Pep Talk to Field by Nancy Leeds

By at October 29, 2014 | 12:50 pm | Print

Pep Talk to Field by Nancy Leeds

Nancy Leeds

I’m laying on my stomach on my bed at the Red Roof Inn. My comforter has a cigarette burn in it. I was supposed to go out with my coworkers, but I got stuck in 30 mins of traffic, so instead I ordered pizza hut because it is the only food that delivers here. In fact, I have not seen a vegetable that was not deep fried or covered in cheese since I arrived. My first day here, I was awake for 22 hrs during which time I left the office once to get coffee and once to get toothpaste since I had not brushed my teeth in that long…but Goddamnit if I don’t love my job.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what to write in this pep talk, which has been requested multiple times over the last few weeks. It wasn’t that I couldn’t think of anything inspirational to share with you. It was that I couldn’t narrow it down.

Do you realize how amazing our job is? With all the money, and the negativity and the minsinformation that goes into campaigns, it still comes down to neighbors talking to neighbors. Field is the purest expression of democracy, and it’s what’s going to win this campaign. Sure it can be maddening when people don’t seem to give a shit, but you don’t have to do this, you get to. You get to spend your days empowering people and helping them believe in what’s great about our country. You get to wake up every morning albeit on 4 hrs sleep and know that what you do at work today absolutely makes a difference. And you get to believe in the power of democracy, and in your own ability to effect change, more so than the average American, because you see it every day first hand.

These are not trivial issues we’re dealing with. We’re talking about health care, war and civil liberties. You do your job for the people who ACTUALLY can’t because they are sick in the hospital because their insurance wouldn’t let them go to the doctor on time. Do your job for a 15 year old who is bullied in school for being effeminate and whose teachers have no recourse to protect him. Do your job for a 16 year old who was molested by her cousin and is afraid to seek abortion counseling because her rape might not be considered “legitmate.”

If you are lucky enough to have a candidate in whom you truly believe, do your job for him. But even if you aren’t, that’s not always what it’s about. Volunteers come into the office for the candidate, but they stay for you. You join the campaign for the candidate, but you do it for each other. No matter how crazy your boss or your co-workers might be driving you right now, there is someone on this campaign you love. You know how she takes her coffee, you mock each other’s taste in music and you could pick her volunteer ask out of a line up. And you should, because campaign people are incredible. No offense to my wonderful classmates, but I feel more comfortable out for drinks with the people I’ve known here for three days than with the people I’ve spent time with for over a year. We get each other. We’ve dealt with yard sign activists, we’ve built 10,000 person events on 24 hrs notice, we’ve knocked on doors, looked strangers in the eye and promised them that their vote can make a difference. We are all willing to dial a phone until our fingers break if that’s what it takes, because this is just that important. In what other world can I wear sweatpants to work, curse like a sailor, and have a beer with a Congressman? It’s an incredibly special community that you’re a part of.

And what of those volunteers? I tell candidates that when they ask donors for money that they’re making an implicit promise to do everything they can to get elected in exchange for that support. It’s the same bond between you and your volunteers. Everyone has that one volunteer whose story they tell over and over again, who offered to do your laundry, who cooked you dinner when you were dragging on the floor, who wheeled her chemo bag into the office to make calls. For all of the frustration that some activists can bring, I’ve had volunteers I met as an organizer who to this day follow me in my heart to every campaign office.

Finally, I wanted to share something that a now prominent member of the Obama campaign once shared with me.

 State Director: Everyone raise your hands!

Field Staff: (Raises hands)

State Director: As high as you can!

Field Staff: (Raises hands higher)

State Director: Higher!

Field Staff: (Raises hands higher)

State Director: Higher!

Field Staff: (Raises hands higher)

State Director: Liars.

You are capable of more than you believe. It is a great a lesson that campaigns have taught me, and a good one to remember during these last couple days. This work is too important to give up now and your bosses wouldn’t let you do it if they didn’t know that you could. You can sleep, shower and eat on Novermber 4th. As Muhammad Ali says “suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.”

I can’t tell you how proud I am of you all and how grateful I am that you let me into your offices each day. I know you are working just as hard for me as I am for you and I promise you, win lose or draw it will be worth it.

Now go! Leave it all on the field!

Nancy Leeds is a Democratic Campaign Operative with her Masters in Public Administration at Columbia University. She is the author of Campaignsick a blog about voting rights, electoral politics and best practices in Campaign Management.

campaignsick.blogspot.com    campaignsick@gmail.com

 

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