recently at a phone bank for the Labour Party who had been closely monitoring the rise of the conservative right in both the UK and the US. It was Jon Stewart’s ‘Rally to Restore Sanity’ last week that had really opened the eyes of this one individual, who felt inspired to do something close to home. And that something was picking up the phone to speak with local Labour voters.

I agree that it’s good to feel connected with voters. Yes, it’s daunting to pick up the phone for the first, second, third, or even every time; not knowing whether someone will pick up the phone, or whether they’ll even have time to chat; but it’s important for you, your Party and the voter on the end of the line.

I’ve heard many apathetic or frustrated comments such as ‘I used to be active’, or ‘I’m not really sure why I’m still a member’, or ‘I suppose it’s the best of a bad bunch’. These are difficult to handle, but it’s always good to remind people why they are still members – the social injustices that will only be exacerbated by the Conservative government. But it’s the one phone call you make to the person who has time to chat, the person who wants to chat, and the person you hope gets involved, that makes it all worthwhile.

In our globalised world, we can learn lessons from political movements in the US and be thankful that we have a national health care service, abortion and gay marriages without controversy. We can even get involved in defending these by picking up the phone. Go on – it may be the most important phone call you make.

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