Every Friday, RI Relevant’s Joanne Giannini breaks down what’s in and what’s out concerning Rhode Island. Joanne Giannini is a former State Representative from Providence. A freelance journalist, consultant and writer, she has previously written commentary for The Providence journal, GolocalProv and WPRO radio.
Have millennials taken over the political arena in Rhode Island and replaced veteran political operatives?
It certainly seems so. There was a time in Rhode Island when experience and institutional knowledge meant something. Candidates would flock towards those with these attributes to help strategize and win a campaign. Now, a new generation has moved forward to claim the political foreground with new ideas and different ways of getting the vote.
Veteran politicos are well experienced and know how to bring in the grassroots vote by planning debates,
coffee hours, and opportunities for candidates to participate in one-on-one door to door weekend afternoons, spaghetti & chicken dinners with seniors and in community centers, parade appearances, attending youth sporting events, and, of course, accurate polling. Old fashioned rallies where campaign workers wore hats (remember Kennedy girls) and rode in motorcades with their candidates, seem to have taken a back seat.
In comparison, millennials are entering the political field with teams of canvassers knocking on doors continuously getting an early jump start in winter months to get their candidates known. The home coffee hours have been replaced by “Meet and Greets” set up in social settings with cocktails and music. Protests are also a big part of the millennial scope as
voicing opinions is always set in public settings with news media not far behind. Gone are the days of political rallies in a parking lot and ‘in’ are the marches and protests at the state house and schools of Rhode Island.
Voter registrations are also at the forefront of their strategy. A special effort is being made to court the new and younger voters where veteran politicos have for years known the value of the senior vote and absentees.
Over 40 blues…
Could this be the end of campaigns as we know it? Two different ways of campaigning have emerged in our society. Experience and institutional knowledge have taken a back seat to a younger generation of outspoken activists who have a different way of doing things. Does age have a play in this? It sure does.
Candidates are surrounding themselves with younger people to attract the younger voters. Many see this as their way to get elected. But let’s not forget the average Rhode Islander who has grown up here and has worked here all their life. Seniors and baby boomers are a large voting block of independent voters, especially in RI, who pay attention but remain quiet until Election Day. Their voice is shown when they vote in large numbers and many will never tell you how they plan to vote even when polled. They are called the silent majority and are not to be underestimated. Their life experiences raising families, working as laborers and in the trenches to survive mean something. This is something that a younger generation has not experienced.
Candidates now have the choice to have a team of either political side.
But candidates need to be wary of the slippery slope they choose. Not all voters in Rhode Island subscribe to a “one size fits all” mentality. In our diverse communities, the Rhode Island electorate can never be counted on as predictable or uneducated. Voters know the difference between candidates, and in the end it simply comes down to a matter of trust. A candidate needs to know this and make sure they are not choosing between sides but representing all the values and concerns of all the people of Rhode Island. And if they do not, the people will sense it. Here’s hoping to a happy medium, where all voices matter.