I’m writing this to you, campaign staffer of <candidate name here> 2016.
Here are a few things I wish someone told me about the campaign experience when I started in early 2012.
The best part of the campaign is….
Actually, I can’t really describe the best parts of the campaign experience better than the following from Bea Miller
“We were making history
Breaking rules and breaking free
Questioning the writing on the wall
Coming from the underground
Laughing as we’re falling down
Soaking in the glory of it all
But in dark times when we close our eyes
It’s a nightmare, it’s a nightmare
When the sun don’t shine we lose our minds
But I swear, we can get there
We’ve got young blood, can’t destroy us
We make our own luck in this world
We’ve got young blood, no one chose us
We make our own love in this world”
Look at your team next to you for a quick second. They are your foxhole buddies. You are going to go through some really real stuff together. You will know them better than anyone else you’ve met in your life, despite the relatively little time in your friendship.
Some of them, I’m super sad to say, may not make it.
( ❤ A-Ok )
The shrapnel you will take won’t be made of metal, it will be made of stress. It is going to hit everyone around you, and it’s up to each of you to help tend to the stress wounds around you.
You aren’t equipped with a morphine-stocked med kit, yet the results of your work will possibly save thousands and thousands of people in any number of ways. As bad as it ever gets, keep going….they(we) need you and what you are doing.
The fire you take won’t be thousands of pieces of lead, it will be thousands of words….from social media, from friends, and from family members.
It’s not mortars crashing around you, but bombshell stories that go land with alarming frequency…and hopefully you aren’t in the middle of one of these bombshells.
I’m about done with the battle analogies, sorry about that.
On the subject of being in the middle of a bombshell story, here is the biggest job you have…
Do Not Be The Story
I’m not sure if anybody has described it to you in this fashion, but if not, they should have.
You are in a really crazy position, unique in history…important in history.
Try not to think about that too much (but you will). First you won’t really be able to wrap your head around it, and then you’ll start thinking it’s pretty funny and ridiculous.
Not all of what happens on the campaign is going to make good sense...or any other kind of sense. Campaigns are unwieldy beasts that will have complementary unwieldy demands. This can be…well, actually *will* be super frustrating, super tiring, super discouraging, super demoralizing….but only if that’s what you focus on. Focus on the end; focus on the confetti coming down, hugging the newly elected President/Senator/Rep you helped, the final vote tally.
Get some rest when you can…it is a priority. You will wind up ignoring other parts of your life a bit, though of course I’m not saying that’s a good thing or something that is encouraged. It’s just going to happen.. Laundry may go a bit un-laundered, meals are comically not meals, you will skip all your family parties, etc…. But get rest when you can, at the cost of most everything else. Exhaustion is the hardest part at the end of this marathon sprint you are on.
Back-channel a bunch….official campaign lines of communication are incredibly obese and cause so much noise and chaos. It’s much easier and faster to talk to the person that you need to eventually work with by walking over, going out for a smoke or coffee, or even just directly emailing. People will appreciate it. It will work better. It will be faster.
Don’t talk trash. I have no doubt you are the best campaign group of all time at doing whatever it is you do, but there is absolutely nothing to be gained by going to press about how awesome your internal campaign stuff is versus the other camp. The days where their stuff is on fire, their site is down, their voters can’t communicate, etc…. stay silent. Those are people like you, who do what you do, and just happen to disagree with you on other issues. The golden rule is recommended, regardless of any political traction your story might carry.
Know this, and know it ahead of time…the public will often be vitriolic. On the subject of your twitter account…it’s not the worst idea to make it private at this point until the end of the campaign (see ‘Not Being the Story’). There will be really crazy crazies … crazier than you thought were actually out there. Don’t take this stuff personally, and don’t engage. Block liberally (pun sort of intended, and then immediately apologized for). That said, if there are threats, REPORT THEM IMMEDIATELY.
Not everyone working at the campaign is there with the objective to Get Things Done. Some just want to meet a President/Candidate, some want the resume boost, some might have landed the gig because of who they knew…and some are just going to be a little tiny bit incompetent. Be one of the people there Getting Things Done, and do it *regardless* of all other factors. Do that and you will have made a difference in this world, a load of friends, and resume that gets a ridiculous amount of job offers after this campaign.
You’re going to learn *so much* during this campaign, and you are going to experience so much. It is ten years of both career and personal life in one year. Every job you have after this will be ‘Neo fighting Agent Smith with one hand’ style easy.
Get pictures of your friends around you….it feels like a thousand hours a day until the last day, and then it feels like it all took a couple days. You’ll want to remember it.
There will be this feeling you have…you might experience it slightly differently, but it will be the same overall feeling.
You and your friends, standing in a line,
holding each other up with some magical collective force
Looking across at the possibility of society moving backwards, at the status quo
Then looking at each other while linking arms
“No, not on our watch. NO” is said in unison
Remember that feeling and soak that feeling up. It’s the best feeling you’ll ever feel.
Though that above bit really sounds awesome, this job will be like running a marathon. You will often feel exhausted, ready to throw up, drained…feeling that you can’t possibly go on. You won’t be on mile #20 of this thing thinking “God, I’m so happy I signed up for this”. But when you are done, and you’ve crossed the tape at mile 26…you’ll be so happy you ran this marathon.
Thanks for what you’re doing, you poor bastard. Now keep running.
“We’ve got young blood, can’t destroy us
We make our own luck in this world
— Bea Miller”