Another brick in the wall

Elections and fundraising

Before starting graduate school, I used to do fundraising on political campaigns. A major part of political fundraising is “call time,” which is when candidates spend hours calling through a giant list of potential donors to ask for a campaign contribution.

Most candidates don’t like this. Calling strangers for money is awkward and calling their friends and acquaintances for money makes them feel guilty. Many candidates I worked for tried to talk their way out of it, so I spent a lot of time firmly telling them they can stop when they meet their fundraising goal for the day.

“It sounds like your job is babysitting grown adults,” my husband told me when we met.

“Yeah, kind of,” I agreed. I was often trying to manage candidates over twice my age and talk them into doing something they didn’t want to do every day. It was stressful.

Part of the reason I don’t do fundraising anymore is because, if I were in their position, I wouldn’t want to spend over 30 hours a week on the phone asking people for money either.

For someone running for office, there’s practically no way of avoiding this. A friend of mine once ran for Congress. The Democratic Party in D.C. told him they wouldn’t actively help his campaign until he was able to raise a certain amount of money.

This hyper-focus on fundraising is why many politicians are independently wealthy. The candidates who are best at raising money are wealthy people with wealthy coworkers and friends. Running for office itself is practically a full-time job, and most people don’t have enough in savings that they can just take over a year off to run a political campaign.

It’s why Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s election to Congress, as a 29-year-old former server, is so inspiring–and why many older, more established politicians, like former Sen. Claire McCaskill, have showed disdain for her.

Perhaps established political operatives, both democrats and republicans, should embrace newcomers like Ocasio-Cortez who have more in common with the average voter rather than selecting candidates based on their fundraising ability.

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