Since March every aspect of American life has been turned upside down and remains in a state of upheaval.
This includes political campaigns like yours.
Candidates must immediately adapt their campaign to this current reality that many refer to as the “New Normal.”
Sticking with the message and the strategies that your campaign had before the Coronavirus Crisis is absolutely a recipe for losing.
What should candidates do?
You need to position yourself as a leader who’s ready to face this challenge, as well as the ones that will follow.
In this article, I am going to explain the three things that political candidates need to exhibit so that their voters view them as a leader during the Coronavirus Crisis — and beyond.
But before delving into those three items, I must give a serious warning.
Saying nothing during or about the Coronavirus Crisis is not an option!
If you say nothing, while everyone is constantly talking about the virus and its impacts, you have a big problem on your hands.
You’ve either shown that you’re unaware of what’s going on, that deaf to the concerns of the voters in your community, or worse of all — that you don’t care.
People are desperately looking for leadership right now.
This is your chance to provide it.
But first, the voters need to see you as a person who is a leader.
If you do these three things in conjunction with one another, you will be able to present yourself as a leader to your community
1. Show Empathy
Empathy is an essential trait of all leaders.
You must show the voters that you understand what they’re feeling.
Many people are scared of the virus and unsure of what’s going to happen next.
Some know people who have been infected or even have died from the virus.
Many have lost their jobs, know someone who has, or have anxiety about keeping theirs.
By showing empathy, you convey that you understand the fears, concerns, and problems the voters face.
A key way of showing empathy at this time is to show what you have in common with the voters.
Don’t be afraid of sharing personal stories about yourself or family and friends (with their permission of course) about taking precautions to stop the spread of the virus and the impacts it’s having in your life.
In some cases, you sadly may also be sharing condolences.
If that happens, make sure that anything you say, write, or share is heartfelt and 100% non-political.
This is a frightening and unnerving time.
Show empathy by acknowledging those fears and anxiety with a comforting and calm presence.
2. Demonstrate Authority
Leaders must exhibit more than confidence, they must exhibit competence.
But be careful. You need to do so in ways that don’t look like you’re bragging.
The best way to exhibit competence is by showing you understand what’s going on.
Be calm, cool, informed, and professional.
Provide helpful, useful, and truthful information.
Don’t spread rumors, conspiracy theories, or anything that’s generated by the government of China.
And don’t say or do anything in the midst of this crisis that is overly partisan.
You can’t say “we’re all in this together” and attack the other side.
That’s the mistake former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign is currently making.
As Kimberly Strassel writes in The Wall Street Journal:
“Mr. Biden has bashed Mr. Trump on testing and on the use of the Defense Production Act.
He’s accused the president of “failing to prepare our nation” for a pandemic (never mind the Obama-Biden role in any such failure).
He even blames Mr. Trump for soaring unemployment numbers.”
I’m sure the Biden campaign has solid reasons for this approach, but it doesn’t appear to be working.
Yes, a March 25, 2020 poll by ABC News and the Washington Post has Joe Biden leading President Trump 49% to 47% among registered voters.
But that’s not good news for two reasons:
First, in February Biden was leading Trump 52% to 45%.
Biden dropped three points and Trump went up two — and neither has been on the campaign trail.
Second, in 2016 Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump 48% to 46% in the popular vote – but lost in the Electoral College 227- 304.
The ABC/Washington Post poll then shows Joe Biden is actually in worse shape today than Hillary Clinton was four years ago.
A better example for you (and Biden) to follow during this crisis would be the approach taken by another prominent Democrat, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Cuomo has pushed back against his own party that wants him to take a more partisan and less complimentary tone when speaking of the federal response directed by the Trump Administration.
“Not now,” Governor Cuomo said. “The virus doesn’t attack and kill red Americans or blue Americans. It attacks and kills all Americans.”
3. Have a Vision
Real leaders always have a vision for the future they want to help create.
The way to make any vision become a reality is to have a plan that can be implemented.
In every campaign, a candidate needs a good plan that the voters can both understand and back.
Having a plan now is vital.
But the plan you had before the Coronavirus shut down our country isn’t going to cut it.
You need a new plan that addresses this crisis. Remember, saying nothing is not an option.
Actually, you need two plans — one for now and one for later.
The first plan you have must have is your immediate concern.
This plan needs to address two things:
- The health and safety of your community during this emergency
- The economic safety-nets and life-lines the people need right now
Your plan should fit your community and its immediate needs.
Some places will have greater needs for healthcare, while others will have more need for financial assistance.
While your plan may be redundant with plans of other communities, your state, and the federal government (never be afraid of reusing good ideas), you must tailor your plan for the specific needs of where you are running for office.
Once you have that plan hammered out and in place, its time to start working on your next plan.
That is the plan you will to unveil when the immediate emergency of Coronavirus Crisis has settled down in the coming weeks or months.
Your second plan has to face the reality of the recession our country voluntarily ignited in its efforts to flatten the curve and prevent over 2 million deaths across the United States.
Our economy was experiencing near full employment in February 2020.
By the first week of April, approximately 10 million Americans lost their jobs.
There’s no way that those layoffs didn’t hit a fair number of people or businesses in your district.
That’s why you need a plan for economic recovery, budget adjustments, and getting back to a more normal way of life once this crisis has leveled off.
Having such plans — one for the immediate crisis and one for its aftermath — is a solid way for you to exhibit to the voters that you have a vision to lead your community forward both during and after the Coronvirus Crisis.
You can’t ignore the realities of the Coronavirus Crisis.
You must acknowledge them and step forward as a leader.
True leaders always have empathy for what people are going through, display competence to help solve the pressing problems, and have a vision for what a better tomorrow looks like.
If you can show empathy, demonstrate authority, and describe your vision to the voters, then you as a candidate have an excellent chance of winning your election.