So I recently started interning for NJ Congressman Bill Pascrell’s re-election campaign, and up to this point I’ve got mixed feelings. What really saddens me is how the campaign is orchestrated like a popularity contest. I mean the organizers tell me that the campaign is on a tight budget and that something like $2.4 million was spent on the primary, yet what are they spending money on now: Pens, banners, lawn signs, stickers, pins, buttons, posters, flyers, and a ton of cell phones to be used for phone banking. But don’t get me wrong…I expected nothing less before I started, but being an active participant in this advertising bonanza just makes me feel empty. What am I and the rest of the organizers, interns, and volunteers really fighting for? Because, from my vantage point, it seems that the ideals and the policies which Pascrell stands for and which Democrats, in general, advocate are so far removed from the actual process of campaigning. And I just don’t understand that, especially since Pascrell is almost guaranteed to win since he’s running as the incumbent and NJ’s eighth district is so overwhelmingly Democratic. Why does the advertising and the PR have to, by such a great degree, trump the pivotal policy discussions? Perhaps some anecdotal evidence is in order. Last week, an organizer and I went out to this Bangladeshi festival in Paterson with voter registration forms, Pascrell flyers and volunteer sign-up sheets in hand to see if we could dredge up some support. This was my first event, so I didn’t really know what to expect. The venture turned out to be wholly unproductive as most of the people either did not speak English and/or were not citizens. But, as it turned out, we did talk to the festival organizer and what he said really made me wonder “Why the heck are we doing this?” I’m paraphrasing, but he basically said that Pascrell is going to win Paterson hands down. Patersonians see Democrat and reflexively check off Democrat all the way down the line from POTUS to county freeholders. His sentiments apply in the case of Bill Pascrell even more given that Paterson is the Congressman’s hometown. On that note, we head back to the office and I express the man’s viewpoint to the Pascrell coordinator (my boss). I don’t recall the exact conversation, but my concerns were promptly dismissed. Not only was I rebuffed, but I was also informed that Sheldon Adelson, billionare casino mogul has donated $500K to pro-Shmuley super PAC, “Patriot Prosperity”. Just in case you don’t know, Shmuley Boteach is Pascrell’s mini-celebrity rabbi Republican opponent. Now, not for a second, am I naive enough to believe that the organizers and coordinators at my office actually think that this donation by Adelson makes the election any tighter. Sure, it lifts Shmuley’s political profile to previously unforeseen heights, but, in the context of the race, it doesn’t matter. How this story was supposed to convince me that my time, as an intern, is well spent campaigning in Paterson…..I have no idea. But nevertheless, this story is going to be used as Pascrell campaign fodder. We already have stacks of this article, fresh off the copy machine, ready to be distributed to residents of the eighth district. ADVERTISING! ADVERTISING! ADVERTISING! For god’s sake, if Barrack Obama had spent less time going tit for tat with Romney in this election cycle, then the presidential race wouldn’t even be as close as it is right now. Obama still stands tight with Romney in all the polls even though the RNC was an unmitigated disaster to all except the media hacks whose job it is to spin the various speeches. Not only that, but Mitt’s campaign has consisted wholly of a comical and shameful series of run-arounds, flipflopping, avoidances, vague and contradictory policy descriptions, negative advertising, and flat out lies. The problem is that as bad as the Romney Campaign has been, the Obama campaign still plays it timid. They have avoided deep discussions of economic policy and have scarcely laid out an economic vision for the future. They have avoided articulating to the American people exactly why the “Hope and Change” of 2008 has not lived up to the hype. All we have basically gotten from the Obama campaign is that the alternative is terrible. And I completely agree, but that’s not the point. That’s not what America wants to hear. That is not what independent voters want to hear. That is not what I want to hear. That conclusion can be spread far and wide by negative advertising. But America does not need any more advertising. We are not buying a product. We are electing the next President of the United States. We want honest policy discussions at all levels of government. That includes Romney and President Obama. That includes Shmuley Boteach and Congressman Bill Pascrell. No Exceptions!!!!!
(More Positive Sentiment will be expressed in the next installment of “Interning on the Campaign Trail” and give credence to my first sentence about “mixed feelings”)