The Makings of a Successful Campaign
(Remarks delivered by Rod Taylor at the CHP Ontario Council’s “Engaging Our Culture” event, Nov. 2, 2013, Mt. Elgin, Ontario)
I have been asked to speak on the topic: “The Makings of a successful Campaign”
What do we mean by a successful campaign? What kind of outcomes or results do we expect to see from a successful campaign? What are the elements, the necessary components of a campaign that lead to those outcomes that we are working for?
First we have to ask two other questions: what is a campaign? and what is success?
Before I try to answer any of these questions I have to make a disclaimer /what they call full disclosure:
Although I have run as a candidate in two provincial campaigns and four federal campaigns, I have not YET been elected to public office. The old saying is that “Those who can do and those who can’t teach”. I have not YET achieved the outcome that I have worked so hard for, yet I have not accepted the label of one who can’t. None of us should. You only fail when you quit trying. Today, as a non-quitting fellow-soldier I hope to bring you some practical suggestions that will help you launch your own successful campaigns.
We have all heard dozens of times that “You’ll never win”. “CHP will never elect anybody”. I don’t accept that as true. That is simply an opinion based on incomplete data and rooted in unbelief. What’s true is that the CHP has not YET elected a member of parliament. Nevertheless, we have been in the battle and our battlescars and disappointments are part of the experience and part of the training that qualifies us to speak on this topic of running a successful campaign.
Success needs to be looked at from a long-term perspective. The patriarch Abraham took a long-term view of God’s promises. Moses faced disappointment, misunderstanding and years of frustration as he sought to fulfil God’s plans for his nation. In more recent history, Abraham Lincoln gave us a good example of perseverance. In 1832, he ran for state legislator and was defeated. In 1854, he ran for U.S. Senator and lost. In 1858, he ran again for U.S. Senator and lost. In 1860 he became President of the United States and led his country through the difficult years of the Civil War, preserving the Union and ending slavery in the US. There are many other examples in political history: William Wilberforce who poured himself out for 20 years to eliminate the slave trade from Britain… and Winston Churchill who was basically viewed as a paranoid war-monger in the long years between two world wars. He was rejected and dismissed as out of touch until it was almost too late and Britain realized how much she needed him. These men were not failures; they were heroes whose time had not yet come. One day some of your names may be recorded as the men and women of principle and conviction who overcame odds and helped to shift Canada from a death culture to a culture of life.
My favourite verse, at least the one I quote most often in the context of Christian politics is Hebrews 11:1: “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen[YET]”. I like to read the word “YET” into this verse because I believe the rest of the chapter and the rest of the Bible make it clear that faith will allow us to see things as they will be and as God already sees them. But they are realities that are not YET manifested.
Going on in Hebrews 11, God says:
Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as YET…took action, he prepared an ark to the saving of his house…
Abraham looked for a city which had a foundation whose builder and maker is God…
He was looking for a city which did not exist YET. He knew it was there but he had not YET seen it with his natural eyes.
Of Moses, God says: By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.
He endured, as seeing Him who is invisible…
These heroes all died in faith, not having received the promises YET, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them…they believed God and, as with Abraham, God counted it to them as righteousness!
Our whole lives, as Christians, are based on obedience to the One we have not YET seen for a result we have not YET obtained.
Psalm 139 , the psalmist says to God: Thine eyes did see my substance, YET being incomplete; and in thy book all my members were written… when as YET there was none of them.
In Isaiah, God says: “I declare the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not YET done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:
yes, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.
In Romans 4:17, Paul tells us that “God brings the dead to life, and calls those things which are not as though they were”.
We are engaged in a struggle for the heart and soul of our nation. A struggle to win the opportunity to serve this generation with Godly policies and Godly values so that they—our neighbours and our children—can live peaceful and productive lives, can enjoy God’s blessings free from fear, free from want and free from the heel of godless tyrants.
We see—by faith—something that our unbelieving neighbours do not see. We see—we in the Christian Heritage Party—what many of our Christian brothers and sisters across this land have not yet seen. If we looked only at the newspapers and opinion polls, we would just shrug our shoulders and go home. But we serve a mighty God who calls the things that aren’t as though they were, a God who makes the weak strong, a God who promises a sure reward to those who trust Him, a God who can and will do exceedingly abundantly above all we can ask or think.
When Noah built the ark, he saw something his neighbours had not seen [YET]. He saw the flood coming and he saw the reward of faithful obedience. When Moses walked into Pharaoh’s court and demanded freedom for the descendants of Israel, he saw something Pharaoh didn’t see [YET]. He saw the nation of Israel free from the chains of bondage and serving God in their own land. When Joshua marched around the walls of Jericho, he saw something that the residents of that city had not seen [YET]. When David picked out five smooth stones and ran towards Goliath, he saw something that Goliath had not seen [YET].
In our work and witness as members of the Christian Heritage Party, we meet many doubting Thomases, brothers and sisters who share our hopes for this nation but who have not YET accepted our strategies. They have not YET seen what we see by faith. They see the giants, not the victory. They have not YET given us the right hand of fellowship in this political sphere. They have not YET joined us in the trenches. We must not dismiss them for their unbelief. Jesus extended His nail-scarred hand to Thomas and transformed his unbelief to faith. Jesus told Thomas: Blessed are they which have not seen and YET have believed…
We also, as candidates and campaign workers, must become the visible proof of God’s power and—by our faithfulness—extend our hand to our brothers and sisters so that they also might see and believe. We all know that the first CHP candidate elected anywhere in Canada will shake Canadian politics and shift the political landscape. Many in the church and in the world need to see with their eyes the physical evidence that a Christian Heritage candidate can actually win a seat in Parliament before they will commit their blood, sweat and tears to our cause. But WE—WE who have heard God’s call and seen His hand at work in the CHP—WE must act on what we have seen by faith so that God can use us to bring substance to that vision. WE must not stand on the shore and wait for the waters to part. WE must step boldly into the waters, confident that what God has promised, He is able also to perform.
So what is a campaign? A campaign is a definable period of time during which one energetically seeks to influence public opinion to achieve a desired outcome. It is generally seen as a component of a larger effort for sustained change just as a battle is a component of a larger effort we call a war. During WWII, the allies conducted the African Campaign and the Italian Campaign the Battle of Britain and the Battle of the Atlantic. These were components of a comprehensive plan to break Hitler’s stranglehold and free Europe from his domination.
In the same way, the campaign of a single candidate in a single electoral district during a single by-election or a general election must be seen as a part of a broader strategy to establish the Christian Heritage Party as a legitimate choice for voters, a party whose philosophy and principles can return Canada to her foundational values and to her place of destiny among the nations of the world—an example of a “nation whose God is the Lord”.
In one sense, we are always in a campaign. Our God does not sleep nor grow weary. Our cause is not something that goes away between elections. The fight to restore justice and freedom and respect for life is one that cannot be fought only within the time limits of a general election. Our battle is for the hearts and minds of our fellow citizens and part of our success is that they see us—day in and day out, year in and year out—bringing a consistent message to our communities.
If you’re called to run for the CHP, when you jump into the race, whether it’s a year before the writ is dropped or the day before the close of nominations, you need to pray like it all depends on God and work like it all depends on you. The sooner you commit yourself, the sooner you let people know you’re running, the sooner your neighbours discover that they have a Godly, principled candidate whom they can support and vote for, the better your chances of having a sign in their yards and an X beside your name on their ballots. But you’ll never start any sooner than today. You can’t get yesterday back but you can make tomorrow count. None of us have the luxury of infinite time and infinite money. But we know the Infinite God who fills all Eternity. When God calls you to the battle, make up your mind to give Him your best. He gave His Best for you.
Seeds take time to grow and thoughts take time to develop. In any campaign you will find that the folks in your community have pre-existent loyalties…maybe to a party, maybe to another candidate. They will have preconceived thoughts about which party or which candidate might best represent their views. They even have predigested news from the many opinion polls and the biased media coverage which tells them how to think and who is expected to win. Your job as a candidate is to get past all those preconceptions, presuppositions and predigested opinions and begin to build credibility that shows the CHP as a viable option.
I have a few things to say about campaigning and election readiness and organizing your team and the personal integrity of a good candidate and some of the nuts and bolts that go into a good campaign. But I’m going to try to limit my remarks to a few areas. A lot of this work has been done already and a lot of that information has been and will be made available to our candidates and their supporters through CHP’s Election Readiness Team. First and foremost, I want to point to the Candidates’ Binder that Martha Sjaarda and Vicki Gunn have updated. It’s a marvellous tool! If you’re a first-time candidate and you have access to no other resources but our policy book and this binder (and of course, your Bible), you could be very well-prepared for the general election we expect in October of 2015. In fact, if you’re a CHP candidate and you know Jesus, you’re already better-prepared than ANY big name candidate who doesn’t have the Lord. The Bible says the FEAR of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Without the fear of the Lord there is NO wisdom, not even the beginning. Your opponents may be clever and cunning and crafty and shrewd but YOU have wisdom!
So what do we mean by a successful campaign and what does it take to get there?
In the simplest terms, when we refer to a successful campaign, we mean that our candidate receives the highest % of votes in his or her district and wins the opportunity to represent his or her constituents in the House of Commons or in the Provincial Legislature. In Canada, with our first-past-the-post system, that does not have to be 50%. However, in reviewing federal electoral results in BC over one or two election cycles, I could not find any candidate who won a seat with less than 30% of the vote. Of course, it is theoretically possible, in a race with six candidates—all running neck and neck—to win the seat with 20% of the vote but this is very unlikely. Usually one or two candidates are more popular or better-known or have more money and one or two candidates do not manage to inspire very many voters. Let’s just say that—in practical terms—you need to achieve a minimum of 30% of the vote to win your seat. Basically, when you talk to people you need at least one out of every three voters—the ones who actually vote—to support you. That is a high number. I don’t say this to discourage you; I say this to help you focus. Now if you do everything you can and you still don’t win your seat it doesn’t mean you’re a failure. It doesn’t mean your campaign was a failure. But it means that the CHP was not able to take that very tough ground in your district which would have forever changed the life of this nation. Not YET. The war is not over.
But there are other measures of success and before we go on with strategy, let’s look at the things you can accomplish, even if you fall short of the central goal:
- You can raise awareness of the CHP in your area and help raise national awareness; by being part of a growing team of candidates and by encouraging membership and support for the party, you help other candidates break the “credibility barrier” in their ridings
- You can make new friendships and contacts and find new volunteer workers for future campaigns
- You can explain the “facts of life” to the voters in your area; educate students and teachers about family and prolife policies
- Lay a foundation for understanding the issues coming from the Charter, judicial activism, free speech concerns, fiscal policies, etc
- Educate your fellow candidates. I have ongoing relationship and positive interaction with several candidates in my area whom I have run against, including our current MP and MLA as well as a Green candidate who teaches political science and has extended a standing offer to speak in his class. One lady who ran for the Canadian Action Party in my riding bought a Bible during the campaign and is serving God today. Luke Kwantes and I had the privilege of praying with her recently. The campaign was worth it, if only for her.
These are all good things. They are not our primary goal but we need to be grateful for the opportunity to touch lives and influence public opinion whenever and wherever we can.
What are the factors that can improve ability to win the seat? Here are some of the things that we need to run a successful campaign:
- People; we need people on our side; they come in all shapes and sizes and serve many useful functions in a campaign, besides being the main reason we do what we do
- Voters—voters are just people who want to make a difference; voters who vote for one of the other parties are just voters who don’t know enough. Zig Ziglar says “When people say NO, it’s because they don’t KNOW enough”.
- Signatures—people to endorse your right to run
- One of the people you need is a Financial Agent—you can’t run without one
- Phone teams—are made up of people and you need them for:
- Canvassing for contributions, lawn signs and votes. You’ve heard about robo-calls. Robo-calls are trying to do the hard work of phoning without people.
- Phone teams can help you GOTV (Get Out The Vote) on polling day
- Workers to place them and
- Workers to take them down the day after Polling Day---all of them
- You need lawns to put them on—and those lawns belong to people
2. Money—here’s one advantage of having an active EDA.
- An EDA can provide seed money for your campaign. You, the candidate, cannot solicit one dollar or spend one dollar until you are registered but your EDA can have a war-chest ready to go. That allows you to purchase signs, brochures and media advertising early in your campaign.
- How much money is enough?
- MINIMUM: You will need $1,000 to register as a candidate. If you do your paperwork properly you will get that back. That’s a minimum for zero-budget Level 1 campaign.
- For a serious campaign, you should expect to spend $10,000 or more.
- Some candidates for other parties spend up to $90,000 and some of them become MPs.
- You cannot spend your way to success but the voters in your district need to know your name and they need to see your face on TV or at least on a piece of literature
- I have spent as little as $10,000 and I have spent as much as $30,000. A single brochure printing and mailout to 35,000 households will probably cost $7,000 to $8,000.
3. TIME—Your time is valuable and limited--make the most of it!
- How much time is enough?
- MINIMUM: even as a level 1 candidate, it takes time to register and complete your paperwork.
- But if you’re serious, can you take 5 weeks off work? I have done that five times. The 2006 campaign was 8 weeks long and extended over the Christmas Holiday. I was employed in the lumber industry at the time and I really couldn’t afford to lose two month’s pay…but unless we run full-time campaigns we can’t expect full-time results. Your employer can pay you during a campaign, but most of us will have to take unpaid leave. Most employers will grant your request for a leave to seek public office. If you can’t do this, don’t let it stop you from running; just recognise that you will not be as effective if you can’t spend time talking to voters.
- Door-knocking—there’s never enough time but with more help you can get to more doors. You may have 35,000 homes in your district. IF you went out by yourself and knocked on 100 doors EVERY day, 6 days per week, it would take you over a year to get to each home in your district just once. And averaging 100 doors per day is a high goal. This also gives you some idea of the number of people who will want a piece of you if or when you are elected. You will have constituents who will want you to fix their passport problems, remedy an injustice they’ve suffered, attend events they’ve planned, champion their favourite cause and maybe walk their dog. On top of this, you’ll have responsibilities in Ottawa, travel time, volumes of dry material to read and speeches and interviews to prepare for. For the successful candidate, it’s all about people—meeting them, remembering their names, getting to know them, listening to their opinions and sharing your ideas with them—convincing them that you care and are committed to working for their benefit.
- Debates take time—in one 5-week campaign I had 15 debates, half of them in high schools and college classes. These may not win you a lot of votes but are crucial for winning the hearts of the next generation of voters and showing them that you care enough to explain your ideas to them, even if they’re not old enough to vote. Many of these students have never heard the gospel—at home, at church, at school or in the media—and have no concept of your Christian worldview. This is your opportunity to educate them.
- Meeting with your supporters takes time. Your volunteers need to see you at work and they need to know how much you appreciate them.
- You need time for boning up on policy, writing and practicing speeches. You have to stay current and in touch…not only with national issues but with local economic developments and controversies.
- You need time to fill out questionnaires and answer questions from your potential voters. People appreciate that you—a busy candidate—took time to respond to their concerns.
- Putting up signs? That’s why you need people to help you. If you can help it, the candidate should not be the main person putting up signs. But it doesn’t hurt to get your hands dirty once in a while. This Spring, when I ran in the BC provincial election, I put on over 4500 km travelling the riding, talking to people, putting up signs and taking them down. My federal riding is the size of Norway---a little bigger than Poland and a little smaller than Germany and includes the Queen Charlotte Islands. The provincial riding is smaller but still goes up to the Yukon border. The day after Polling Day, Luke Kwantes and I put on over 1,000 km taking signs down. One of the best compliments I had came from a young admirer about 7 years old, who told his Mom, “He puts up his own signs!” It’s far better if the candidate can spend his or her time talking to people rather than putting up signs but you do what you have to do.
- Most “successful” candidates get at least one and sometimes two or three brochures into the hands of the voters in their districts. This can be done by mailout (fastest) or by hand-delivery (requires huge amount of man hours but makes the most visual impact, if you have the people).
- Although print media does not have the readership it once did, many people still scan through their local paper and a simple ad with a picture of the candidate and one or two word-pictures of your strengths and family-friendly policies can make an impression.
- I hardly listen to the radio, except for CBC (and that usually makes me mad) but many commuters and voters do. A short, hard-hitting soundbite that conveys your main qualities and your Better Solutions can at least make you a household name.
- In some of the smaller and rural communities, ads on local television can be very affordable. For both radio and TV ads, I have made it a habit to blitz the airwaves as heavily as I can afford in the last two weeks of the campaign. I had 15-second TV ads and 30-second ads. I think the 30-second spots only cost me $15 each. For the radio version, I had 10 different ads on 10 different topics. The radio stations will play these in random sequences and you can use the same ads on different stations. Again, TV, where you can afford it, gives your voters a look at your face and they can look into your eyes. They will recognize you on the street and feel that they know you.
- A website is almost a must for a political candidate today. A website can display photos of the candidate, stories about the candidate, articles, notices of upcoming events and statements from the candidate on a variety of topics. A website can include video, speeches, ads, endorsements, polls, links to related sites and of course, a complete explanation of CHP’s Better Solutions. For those candidates who do not have either the technical help, the time or the money to set up their own site, CHP Canada will have at least a candidate page so that voters across the country can locate a bio and photo of the CHP candidate running in their riding. In the future, CHP Canada hopes to upgrade our national website and database so that every candidate will be able to activate a personal website seamlessly blended into the national site with a candidate template ready for easy posting. We are not there yet but we hope to be able to offer that by October 2015.
- We’ve all heard of Twitter, Facebook, Linked In and other social media platforms. Some of us are making limited use of these and learning about hashtags, etc. For many young people these media have made email almost obsolete. The use of smartphones and the transfer of images and messages in real time have revolutionized the communication of news and ideas. To every candidate I recommend familiarizing yourself with these avenues to the extent you are able. I have more to learn in this department. If you find this intimidating try to find a teenager to manage this for you. (a mature teenager).
5. News coverage---free advertising or “earned” advertising
- Get registered early. Get your signatures well before the writ is dropped so that you can walk into your Returning office as soon as nominations are open…
- Then make sure your name is listed on the Elections Canada website and on CBC, CTV, etc. CBC has a bad habit of ignoring CHP candidates. Don’t let them get away with that. Have your campaign manager contact their news department.
- Introduce yourself to your local newspaper editors and radio talk show hosts and make sure they include you in their coverage. Don’t wait for the campaign to start. Get to know them now.
- Develop an email group list of all media contacts and notify them of your events. Send them Press releases.
6. Debates—another form of free advertising…you need to be there!
- When the Chamber of Commerce hosts a debate, make sure you are included. If not, ask why not? Let them know that excluding you from a debate amounts to biased support for those candidates who are included.
How about the National Campaign? How can your efforts as a candidate affect the outcome for other CHP candidates and how can efforts at national improve your prospects at the polls?
1. Your candidacy encourages the Leader. I once saw a ball cap that said: “I’m their Leader; which way did they go?” We don’t want our Leader or anybody else wondering why we don’t have a candidate in their area.
2. Your candidacy earns a bit of ink in the papers and some TV time during election coverage.
3. Your candidacy encourages your fellow candidates. Sometimes it’s easier to face challenges if we know we’re not alone.
4. Here’s a little reality check: By October 2015, Canada will have 338 electoral districts. To have the faintest hope of forming a majority government, CHP would have to elect 170 MPs. To elect 170 MPs, CHP would have to run a minimum of 170 candidates (do the math). To be able to recruit and train and provide credible tools and office support and national coverage for 170 candidates, CHP’s national office and budget will have to be much larger than it is today. If we had 170 candidates and each candidate spent only $10,000 on his or her campaign, the total spent on CHP candidates across the country would be $1.7 million! That is the kind of national budget that CHP needs to be working towards.
Two years ago, the Green Party received $1.8 million of taxpayer money (besides donations) to be used to advertise and promote their vision of Canada. In the 2011 election, with a volunteer army of 2000 workers in her riding, Elizabeth May won the first elected seat for the Green Party. One of the reasons that was possible is that in the two previous elections, the Green Party ran a full slate of candidates across the country, achieved national prominence and broke through the credibility barriers faced by all small parties. For CHP Canada to raise public awareness and show ourselves capable of governing, we have to first show ourselves capable of mobilizing an army of volunteers. To do that, we have to have a dedicated cadre of organizers.
You candidates may hold the key. Some of you potential candidates are also potential District Managers. You in fact, are the obvious first choice to fill such positions. By becoming part-time or full-time CHP organizers in your electoral districts, you can begin to get to know and encourage existing members, sign up new members and engage them in CHP work, achieve name recognition among Christians in your district long before the writ is dropped and you can do this while making a living. Your efforts would also bolster the work of your EDA, creating a warchest for the campaign and would help finance the National office… just sayin’…
5. For a candidate, a strong National Office is the greatest resource you can have. When National is able to develop its web presence, its research and departmental database, is able to run regular ads on national TV and able to routinely send the Leader and other speakers into the many cities and communities across this nation, you—the candidate—will benefit. Most people vote for the party and the leader they like that they have seen represented in the national media. They may like you and they may agree with you but if they don’t see your Leader on TV, if they don’t see the CHP on TV, many of them will write you off as a nice guy who doesn’t have a chance.
You may be the first CHP candidate to break that paradigm; I hope you are. But the fact is you need us and we need you. We need lots of you. And we need you to run your race as if the future of the world depended on you. In some ways it does. You need CHP Canada to portray a polished professional image, to show the strength of numbers, to show growth and energy and timing. You need your leaders to be seen in Ottawa and on the evening news. We can’t do that without your help; we don’t have the resources to do that without you and the energy and passion you bring to this battle.
6. When David ran toward Goliath with a sling and a stone, he was the only one who saw the Giant the same way God saw him: conquered and fallen. As soon as he took Goliath’s sword and took Goliath’s head, the armies of Israel, including David’s unbelieving brothers, rose up in faith and pursued the Philistines because they saw—for the first time—what David saw. David’s faith became their sight. Paul said: if we already have what we’re hoping for, we don’t need faith to get it. But if we hope for what we do not YET see, then we—with patience—wait for it…not waiting in a bored and listless state, NO! waiting expectantly, prayerfully, watchfully, eagerly.
God sees the end from the beginning. We see only through a glass, darkly. But what we see we need to declare. That which we have received by faith we need to speak into being, calling the things that are not as though they were. We need to become eyes for the blind so that they can see what we see and become part of the CHP solution.
7. If we hold fast to the things which we have heard, if we faint not, neither grow weary in well-doing, if we esteem the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt, we will have many successful campaigns. Only God knows all that He has in store for us. You may be the candidate that first breaches the wall and plants the CHP flag in the House of Commons. I hope you are. But if not…like the 3 Hebrew children said to the king, we will not bow down to the image, we will not dishonour our God. We will not yield to unbelief nor abandon our hope.
When thousands of men go into battle, usually they do not know the outcome. They know that some will fall in battle and others will triumph because of their sacrifice. They know that without sacrifice there can be no victory. May God seal in each of us the faith and determination to make our mark and make our days count. We are born in a day of great struggles, a battle for the minds and souls of men. Our battle is not against flesh and blood and we are not responsible for the outcome. We are responsible to do our part in faithful obedience and to see the mighty hand of God at work.
We’ve talked about what makes a successful campaign. In Joshua 1:8, God, speaking to Joshua, gives him a foolproof formula for success:
“This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success”.
May each and every one of you triumph in the campaigns that lie ahead.