by Liz Harrison
“You’re going to order two phone lines for the campaign, aren’t you?”
My question was directed to the newly minted campaign manager that I knew very well had never worked in a campaign beyond passing out emery boards and pens on election day. It was a low-budget campaign, and wouldn’t make or break this kid – well, it might have broken him from thinking of staying in the game.
His reply was less than encouraging. “Uh, why do we need two phone lines?”
The race was in a district where the voters were fed up with the incumbent, and the primary complaint was that their representative no longer cared about their concerns. That would lead to a pile of phone calls to the election office of the candidate, and a lot of pro-bono “constituent affairs” work for the staff. While many of those calls would be legitimate, there would also be a fair number of calls from the local “less-than-sane” folks. Without two lines – one for real campaign business, and one for the “crazies” – it would be difficult to deal with the day-to-day business of the campaign itself.
I explained this to the new campaign manager, and after looking at me confused for a few moments, it dawned on him. The campaign materials needed to have a phone number, and everyone connected with the inner-workings of the campaign needed their own line of communication. This was before the age of email, so the phones were essential, and cellphones weren’t common either. He did take my advice, and eventually the phones that were connected to the number printed on the campaign materials were labeled with masking tape – “L-Line” – which stood for “Lunatic-Line.”
When large groups of people are dealing with poor leadership on any level in government, people who aren’t mentally stable often suffer more than most people. They don’t tend to have the coping skills necessary to deal with little problems in life that are often managed by government officials in one capacity or another. Veteran campaign workers may or may not admit to that oddity, and honestly, many probably haven’t even really thought about it. It’s background noise for many in the business of political campaigns, but some use the level of insanity on the call-in phone lines, and now on email forms, to gauge just how bad an area is. If I were still in the business, I would be using it as a primary barometer for any given district, to determine exactly how desperate the voters were becoming.
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