Myths of the Campaign Trail Revealed or Why Your Gig with Kerry or Bush Won’t Get You to DC

Presidential campaign years offer many opportunities for people, young and old (but mostly young) to get involved in the day-to-day operations of a political campaign. Every four years it seems the size of both incumbent and challenger presidential campaigns grows, and the affiliated positions available at “coordinated campaigns,” political parties, and other races for US Senate, Congress, Governor, Dog Catcher, etc. are all available to those who really want to get their hands dirty in the inner machinations of politics.
The catch is that most of the actual “work” on political operations like these have little to do with policy, politics, ideas, or Big Important Things. Instead, as the Deputy Assistant Political Director for the Very Big Wig Campaign for Whatever, one’s job is as likely to be about figuring out what one-horse town to have a rally at, or making sure enough baseball caps are available for assembled third-tier celebrities at a press conference, as they are about anything else. In other words, unless you’re at the very top of a campaign, your job is more about moving things around on time and under budget, than it is about “politics.”
It’s important that those considering a move into the “political business” understand this early, because every year the streets are littered with the burned out remnants of political operatives at the bottom rungs of the ladder disillusioned at their station in life, because they thought they were getting involved in something important and “meaningful.”
They did get involved with something important, if one accepts the idea that elections are, but what they didn’t’ realize is that for the most part, your job on a Big National Campaign is to make a big machine work, and most parts of a big machine are small. And replaceable. Cheaply.
If you accept that your job is that of a production-line employee, moving things and people around on time and under budget, you can take pride in a job well done and use those skills in politics, or in life. But if you don’t accept it, you’re setting yourself up for a nice run in with a brick wall known as Reality.
More importantly, to those who are working their fingers to the bone for Sen. Kerry or President Bush in the hopes of attaining some lofty position in a future Bush II administration or a Kerry Administration need to realize that while their hard work in service of electing said folks was duly noted and appreciated, it is no guarantee they’ll be getting anything more than a computer-signed photo of said candidate in the future. In fact, if history is any guide, working on a Big National Campaign almost ensures that one does not get a future gig with President Whomever.
That may sound counter-intuitive, but it’s been proven over and over again by both parties over many, many years. Unless you happen to be one of the few people at the highest levels of the campaign hierarchy, or you happen to have raised an incredible amount of money, the sad fact is that the future administration does not particularly care much about what happens to you once November 3rd rolls around. To be true, there are exceptions, but I’ve met too many people who gave up way too much for these big operations only to end up very disappointed when inauguration time comes around.
That’s why I can’t stand how so many of these people behave during the campaign. You find that unless you work with particularly mature, or intelligent people, many of the middle management types are particularly forceful when elbowing you or others perceived to be “in the way” of their ambitions to be in a future administration. I’ve often said the most dangerous place to be in a presidential year is between a mid-level position and an overly-ambitious political wannabe.
One can attempt to reason with said folk, and encourage them to work towards the common goal of electing Candidate Whomever, but it tends to fall on deaf ears. That elbowing and jockeying for position can create situations in even the best run campaigns where people are quibbling amongst themselves over perceived slights and perceived perks, forgetting that their job is not to help themselves, but get someone much more important than themselves a new job (or keep one).
There was a time when I found such behavior irritating, but nowadays I find it more amusing than anything else, since I know what happens next. No one believes me now, but come January 2005, I’ll be proven right, or at least sort of right, once again.
It’s nothing I take much delight in – I’d rather see people more realistically understand what it is they get into so they get the maximum out of it they can, but I find that with younger staffers these days, the only way they learn is the hard way. I suppose there’s some amusement in that, especially after you listen to some 22 year old who just got out of a training session at the DNC or RNC tell you why it is You Don’t Get It And They Do.
For those of you looking for a fun way to get involved with politics and potentially win $100,000, I strongly urge you to follow my link to VoteOrNot.Org and enter the contest. It’s really simple – you register to vote via the site (or if you’re already registered, just enter the contest) and you will be instantly entered into a contest to win $100,000!
Here’s the groovy part – by using my link, I get a chance to win too. So if you win $100,000, I win $100,000 too!
Think of the possibilities. With one click, you can enter and possibly win enough money to buy something really nice – or if the wrong guy wins election, a ticket to Amsterdam.
Either way, it’s a great deal and I encourage everyone to follow the link. If I win, I’m buying all of my loyal readers a drink at the Waterfront Cafe over by my place.
You win. I win. And America wins! Woo hoo!

© 2003-2006 Greg Dewar | All Rights Reserved | Originally Published at

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