Friday, August 15, 2008

Dungeons & Dragons and Pop-up Campers

I am not “normal” for a lot of reasons. One of my many quirks is people watching. I just can’t help it. When I see people I wonder about their voting and consumer habits. This is going to be a long post so bear with me.

A couple of weekends ago my family went camping in one of the many great state parks scattered across Indiana and Michigan. I could not help but noticing a couple of things…

  • Where are the tents? Everyone (but us of course) seems to have pop-up campers, pull behinds and 5th wheels. Does anyone even worry when it rains anymore?

  • Smoking. Holy cow, I know it is illegal in so many places that smokers feel like freedom fighters in the jungle. I would estimate at least half or more of the adults I observed were smokers.

  • NASCAR fans. I would say you were more likely to see a flag with a race car number on it than the stars and stripes attached to most of the campers.

  • Tattoos everywhere. Don’t want to make any stereo-types but I am just calling it as I see it.

  • Family activity abounds. There has been many a column, op-ed and whiny diatribe about the lack of real talking and family interaction seen in the press. Not at the campsite, fireside talks, throwing the football, fishing were all very common.

Yesterday I was in Indianapolis and was fascinated to see all the attendees to the GenCon event going on this week. What is GenCon you ask? Well, obviously, you don’t play Dungeons & Dragons, World of Warcraft, Magic the Gathering or any of the many other popular fantasy games. So what did I see? Basically, as I said earlier, stereo-types exist for a reason.

  • 18-30 obese males. Not everyone was overweight but most of these guys have slain many dragons but not seen a gym.

  • Disposable income. If you are going to spend that much money on computer gaming equipment, miniature Orcs and comic books you are doing more than working part time at Best Buy.

  • Body odor. Ok, I know this may seem mean but if you walk around those tables you can not help but notice more than few guys who could use some of that Axe body spray (hint, hint, great target audience for the folks selling that stuff). Let’s face it, if you are spending 36 hours in front of your X Box 360 you are not going to have time to shower.

  • Swords, leather armor, chain mail, fart joke t-shirts, kilts. This is a group of folks who are clearly not afraid to express themselves in what they wear.

  • What the heck is ESPN? I seriously doubt anyone in there has any idea the Olympics is on or that football season is around the corner.

  • Highly intelligent. Eavesdropping on some conversations and watching some of the games you can not help but realize that these guys are smart. Encyclopedic knowledge of Chaos Space Marines and World War II German armored vehicles may not look good on a resume but stupid people could not master that much info.

So why would a political campaign care about these groups? Because voter participation and partisan ID is very low amongst both groups. We spend thousands of dollars trying to corner folks at home or get them to admit their party preference on the phone with mediocre results.

Maybe we should stop trying to find them and just go meet them where they gather? Maybe we should spend less time in door-to-door canvass and more time working the booth at the arts and crafts festival or home improvement show? Maybe we should stop treating events more like real campaign opportunities and less like troublesome interruptions to “real” campaign work.

I am just sayin’…you should think about it.

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