Guest post by Dublin Bay South Green Party member, Billy Jones.
I am long term Green Party supporter. By that I mean I have voted many times for the Greens. Since the late 90s I have cycled, walked and occasionally even driven to my local polling station to provide that support. I enjoy the ritual: a quick chat with the staff while collecting my ballot papers, a bit of humming and hawing as I go down the list, but almost always a number 1 for the Green candidate. I have watched RTE’s marathon election coverage expectantly. I have quietly celebrated the party’s successes and lamented its failures. On the 24th of May next, I will navigate the early morning bustle en route to St Brigid’s Primary School. I will write number 1 next to Hazel Chu as the Green Party local election candidate in Pembroke and number 1 next to Ciaran Cuffe as the candidate for the European elections.
This time around though, a number 1 vote doesn’t feel like enough. Last year I joined the party I have spent most of my adult life watching from the sidelines. I am belatedly lending a hand. I have leafletted, put up posters and gone to meetings but what has left most of an impression on me is my time canvassing. Aside from joining the masses who campaigned in the final push before last summer’s referendum, I am new to this. I find canvassing daunting but fulfilling, exhausting but ultimately energising. The joys and sorrows of door knocking are perhaps best captured in a book I happen to be reading.
“There is nothing like a doorbell to precipitate the potential into the kinetic. When you stand outside a door and push the button, something has to happen. Someone must respond; whatever is inside must be revealed.”
That’s according to the novelist Wallace Stegner. It’s true, when we knock on a door, we have no idea what is behind it. We might find a lifelong Green supporter ready to invite us in for tea or a bitter opponent, vowing never to vote for us. We could be greeted by a warm smile and a chat or a grimace from an overworked parent, struggling to get the kids to bed. Canvassing is a lottery, it occasionally throws up rude and unpleasant people, but most people are decent and welcoming and many people are genuinely interested.
If like me you are new to all of this and you are not sure canvassing is for you, here are a few things to consider.
Firstly, you might surprise yourself. I don’t consider myself a natural canvasser, yet I am managing it. I’m pretty good with people but I also find too much time in company tiring. Towards the end of an evening, after innumerable doors and maybe one or two indignant residents I slow down, my capacity for conversation diminishes, I am exhausted. When I get home though, I always have something positive to take away: kind words of support, an interesting take on an issue or maybe just a bit of craic with the other canvassers. This, along with a belief in the ideas we stand for is enough to get me out again the next time.
Secondly, I imagine that many of you look around and are frustrated that other people don’t share our views. I know I feel that way. It may sound obvious, but when I started canvassing it was a revelation to me that if you want to win someone over to your way of thinking, you can simply knock on their door and ask them. It is the most direct way of building support and it can be very satisfying. I have found that it is possible to connect with people with different views and even change their minds. More than once I have been greeted with anger and animosity only to see it melt away simply because I listened and was courteous.
Finally, canvassing is an opportunity to meet new and interesting people. It can be a lot of fun. In my brief time canvassing I’ve met postwomen, film producers, some very witty elderly people, carers, students and even diplomats (the latter are problematic since they aren’t allowed to vote!). The list goes on. Connecting with people and getting to know them a little can be enlightening and fulfilling. Happily, many of them really do care about issues like climate change, better transport and building a less wasteful economy.
If you are reading this, you will most likely be voting Green in next May’s election and those beyond. There are lots of other ways to help and perhaps canvassing isn’t the one for you. However, I wasn’t sure it would suit me, but I am managing just fine. I may even have secured a few more number 1s on the way; perhaps you can too? The voters are out there, we just need to go and get them.
If you are interested in canvassing to help Dublin Bay South Green Party candidates get elected, please come along to a Canvassing Workshop on Saturday 23 February at 11am at the Hilton Hotel, Charlemont. Please register for a free ticket using EventBrite at this link: Book a free ticket for Canvassing Workshop