Though I’m not involved in this current political campaign cycle, I’ve been involved in many. As this August rolls around, I find myself reminiscing of little Alice ready to take on the world as the best damn Field Organizer Virginia had ever seen. Boy was I in for a surprise.
So I wanted to write a note to all of the Field Organizers already working remarkably hard for the 2016 election cycle. I hope this helps just a little.
Dear lovely Field Organizers,
Okay, so you’re a brand new Field Organizer. You just had seemingly the best few months of your life as a fellow or a volunteer for the candidate of your dreams and you’re psyched to get going!
Or you’ve been a Field Organizer for a few months now. Summer seems like the best time for your job and everything seems crazily hard but in that joyfully possible way and everyone loves you.Then August comes along.
If you’ve been around for a few campaign cycles, you’ve probably realized that Augusts really suck. Maybe you’re like me and you didn’t really realize that specifically, you just felt completely defeated and down every August and you didn’t know why. Everything that was once easy was now harder. Everyone you loved started acting like a fool. The media was in a constant frenzy about something stupid and they ignored everyone’s best efforts to talk about important things.
If you’re not feeling like that yet — just wait. If you are, you’re not alone. Augusts really do suck.
My mentor/dear friend/longtime boss Mitch pointed this out to me and all the field staff in 2011, that Augusts are just the worst. Of course, I am not the seasoned professional that he is (oh god, I know I’m just fanning his ego, it’s okay) and thus I can’t list out exactly why.
But I do know that all your volunteers will be busy all of August. They’re on last-minute summer trips, or dealing with back to school tasks, or getting tired of canvassing in 98-degree weather. I do know that Congress is out of session, back in their districts and thoroughly messing with your situation by holding miserable town halls. I do know that the cute boy or girl you were hooking up with will probably decide that it’s time to get serious and focus on work and thinks y’all should probably stop hanging out so much. I do know that you’ll go from getting shout outs on the state calls every week to being lumped in with everyone else.
Augusts are just really hard. For whatever cosmic reasons and whatever political theory reasons, they are really hard for people in politics, especially for Field Organizers. But there’s something about accepting you’ll be miserable that makes it better. It also helps you stay steady.
Being a Field Organizer is remarkably intense. If your RFD, your boss at the highest level, and everyone in between have done their jobs right, you feel great personal responsibility for the campaign’s success or failure. You know that your turf is extremely important, no matter how different it is from your friend’s turf. You know that how many people show up on Election Day to vote for your candidate is your responsibility. You know that your volunteers rely on you, that their volunteers rely on you, that your RFD relies on you, and that your candidate relies on you. You know that you have a short amount of time to build something huge.
This can be a lot to handle. The night before Election Day in 2008, my parents (visiting to knock on doors for GOTV because they are perfect angels) found me sitting on the roof of my car in a parking lot, making confirmation calls between sobs. Why? Four people had canceled their shifts on me. I felt convinced that not hitting my shift goals meant I would not hit my vote goal, which in turn would mean we’d lose Virginia and the entire election.
I was fucking crazy.
On a campaign, there will be so many moments that feel like your lowest moment. There will be times you feel like you really can’t do the work anymore. There will be times you’re not sure what more you can possibly do. There will be times it feels like everything and everyone are working against you.
These feelings are completely valid and entirely expected. But if you can learn to look at these challenges — the peaks and dips in the polls, the media frenzies, the lulls in volunteer growth — as par for the course, you will be so much stronger.
Let all of the nonsense happen around you. You can look at the polls even though everyone tells you not to. (You’re human, you can’t resist.) But don’t think about them or trust them or worry about them for even a second. Go ahead, read the press clips — the uplifting ones and even the truly insane ones. But don’t make the mistake of believing that all the CNN hype actually matters. Not to you, your volunteers, or the voters. Listen politely when your friends in different worlds talk to you as if they’re experts on the campaign. But don’t waste your time worrying about anything negative they say.
Just do your job.
Your job is the same every single day, whether your candidate is winning or losing or in a scandal or ignored entirely. Your job never changes. You will get new talking points and new scripts. You’ll definitely get new goals. You’ll get new tactics and targets. You’ll get new coworkers, fellows, and volunteers. But every single day, your job is the same — to organize a grassroots movement of neighbors talking to neighbors, one super volunteer at a time.
Sure, a bunch of other people may think their job is more important. But, trust me, beautiful little organizers — you are the heart and soul of the campaign. You make everything else possible. And you will survive this. You will be so much stronger because of this. Augusts might suck, but you certainly don’t.
And we’re all just so grateful for you.