An Aberdeen friend saw me Saturday afternoon and asked how the parade went.
I said I had a great time marching with my campaign team in the Gypsy Day Parade. The only complaint that I had (and my security detail, with years of parade experience, confirms this observation) is that the Gypsy Day Parade moves exceptionally fast. Bands didn’t seem to stop to play at the judges’ stand or other key crowded intersections; we seemed to be in constant motion for most of the route. (Given that it took three hours for 160 entries to travel the 20-block Main Street route, I suppose there isn’t time to pause.)
I don’t mind a brisk walk; I’m usually the guy walking at urgent debate-tournament clip while my companions tell me to slow down a bit. But Saturday, for every parade-goer’s hand whose hand I got to shake, I had to skip another four to jog ahead and catch up with my campaign wagon. Practically, there probably is no way to shake every hand at the biggest parade in South Dakota (and Toby and I tried, driving down to the end of the parade route at quarter after seven, walking up the route to greet early birds grabbing prime curb before the parade, working the full parade route alongside our float, then walking back a few blocks up the route to catch folks we’d missed). But do even those fleeting moments of eye-to-eye contact do any good? Are they worth the effort?
Yes, said my Aberdeen friend. “That’s your job.”
My friend is right. When we candidates work the crowd, we aren’t just asking for votes. We certainly aren’t having policy discussions, not in two seconds. We hand out our card, so when people get home and send the kids out to play, they can look back at my notes on the ballot measures and give me a call or an e-mail with their thoughts. Even for the people my team misses along the route, we’re doing the work we’re expected to do. We’re holding up signs, pointing out our candidate, and saying, “Over here: this guy works for you. Remember his name, remember his face, and when you have questions, walk up to him, call him, because he works for you.”
A candidate’s job, not to mention a legislator’s job, means getting out and about, letting people know who you are, and letting them know how to find you when they need you. Even a brisk walk down Main Street, during which you shake only one out of five hands, is part of that job.