Blog Post for April 3rd
A college campus, and the small radius in which most undergraduates live from their campus, can often feel like a bubble. I have noticed this in Chapel Hill, and in the many college campuses I have been fortunate to visit the past four years. Sure, each campus has some connection to the town or city at large, but often that connection does not reflect a symbiotic relationship.
I found Lee Storrow’s discussion with our class this week an excellent tie in to all that we have covered and talked about in class. His story resonates with me, as a young, soon to be college graduate looking to get involved with politics. I have dreamed of running for office for some time now. The idea of governing, especially in a small southern town, has always seemed noble.
Listening to Storrow, his honesty and humility were two things I recognized immediately. Running for office, even in a small town like Chapel Hill, is difficult. His ability to put together a successful political campaign at the age of 21 or 22 is impressive. I couldn’t help but to compare what a campaign would look like if I tried to run for office in my hometown next year- the thoughts are not pretty.
As Storrow spoke, I thought back to Jeffery Alexander’s The Performance of Politics and considered how political performance and authenticity matter in small town elections where candidates have so much individual interaction with voters. According to Storrow, Chapel Hill has a population of about 55,000. In a town of that size, people are going to know you on a personal level- they are your neighbors, or church members, or simply a friend maybe. After listening to him talk, I realized how intimacy changes the concept of political performance. In small towns, your constituents can likely tell if you are merely acting when they listen to you at a debate, or on the radio.
Circling back to his honesty again, I appreciated that Storrow openly discussed how he considered each campaign movement and decision to ensure his outreach came across as authentic and consistent with his. In the present political climate it isn’t hard to think of a senator or governor we have seen on television and thought to be insincere. Frankly, it is bizarre to listen to a candidate talk about the careful craftsmanship he puts into his public image with constituents. He used the word “calculation” when discussing this idea of crafting an image in a small town, which I thought was an excellent description of what is done.
I also really enjoyed listening to Storrow talk about his campaign strategy concerning how different voters in the area were targeted for a home visit, an event invite, or a mailed postcard. He then talked about his (local) media strategy and how his knowledge of the local press had changed since his first campaign. He knew there was one reporter he could always count to call for a quote, ensuring that his voice was heard on local issues. I have many friends who have run political campaigns in recent years, specifically small town city and North Carolina General Assembly races. I found Storrow’s comments on strategy similar to what my friends had told me about their own strategies with their candidates.
Lastly, I enjoyed hearing Storrow talk about his mistakes. He was willing to answer our questions honestly about things he hoped to do differently this campaign, like better tracking our his GOTV (get out the vote) efforts as he and volunteers went door-to-door canvassing. I thought his honestly and the passion with which he spoke certainly made him appealing to me as a voter.