WHAT IT'S LIKE TO WORK ON A CAMPAIGN
I worked in press on a congressional campaign in Massachusetts in 2012. This is about that, I guess.
- •GlamourNone. Our headquarters were an industrial space next to a parking lot that always smelled like nail polish. The walls were pale yellow tacked with handmade posters and rally signs. All the furniture was donated or picked up off the street or from a dump. We sat on lawn chairs at picnic tables with our own laptops. In short: don’t expect glamour. Campaigns on film seem thrilling & dramatically-scored. In reality, they boil down to: donated furniture, free pizza, small, bizarre moments with voters
- •Free pizzaFree dinner is the way you lull volunteers to phonebank and canvass on a hot weekday night in July. People will donate food, order pizzas, etc. The kitchen was often stocked with Dunkin Donuts munchkins left over from the morning and bowls of Portuguese meat dishes brought in by supporters. This is what you eat for 6 months. You end a campaign lusting for sunshine, sleep, greens, and Canyon Ranch.
- •Small, bizarre momentsIt feels like you’re fighting for these big ideals but really campaigns are just a bunch of tiny moments on the ground that sometimes make no sense. Once, while canvassing a neighborhood in Needham, I spent 30 minutes talking to a man about Y2K. He tried to convince me it was actually really bad and it could happen again & what was my candidate going to do about it. Campaigns are this: strange interactions with voters, 4th of July parades with Revolutionary War reenactors, bowls of mystery meat
- •MoneyVaries by campaign but don’t expect to be paid a living wage. Even if your candidate is a millionaire. Campaigns expect and demand a certain amount of sacrifice for the honor of working on them. Sometimes that feels like bullshit but sometimes it does truly feel like an honor.
- •RoofBecause of this nonexistent or paltry salary, campaigns will help you find a free room in a supporter’s house. I got very lucky. I lived with an older single woman in Brookline who had lots of dates with area men and who recommended I read Lady Chatterly’s Lover and then with a family in Newton in their big house with their purebred dog with the invisible fence collar.
- •SleepVery little. Remember: there will always be people sleeping less and working harder than you so don’t complain. You will think of them at night when you know they are driving across the state to pick up canvassing packets at a district office and hoping they don’t fall asleep at the wheel and die in a crash on 95.
- •End dateCampaigns have a firm end date and require you to be myopic in a way. They force all your focus. They’re also a good way to get a jumpstart on a job on the hill but don’t expect anything from them. You don’t know where you’ll be when the chips will fall and a winning candidate owes you nothing, even if you are promised something. This is a tough lesson to learn but I’m glad I learn’t it. Campaigns require everything of you and then they end.