Monday, March 24, 2008

Why I No Longer Work On Campaigns

"I just don't understand why don't you work in politics anymore?"

This is probably the question that I am asked most over the course of a year. Whether its people I just met a couple times, or people I talk to everyday.

Why I get this question is my own fault as it's safe to say that I wear my politics and beliefs on my sleeve every once in a while.

The game and intrigue of politics, important issues, history, and public service are interests of mine. As written on this blog before I used to work on the campaign trail when I graduated college. I bounced around the country for almost four years working on one amazing campaign and three pretty disappointing races.

Every once in a while I get that urge to get back on the campaign trail, but last week I was reminded why I left and am usually thrilled about that decision.

One of my best friends from my campaign days sent me an email titled "Thank the Lord". I assumed it was some kind of silly 'forward'. But when I opened the email it had a link and article and said, 'that this is no longer our sad story'.

So to make it clear the email said "Thank the Lord this is no longer our sad story."

The New York Times wrote the following article about the rough lives of those who have worked on the Democratic campaigns. Click on this sentence to read the article.

Have always tried to explain to people the efforts and work that people on campaigns do. The way your life is completely consumed by the work. If you went to college its like 'finals week' every week, and the last two weeks of an election can only be explained as pure hell.

The second line of the article talks about a 105 degree fever. This brought back memories of the end of one of my campaigns when I was awake around 50 straight hours when I had 103 fever and a flu.

That was a campaign that when we lost I remembered crying. I cried and I didn't even like the candidate! But I was such an emotional and health wreck that I couldn't control myself.

  • You eat like shit and at the craziest times so your health is worse than it will ever be.
  • You work late and get up early.
  • You go door to door in the rain.
  • You pass our fliers in the snow.
  • You walk in bullshit parades.
  • You are under the microscope of people
  • You are at the mercy of local elected officials and party leaders who love to show how much power they have.
Imagine getting a frantic call at 1am from a Local Democratic Party Councilman after you pulled an all-nighter because a yardsign of your opponent is on their block.

Imagine having the police called on your group after you leave a bar because your opponents campaign tries to nail you for a DUI. (For the record we had a designated driver)

Imagine being called every name in the world by a member of the candidates family for something you didn't even do.

Imagine putting on an event for one of the highest profile people in the country (at the time at least) and having the union, who was hosting the event, call you and say they were going to cancel it a half hour before it started, because they didn't want the President of the Local AFL-CIO to speak at their event. Then having to call that labor leader and tell him he had to give up his chance to speak at the marquee event of the campaign.

The lives of the people that work campaigns cannot be considered lives at all. Its a mindset of toughness and paranoia that is unmatched in most professions. It is why so many people burn out on it and get as far away from it as possible and write blogs like me.

As much as I cringe with fear from those days I wouldn't trade in my campaign days for almost anything.

I wish I made more money, didn't run up as much debt, and was healthier, but the lessons I learned and experiences I gained were invaluable.

I went to seniors homes, Mosques, African American Churches, Union Meetings, Evangelical Churches, NRA meetings, Gun Shows, Pro Choice rally's, Pro Life Rallys, Fire Houses, Police Stations, and so many more places I probably would never have gone.

I had to handle high pressure situations and big egos on the tightest of deadlines all before the age of 25.

Also had the privilege to make some great friends and worked for one candidate that to this day I would still quit my job tomorrow and go work for if he called.

Most importantly for me I gained a 'second' family on one of my campaigns. It was no one I worked with, but because the campaign was in the same town as one of my best friends I was blessed to get to know his family. This wonderful family treated me so well that it made that race the most personally enjoyable for me. The ironic thing is, I don't know if any of them voted for my candidate.

Since that point I don't go a week without forwarded emails from my friends dad (even if a number of them are Republican propaganda), stood up in my buddies wedding, go back to visit regularly, get weekly pictures of my two nieces (blood or not, even if one of them was terrified of me at 3 weeks old), and most importantly, they are some of my most regular and loyal blog readers, lol. Had I not worked that campaign, I wonder if it I would have ever had the chance to develop this bond with this amazing family.

Campaigns are crazy and the people that work on them are dedicated people who really care. They are not who you see on TV like James Carville, Mike Murphy or Mary Matalin. Instead they are kids who think they are doing good. Some are just ambitious, but those that do it for a line on their resume, don't last long.

People always talk about how tired candidates look during a campaign. It ain't nothing compared to the people that dedicate their lives to getting that candidate elected.

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