Campaigning in a pandemic

Published March 26, 2020

By Anna Beavon Gravely

What does an election season look like in the middle of a worldwide pandemic? I have been thinking about that over the last week as each day has brought with it the acknowledgment of a rapidly shifting reality. As I write this, Governor Cooper has signed an executive order that decreases gathering sizes from 100 to 50 and closes nearly everything aside from grocery stores, liquor stores, and restaurants for takeout until April 25, 2020.
For many people, the sudden halt in working and connecting with people outside their immediate home is mentally and emotionally disruptive. Individuals and families are facing situations they never – in their wildest dreams – imagined, through no fault of their own. COVID-19 has forced a new normal. The internet memes seem to be easing the blow of isolation by making light of quarantine snacks and all the high hopes people had of organizing and re-designing their homes, but instead by the third day, the couch has absorbed them and the snacks are gone.
This brings me back to my original question – what does an election season look like in the middle of a worldwide pandemic? The bigger question – is it insensitive to campaign when there is so much uncertainty and fear in people’s lives?
Campaigning at its core is about information – sharing information, learning information, and believing information. The candidates that mount campaigns that inspire North Carolinians and provide a vision of a better future are what we need right now. However, the “how” in which people will be told the information that inspires us will involve creativity and innovation. There has been no shortage of creativity from the internet and its memes to celebrities hosting “private” concerts for their hundreds of thousands of followers to Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s clever public service announcements about washing his hands while singing the rap portion of his song in the recent Disney cartoon Moanawith his daughter. 
This election season will look different – and that’s an understatement. Crowd size restrictions will take in-person rallies for candidate awareness off the table -- along with campaign fundraisers in people’s homes
The obstacles around traditional campaign practices make brighter the opportunities for personalization and innovative communication that lets voters learn more about who candidates are and how they want to better our state. Again, at the core, campaigning is about sharing the information of a vision to a better state. And if we are honest with ourselves, a little inspiration and hope would be welcome right about now.