In the weeks and months leading to the election, Democratic hesitancy to engage at the doors led to a flurry of articles questioning the efficacy of canvassing. Some political scientists claimed reaching out to voters digitally would be just as effective — to which we say poppycock. We believe Democrats and the media alike underestimated the Trump turnout phenomenon, and it needed to be countered by in-person persuasion. And Democrats often rely on voters who are not so easily reached by digital means, meaning a lack of field game can depress turnout even further.
In the previously red states Biden flipped, door-to-door engagement led by community-based organizations clearly made the difference. While the presidential campaign sat on the sidelines, activist groups that had already spent years organizing in Georgia and Arizona more than filled in the gaps with the cultural competency often missing from top-down campaigns.
Unite Here, the powerhouse hospitality workers union, began canvassing in July in Arizona and Nevada, with a focus on minority communities where people don’t often think their votes make a difference. Working with doctors and experts, they found ways to canvass safely, with personal protective equipment, social distancing and other precautions.