Campaigning in Indian Country can be somewhat of a slippery-sloop. The major political parties and certainly the individual campaigns study voting statistics and patterns in every single district all across the country. Theoretically, common sense campaign standards dictate that candidates spend time and resources in districts that they need to carry, districts that may be leaning their way and districts that are considered toss-ups. At some level, it may be challenging for any candidate running for a state-wide office to visit each district. A candidate running to represent a congressional or state legislative district certainly should visit every area of that district. The reality is something much more different.
Political campaigns are generally divided into three parts: raising money, raising money and raising money. For the most part campaign stops and appearances follow a well-designed formula that maximizes a candidate’s ability to raise funds. To be fair, candidates must raise enormous sums of money–media buys, especially in larger markets–are extremely expensive. Even though many of us bemoan the onslaught of political ads leading up to election day, research does support the effectiveness of media campaigns-especially negative ads. Campaigns need to be media aggressive and clearly, need to be social media savvy.
Infamous Bank Robber, Willy Sutton, reportedly answered a reporter’s question about why he robbed banks by saying, “Because that’s where the money is.” In an apocryphally way, politicians apply the same standard-campaign where the money and votes are. Which means that in most instances, Indian Country gets by-passed. It is only in the most tangential way that campaigns pass near Tribal communities.
Case in point–recently, one Michigan candidate for governor when asked to visit a tribal community told the Tribe it would need to pony up $20,000. This sadly and unfortunately illustrates a cause and effect example of why Tribal citizens tend to stay away from the polls on election day.
Regardless of this hard political reality, Indigenous voters need to turn out in much larger numbers. Fortunately, there are strong examples of where strong voter turnouts in Tribal communities can be tied directly to the political successes of candidates. This needs to happen much more frequently. It is a two-way street that both candidates and Tribal citizens need to understand and improve upon or the ridiculous and insane entry fees that Tribes are being asked to pay in order to participate in the political process will just continue.
NOVEMBER 6TH, IS ELECTION DAY–SEE YOU AT THE POLLS!