This One Is For All The Field Organizers
If this past month has been hard on you, consider for a moment what your friendly, neighborhood field organizer is likely going through. Young, underpaid, and almost certainly taking time off from pursuing their education or career, these brave souls spent the better parts of 2016 (and some longer than that) trying to prevent the nation from electing the most unqualified and unsuitable candidate in modern American history. That so many ignored their pleas, their calls, and their utter common sense is just one of the many discouraging injustices of a long and hard year.
You have to understand, while most people were checking FiveThirtyEight or pining for another set of candidates, the field organizers were out there doing the business of mobilizing the electorate. They prodded, flattered, begged forgiveness, and did everything within human decency to get voters to exercise their franchise. They snuck into apartment buildings, approached homes threatening killer dogs, and came to know their “turf” better than most elected officials do. And most critically, they spent long nights entering data, setting up shop in the houses of total strangers, and hitting contact numbers only a masochist could conjure.
This is not natural behavior. The vast, vast majority of Americans either tune out elections, or at best, go vote and make a donation here or there. Few take up the call to actively court people they barely know, many of whom may not fully understand the requirements (or the imperative) to vote. These field organizers crammed down every rational thought that this one voter, this one volunteer, wasn’t worth the effort. And by doing so, they filled up those spreadsheets knowing that each name, when counted up, would add to a historic victory—electing the first female President of the United States of America.
It didn’t go according to plan. Not everything worthwhile in life does. But the very closeness of the election is proof of how necessary the work was. When 100,000 votes spread out over three crucial swing states ends up deciding who the leader of the free world is, at least there’s some comfort knowing that all of that work was undeniably vital.
Let me now address directly the field organizers who randomly happened upon this post. You are all my heroes, and if there’s any solace in any of this, my undying respect for you is even higher than if you had won. I don’t think I’ll ever understand quite precisely why so many people stayed home or voted the other way this past November. And lord knows you tried to warn us. I don’t have much in the way of a comforting explanation. All I know is that you fought for it, when so many want to take this country for granted, when so many would rather disengage, and when so many decided to take the freedoms and the privileges and responsibilities of being an American and stayed home. You deserve much better than this.
You lost one. But you will never again see an election—or your fellow voters—the same way. You’ll never take any of them for granted. You’ll fight, you’ll organize, and you’ll carry with you a little piece of pride that when the rest of the world was ducking its head, you stepped forward to stop it. I hope you carry that little gemstone with you for a long time.
You have every right to be bitter or to want to disengage. Heck, I know organizers from the 2008 Obama campaign who won and still got the heck out of politics and public service…and they won in a landslide. And if you decide to take a breather from all of this for a good few years, you won’t hear a complaint from me. You did your part.
But I assure you, the glory is still out there. Maybe what comes next takes you away from politics, but I hope that pursuit of great and ambitious things still occupies your thoughts for a good while. Yes, you’ll have bills to pay, family to attend to, and important television shows to get reacquainted with. But whatever your path, I hope you never truly abandon this grand experiment in American democracy. It is flawed and frustrating as hell, but there’s really no alternative. You can either get involved, do what’s within your power to do, or you can sit back and be a spectator in the hopes that others will pick up the slack. I’m so glad you rejected the latter and hope you will embrace the former again in the future.
I’m fortunate enough to have a six-month-old at home who makes it easy to focus on another great endeavor in life. I have no doubt your own great endeavors will begin to unfold soon if they already haven’t. And if you’re one of the not-so-rare campaign workers who is in for a long road back, please know that all the beneficiaries of your work have your back and will crawl over rocks to repay the favor you’ve shown us. And if someone isn’t returning your calls, let me know, and I’ll break their thumbs. This is only a half-joke.
I’m proud of you. And this nation owes you a debt even if it doesn’t want to acknowledge it or pay it right now. You fought for what was right and good. That will always be worth your brief and valuable time on this lovely planet of ours.
See you on the trail again, whenever that may be.