OAKLAND, CA, November 6, 2012 – If today means more to you than just the release of Halo 4 on Xbox 360, Election Day can be the most emotionally demanding 24 hours of your life. As both a former campaign manager and a political scientist, I’ve prepared a foolproof, election-tested list of dos and don’ts to help you survive the day with your wits intact. Whether you’re a first-time candidate or a first-time voter, here’s how to make it to final printout (or a contested election recount!) like a pro:
1. Start your day off with a breakfast high in fiber. For candidates in contested races, Election Day is a final endurance battle that begins in the wee hours of the morning when most of the world has the privilege of being asleep peacefully in their beds. The last several months have been a merciless, nonstop assault of fending off opponent histrionics, pounding the pavements to meet thousands of often indifferent (or even hostile) undecided voters, cold calling total strangers for large donations and attending a whirlwind of events and speaking engagements.
Weeks of sleep deprivation, adrenaline roller coasters and irregular eating times have a way of sneaking up in some of the most embarrassing ways and inopportune moments, which is why I advise my all candidates to make sure they get their fiber in on Election Day for regularity. Stress manifests differently for everyone, but the one thing you don’t ever want is a bound up digestive system under pressure.
For years, my secret has been to take a glass of coarse psyllium powder stirred into cold water first thing in the morning of a big primary or general election. When I see my candidates grimacing and rubbing their tummies as nail-biting runoffs show minimal separation between them and their opponents, I know they haven’t taken their fiber. Whether you’re running a race or following one, start your day off right and get your fiber in.
2. Make it a point not to lose your cool no matter what. Inexperienced candidates have the tendency to be very superstitious. They believe nearly everything they encounter is a “sign” that they are winning or losing, be it driving down the street and seeing three extra volunteers helping their opponent or hearing a media personality make a prediction about the election on the radio. Making this worse is the fact that there are always campaign supporters or state committee officials who believe it is their calling in life on Election Day to send frequent, urgent, panicky calls and text messages to the candidate, campaign manager or grassroots coordinator of every news report, unusual sighting and rumor they encounter.
Here’s a tip: short of the ghosts of John F. Kennedy or Ronald Reagan walking door to door to pull voters for your opponent that haven’t been crossed off the precinct register as having voted, it’s safe to say that no matter what you see, it isn’t worth losing your cool over. The signal to noise ratio on Election Day is already extreme and too many reports from the periphery can not only be stressful but irritating. What’s done has been done and candidates and their team are already working as best as possible to stay organized and collect last minute votes.
If you’re a candidate, make sure you communicate in advance to your team what you expect of them and then let them do their job. If you’re a volunteer or a supporter, just focus on staying positive and keeping people around you motivated and in good spirits.
3. Don’t text election results (or demand election results). There is nothing more annoying on Election Day than nonstop SMS spamming of texts prematurely offering condolences on the first printout of AB/EV votes or demanding to know when the next round of votes will be posted. Results can go back and forth all night and even though someone appears to be in lead (or lag) early on, the final printout sometimes can be the exact opposite. I’ve seen elections where candidates who appeared to be in lead lose at the end of the night by as thin as 14 votes.
Just stay cool when the votes start trickling in. Don’t call friends and family telling people the election is lost, don’t post on people’s Facebook walls gloating messages, don’t tweet photographs of candidates crying, don’t text candidates saying “I’m so sorry you lost, next time you’ll do better” – don’t do anything that will add to the already emotional and highly fluid evening. Resist the temptation to be the jerk who calls the election with 1% of precincts reporting. Just wait till votes are counted. Remember that the election isn’t over until the final, certified results are released and sometimes candidates who you think lost actually won!
4. If you’re invited to an election party, drink responsibly. Some, but not all candidates and campaigns host large “victory night” receptions with alcoholic beverages. It isn’t uncommon for supporters, volunteers even friends and family members of a candidate in the heat of the moment to go overboard on drinking and start saying what they really think about the election. If you’re a guest at a political event, be polite, considerate and keep yourself under control. The worst thing you can possibly do is to get into a drunken argument at a candidate’s Victory HQ.
5. Be nice to your opponent and their supporters. Last but not least: in victory or defeat I have always made it a point to be gracious to my opponents and their supporters. If you’re a candidate, be sure to have your opponent’s phone number handy so you can at some point touch base and connect on election night. Congratulations are in order no matter how they do. If you’re a campaign supporter, it’s equally important for you to set a good example for your candidate by being magnanimous to “the other guy” and their partisans.
I don’t believe that politics should be a license for enmity towards people. Don’t insult, demean, mistreat or do anything on Election Day that will reflect negatively on the honor of the candidate you support and the cause you believe in. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. For all you know the people who supported your opponent might be your campaign volunteers in 2014 or 2016.
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