Project Wonderful

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Make Elections Great Again

Let me start with the obvious: I love elections. I love nearly everything about them. I love the buzz of energy at a GOTV staging location, a perfectly cut walk list and a well-designed lit piece. I love the sense of patriotism that they invoke; for a few brief, shining moments our entire country is engaged in a national conversation about what we want it to mean to be American. I love empowering people and helping them believe they have a true stake in our democracy. I love that no matter how much money gets spent and how far, for better and worse, we have strayed from the electoral vision of our founding fathers, it can still come down to neighbors talking to neighbors. As much as I make fun of candidates, a good one can inspire an earnestness in people that is long since dormant in most adults.

And of course, there are election people. I love the people. If you made a pie chart of everyone new who has impacted my heart post-college, the non-campaign-person sliver would be infinitesimal. Campaign people are the funniest people in the world. They are among the most determined and the most loyal. I love our shared commitment, our intensity, and our dichotomy of cynicism and belief that we can make the world a better place. My colleagues make me love-to-hate even the least desirable aspects of election work: the hours, the stress, the peripatetic lifestyle. I have on more than one occasion been moved to tears just thinking about how lucky I am to have these people and this industry in my life.

With all that said: I. hate. this. election.

At first I thought it was just me. I love the work/life balance afforded me by doing electoral work at a non-profit, but I miss being out in field desperately. I miss the pace, the sense of urgency, and of course the people. Campaigns have become such a part of my identity that being removed from them pains me. The fact that this election season is going forward without me is damaging to my sense of pride. I feel like all my friends are hanging out without me. There's a reason this blog is called CampaignSick; I am homesick for campaigns.

But it turns out it's not just me. My friends, be they in the field, at consulting firms, or at independent politically oriented organizations are by and large finding this election joyless. When voters tell us they are sick of talking about the election, for the first time ever our reaction is "you're tellin' me."

Pundits and anti-Hillary stalwarts will point to an "enthusiasm gap," but I don't think that's it or at least not entirely. I will say the lies and stereotypes originally invented by the right and gleefully propagated by performative progressives during the primary have not helped matters. With friends like these as they say. A lot of ire was expended unnecessarily on the part of Clinton and Sanders supporters alike before we even got to the main event. Still, the party went through a fairly contentious primary in 2008 and went on to wage a general election campaign that was quite literally defined by hope and enthusiasm. not that.

Of course Clinton is not as charismatic as her husband or as Obama, at least not in the same way, but I don't think that's it either. She is, after all the most qualified candidate ever to run for the office and, oh yeah the first woman to get this far in the process.

Remember the good old days when Mitt Romney seemed racist? When we couldn't believe anyone would re-elect George W Bush? Those days are well behind us. The Republican party's nomination of Donald Trump, a man who looks and behaves like a villainaire in a 90's movie, whose campaign and persona are sexist, racist, xeno and islamaphobic and an affront to our national values, has changed the very nature of the conversation. With Clinton as our nominee, misogyny was to be anticipated but this is a whole 'nother level. And bear in mind I started writing this post before this weekend's "groping" tape was released. It is common for Democrats to accuse the Republican nominee of not understanding the lives of racial and religious minorities, but rarely has he so intentionally and gleefully insulted them.

Clinton has not had the opportunity to show off her policy prowess because she is too busy saying, we are all too busy saying, "Can you believe this guy?" The prospect of a John McCain or Mitt Romney presidency had me disappointed, anxious, worried about my rights, but never flat-out terrified for the very fabric of society. Donald Trump has created a state of national emergency such that even for Hillary's ardent admirers, and I count myself among them, the conversation is not about electing this extraordinarily qualified glass-ceiling-shattering woman, nor empowering would-be voters in the act of doing so, it's about stopping Donald Trump. There is no room for electoral joy here, only fear.

Brian Beutler sums it up in a piece titled "There is Only One Message for Voters to Send In This Election"

Do you want children growing up in a country where white supremacy has been re-normalized? Where misogyny doesn’t disqualify men for high office? Where erratic ignorance is placed in the running for the world’s highest award? Or would you rather send a message that if a major party nominates a fascist to be president of the United States—someone whose very character threatens national and global stability—the overwhelming majority of the country will flock to the candidate standing between him and the White House, and he will be left with the

Look, I get that of all the things threatened by Donald Trump's nomination, the relative fun-ness of our careers ranks very low on the list, but there is a dark, palpable shadow over this election season and I've been trying to figure out why. I think it's going to be up to us to find the joy over these last 30 days. So if you have something fun, inspiring, or exciting submit it! Let's Make Elections Great Again!

Campaign Love and Mine,


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