Relational campaigning and our roles as influencers

Charles Bruner is a longtime advocate for policies that support children and strengthen families. -promoted by Laura Belin

Relational campaigning is back. Out of necessity, campaigns have had to adapt to the strictures of social distancing. 2020 has not been a year for mass gatherings, nor for packed party headquarters of volunteers to disperse leaflets door-to-door or operate phone banks. Instead, much of the volunteer work has relied upon people in their own homes and with their computers and cell phones doing what they can.

The plus side of this has been an increased emphasis upon “relational campaigning,” asking volunteers to reach out to the people they know best about issues that matter to them.

While few Iowans are professional “influencers” with millions of Twitter followers, many politically engaged Iowans are “influencers” on the side with their own circle of less-politically-active friends and colleagues. They also know what messages are most likely to resonate. Rather than simple exhortations to VOTE or asks to give money, they can provide information most relevant to those friends and colleagues.

I have been working to enlist those in the helping and caregiving communities (nurses, social workers, community health workers, child care workers, youth counselors, etc.) to “spread the word” about Joe Biden’s Plan for a 21st Century Caregivers and Educators Workforce. The U.S. has more 20 million workers in health, education, and human services. Some 230,000 live in Iowa, and they deserve to know about this plan – described as “the first of its kind for a Presidential candidate,” “quietly transformational,” and (in my last Bleeding Heartland post) “as ambitious as the New Deal.”

We now have a Facebook group (Helping Community Advisory Committee) and a hashtag (#bidenhelpers), which we are using to provide short messages to introduce and promote the plan to our contacts. We have connected with the Older Iowans for Biden Facebook group, doing similar work around the issues and ideas of elders.

I am an advocate for children and families and believe government and society need to do much more to advance children’s growth and development. Our future depends upon it. My personal website (www.childequity.org) has a page, “20/20 Vision for Children,” with extensive information on child policy issues that should be a part of the electoral dialogue. And that task of raising these issues really is upon us.

Biden has done his job in laying out a bold plan for children and families, of which the Plan for a 21st Century Caregivers and Educators Workforce is a key part. The press may not have picked up on it – but it is there and clear. Our responsibility, not just the campaign’s, is to get out the word.  Those of us who care about children, families, and the people who care for and educate them are “influencers” and we can use our own networks and spheres of influence to be good messengers. Emails, Facebook posts, or messages to select Facebook friends, and tweets or retweets are a way to do so (and just cost a little of our time – and likely get rewards in positive feedback).

We stress in the Helping Community Advisory Committee, “Let’s Go High,” because we do want to appeal in a positive way, by providing constructive information. Relational campaigning can be an antidote to the negative campaigning that has dominated the airwaves and leads to voter cynicism rather than resolve.

I feel a strong alignment between advocacy for children and families and advocacy for social justice and economic quality and advocacy for environmental protection. They all are about stewardship, inclusion, and valuing diversity. And those all are values that can appeal, through relational campaigning, to the vast majority of Iowa and national voters. Each of us may select a different particular focus, but our actions can make a collective difference as we STRIDE (Stewardship, Tolerance, Resiliency, Inclusion, Diversity, Equity) for a government that acts on our values.

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