Project Wonderful

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Happy Thanksgiving, my amazing, beautiful friends! I know I say it all the time, but I can never stress enough how grateful I am for you sharing your lives with me and allowing me to share mine with you. You are the 1's in my call list and the cold beer at the end of my canvass. My life would be so much less fun without you. I just made 5 holiday desserts and did 7 loads of laundry because on top of Thanksgiving, I am moving tomorrow, so I am unable to expound on your wonderfulness at this time.

I did want to share this YDA link on fact checking your Republican relatives, since I get questions about this every holiday. Use it at your own risk!

Happy Thanksgiving, Happy Hannukah and of course...

Campaign Love and Mine,


Monday, November 25, 2013

The 5 DC Things I Will Never Do

I have to wake up at sunshine o'clock tomorrow morning to drive down to DC and find myself an apartment because I am starting work next week!!! Of course, it's midnight and instead of sleeping I am laying in bed blogging and worrying about the transition. I am psyched to move and start my job, but that doesn't mean my previous misgivings about life in Washington have ceased to exist. Here are 5 DC behaviors I promise never to emulate, as much to myself as to you:

1) Introduce people by their jobs. This is the number one complaint that people have about DC and I've already started to catch myself doing it. I cringe when I meet someone and their first question is, "What do you do?" especially when this evokes a snarky little quip about my profession or a game of six degrees of separation. Don't get me wrong, I want to know what you do for a living eventually and of course my job is a huge part of my identity, but the second I start confusing where people work with who they are, I'm on the next Amtrak back to New York.

2) Pretend I know things I don't. I don't care how ignorant I sound, if you mention someone or something casually in conversation and I don't know about it, I'm gonna ask you. And I will be asking a lot because as much as I know about campaigns, I know very little about what happens in other facets of politics. Even in the campaign world, I've never been one of those people with an encyclopedic knowledge of who's running where. DC people causally mention elected officials and other politicos in front of me all the time and then act stunned when I don't recognize the name and even more stunned that I fessed up and asked. I complained about this to a DC friend the other day and he said "why don't you just sit back and listen and then you'll eventually absorb it?" Because I am curious and like to learn things and because name-dropping politicians or bills or events and then feigning disbelief that someone else doesn't know the same things you do is a shitty way to be. You should be embarrassed, not me. (By the way, I just googled "who is the Mayor of Washington, DC?" So you can safely mention Vincent Gray in front of me.)

3) Stop being spontaneous. Here is something I really don't understand about DC. You need to reserve people like 1,000 years in advance if you want to do something with them, only to have them cancel last minute half the time because of work. I thought maybe this was just me, but one of my old campaign friends brought this up too last time I was down there. I get that lives are busy and people are focused on their jobs, but for me one of the greatest joys of friendship is being able to call someone and say, "Hey, what are you doing?" and have it turn into an unexpectedly awesome evening. After all, you're talking to a girl who once went on a cross-country road trip as a second date.

4) Play fantasy football. I think this might be a function of the bro-yness of campaign people, but why is everyone I know in politics so into football? Especially fake football. I don't get it. I do plan on learning the rules to football though.

5) Act like DC can go toe to toe with New York. Here are some things DC has over New York: my friends (the ones who live in DC, not New York), slightly lower cost of living, jobs I want, the Federal government. Here are some things New York has over DC: Practically everything else. I'm not saying there are not good or unique things about DC or that I don't intend to find them and have a lot of fun there, but any sentence that starts "DC has just as much..." No, no it does not. For culture, food, diversity, public transportation, DC does not even come CLOSE to touching New York City. People who claim otherwise sound sad and pathetic and seem to be missing out on enjoying the city for what it is and the character it has by pretending it's something it's not.

Sorry for being such a DC you next Tuesday. I really am excited about this new adventure! DC natives and transplants, what should I look forward to about DC? I know you have recommendations for me!

Campaign Love and Mine,


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

This Blog Post Will Self-Destruct

You've probably heard me tell it. The story goes like this. When I was in college I wanted to be a spy. I applied to what the CIA calls its "Professional Trainee Program" (since you can't be an Operations Officer until you're 25) and got to the point where I was invited to go down to Virginia for my psych evaluation. Realizing that the next step was my security clearance and that that could take 6-9 months, I started looking for another job after graduation.

After combing the Tufts Alumni Network for jobs that sounded interesting, I came across a listing for Jordan Karp, Campaign Manager. I emailed him (along with several other less exciting candidates) asking for an informational interview. What I received in return was a 4 paragraph long email detailing the good, the bad and the ugly of working on Democratic campaigns. "You'll work 14 hours days but your coworkers will be your best friends. You'll eat sleep and breathe your job, but you will also wear pajamas to work and drink vodka in the office. You'll get screamed at by strangers, but you'll wake up every day knowing that what you do makes a difference. It will be the hardest most rewarding thing you ever do." I'm paraphrasing, but I wish I had saved that email because it changed my life. Shortly after that exchange I took a job as a Field Organizer with the 2006 Minnesota Democratic Coordinated Campaign, fell in love with it, withdrew my application to the CIA and never looked back.

It's hard to imagine myself as a member of the Clandestine Services now, since my life is so thoroughly steeped in campaigns, but for a year in my early 20's I pursued my application to the CIA with the single-minded devotion I now reserve for GOTV recruitment and Arrested Development trivia. However, a recent article, my birthday and my current job search have me doing some reflecting. No doubt my life would have been very different without that email, no matter where I wound up. Here are five ways that working on a campaign is like being a spy:

1) It's About Relationship Building. What we would think of as "spies" don't do a whole lot of spying. Most of what they do is recruit and collect information from key foreign nationals by persuading them that helping the US government would be in their favor. The job requires the ability to build trust, the insight to find out what motivates different people and in addition to staunch loyalty to the cause, a devotion and fiercely protective attitude toward those you recruit since they are likely putting themselves in harm's way to help you. Sound similar to anything you know? In fact "spies" are called Operations Officers or sometimes even, you guessed it, "Field Operatives."

2) People Have Strong, Ill-Informed Opinions About Your Job. When I told people I wanted to join the CIA (before I had to stop telling people I wanted to join the CIA because it looked like I might actually do it) I got a variation of one of two reactions, either "ARE YOU CRAZY?" or "That's SO COOL!" which are pretty much the same reactions I get when I tell people what I do now. People have no idea what your job actually entails, but that doesn't stop them on offering their "expert" advice on whether and how you should be doing it. Moreover, people are happy to reap the benefits of you having done your job while spouting off their NPR or Fox News gained opinions about the morality of you doing it.

3)You Drink the Patriotic Kool-Aid I know what people think; Democratic campaign operatives are all about raging against the machine. But my friends will tell you I'm very patriotic, sickeningly so. You have to be to do what we do, because what we do is sell a belief in American democracy, and you can't sell a product you don't believe in. If anything, working on campaigns has made me more patriotic as I've seen faith in the system (sometimes) rewarded. To me, the kind of patriotism you have to have to ask people to risk their lives to bring you information is similar to the kind of patriotism you have to have to call people day in and day out and ask them to give up their time. It's the kind of patriotism you choose to have, the kind you have to have because without it, your entire world view kind of falls apart.

4) You Have to Constantly Be Aware of Your Surroundings. Let me tell you a story about a charming and dynamic GOTV Director I know named Fancy. Fancy was blowing off some steam at a victory party when she non-nonchalantly remarked to a friend, "This was the strangest field campaign I've ever worked on." No sooner had these words left our beautiful heroine's lips than a reporter spun around on her bar stool like Dr. Claw stroking MAD cat and said, "I'm with the New York Times. Can you tell me what made you say that?" "Nope!," Fancy exclaimed and she ran away. Fancy was lucky that she narrowly escaped danger, but it served as a good reminder that as a representative of her candidate, she was never off the clock. True, campaign work is not as clandestine in nature as working for the Central Intelligence Agency, but in both cases your life is not fully your own. Which brings me to point 5...

5)It Makes "Having a Life" Nigh Impossible. This is probably the biggest similarity between clandestine services and political campaigns. Both require major sacrifices for your job. I hate to admit it, because is sounds so twisted, but a lot of what appealed to me about both career paths was the absurdity of them, the total immersion, the intensity. I have always been an intense person. After 4 years of my life being about sickness (I was diagnosed with a chronic illness shortly before my Freshman year of college) I was ready for it to be about something else and the further removed the better. One of the biggest blessings of working on campaigns is that they can be an escape from your troubles. At the same time self-care, friendships and relationships tend to fall by the wayside. One of my college friends jokes that she's never sure I didn't join the CIA since I disappear for large swaths of time and am effectively out of communication.

Say what you will about the ethics of our international intelligence operations, when it comes to the popular imagination spies are considered heroic, sexy, and highly intelligent whereas campaigners are considered...annoying? But I can tell you that my choice to follow that fateful email was one of the best and most important in my life and I can't imagine contributing more to my country in any other way. Just as much as operations officers, we are the unsung heroes who protect American values and that, my fellow field operatives, is badass.

Secret AGENT Nance! Secret AGENT Nance! She's calling for your numbers and taking away your name...

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Today In Voter Suppression: North Carolina 12-Year Old Is My New Hero

A 12 year old from North Carolina SCHOOLS legislators on voting rights. I don't have much to add here except, I'm glad she's on our side.

Virginia GOP Candidate Is a Big Bucket of Crazy

Just in time for Halloween, Politico shared this story from the National Review of Lieutenant Governor candidate, E.W. Jackson weaving tales about the devil

“When one hears the word meditation, it conjures an image of Maharishi Yoga talking about finding a mantra and striving for nirvana. … The purpose of such meditation is to empty oneself. … [Satan] is happy to invade the empty vacuum of your soul and possess it. That is why people serve Satan without ever knowing it or deciding to, but no one can be a child of God without making a decision to surrender to him. Beware of systems of spirituality which tell you to empty yourself. You will end up filled with something you probably do not want.”

Oh good. That's just the kind of clearheadedness and religious tolerance I look for in my leaders. The election is this Tuesday.


Negative Campaigning in Iowa Leads to UN-dorsement

We all know the tradition adage that if people claim they're not going to vote for you because of too many phone calls, or your negative campaigning, they weren't going to vote for you anyway. Well, the Des Moines Register is putting it's muscle where it's mouth is, revoking it's endorsement of City Council candidate Chris Diebel for sending "unfair and inaccurate" mailers about his opponents involvement on a local financing issue.

For these reasons, we can no longer support Chris Diebel for the Des Moines City Council. Withdrawing an endorsement after the fact is unusual for the Register, but given Diebel’s reckless and inaccurate campaign ads, we have no choice.

Serving as an elected official requires good judgment based on a careful and fair-minded review of the facts. Diebel has shown poor judgment by inaccurately attacking his opponent without offering a better solution. It is especially disappointing to see the personal attacks that infect national politics trickle down to a nonpartisan municipal election.

This is the first time I've heard of an endorsement being revoked by a major newspaper for direct mail content. Have you? Read the whole article here.

Organizer Store: The Ultimate GOTV Care Package

I have had some kickass interns, so it was no surprise when an intern at the firm where I am working part-time told me she was putting together a GOTV care package for her boyfriend and wanted my suggestions. Some of my suggestions were summarily rejected (EVERYONE likes scented candles! It's not a gender thing!) and some were deemed inappropriate (A picture of your butt. WHAT? I know what campaign boys like.) She also filled it with a bunch of inside jokey things which you should totally include. In addition to that, here is what we came up with together to go into a great GOTV care package.

Wisp toothbrush. Let me be upfront with you guys, a lot of my picks were hygiene based. Looking back on my days as an organizer,and dating organizers, I remember this being a big GOTV need.

Cookies! Nothing makes you feel more taken care of than homemade baked goods, even if they were homemade by someone else. Read more about my favorite GOTV tradition of cookie sending here.

Funderwear! GOTV means not so much time for laundry. Plus, who doesn't want patriotic underwear? By the way I could not find a good picture of boxer shorts with Democratic donkeys on them so there might be an opportunity there.

Starbucks Via. You could substitute this for some sugar-free Red Bull, but I'm personally a coffee drinker. Late nights. Caffeine. 'Nuff said.

Stress ball. So apparently elephant stress balls are to promote Republican candidates, which I don't get. You're literally crushing them. But since I can see why you wouldn't want that sitting around your office, I found the example above.

Stress Relief Candles! Ha! It's my blog. I put what I want.

Happy GOTV to you and yours!

Campaign Love and Mine,

To Washington On My 29th Birthday

Over the course of my seven years in politics, I've given a number of very legitimate reasons for not to wanting to move to DC.

When it comes to living on the East Coast, New York has DC beat in nearly every facet: food, theater, diversity, pop culture and everything in between. Even growing up as a New York City suburbanite and then a campaign nomad, I always imagined myself packing it in and moving to Manhattan. As John Updike famously said, "The true New Yorker secretly believes that people living anywhere else have to be, in some sense, kidding."

In addition, I've never shared the desire that many of my friends have to work where the sausage gets made. I got into politics as a fluke and stayed in because of the satisfaction I get out of empowering people. "Those on Capitol Hill," I would say to the approval of my Midwestern and Southern campaign constituents, "are empowered enough." Campaigns are my wheelhouse. I'm out of my element when it comes to any discussion of what happens on the hill.

There are other personal reasons I've never wanted to live in our nation's capitol. For one, the place is a veritable exboyfriend convention. I went down for the inauguration last January and ran into four people I've dated over the course of three events. DC is also less than ideal for someone who is as directionally challenged as I am. In what Earthly realm does New Jersey intersect with Louisiana? Then there are the complaints that everyone has about DC: People in DC work all the time, which is true; all anyone talks about is politics; everyone who's ever gotten a Congressman his coffee think he's Fareed Zakaria.

The thing is, the further away I get from campaigns, the more I miss talking about work all the time and being surrounded by people who get where I'm coming from. I even made a blog out of it. Besides the older my friends and I get, the more humility my social set seems to have about our livelihoods as we realize that for all of us, politicos, lawyers, and doctors alike, the brass ring will forever be a moving target. And so in my old age (I turn 29 next week) I find myself for the first time with my sights set on Washington, sending flurries of networking emails, braving the traffic on the New Jersey Turnpike and posting Facebook inquiries about DC Yoga Studios and where to find the best Bloody Mary, in an effort to convince myself that DC is livable.

And old age it is. When I left for grad school I wrote a Dear John letter explaining that while campaigns had meant the world to me, it was time to grow up and be an adult. I was intimidated, terrified really. A lease? An apartment? Living in the same place for two years? Leaving campaigns meant relinquishing my best excuses as to why my life wasn't going the way I wanted it to. Campaigns left little time for diet and exercise, or relationships, or most importantly introspection. Even scarier than the prospect of leaving campaigns for adulthood was the prospect that it wouldn't take. I knew that it was possible I would come out of those two years saying to campaigns, "it's not you, it's me." What if I couldn't be happy without the excitement of campaign life? What if I learned I had to choose between the work that has defined my life and having a life at all? In 2011 I wrote:

I looked around, thought about what I want in my life and realized that,for me, the campaign lifestyle wasn't sustainable. I'm proud that I had the courage and the wisdom to make that decision but that doesn't mean there's nothing to mourn.

I could say maybe in a couple years, who knows what will happen, but I don't want to lead myself on. In three years we both will have changed so much we'll barely recognize each other. When I do become involved again, it will be in a totally different capacity. I'm hoping we'll still be friends, but that's gonna be hard without falling back in.

In many tangible ways, I am not the adult I had hoped I would be by the time I finished grad school. I don't have a job, I'm single, if anything I weigh more than I did when I matriculated. Yet I have to tell you I have never felt like more of a grown-up.

And that leads me to the real reason I never wanted to move to DC. It wasn't the nightlife, or the (lower case p) politics or the exboyfriends. Deep down, part of me always suspected that my former coworkers who moved to Washington were leading lives of quiet desperation, spending their days at happy hours and hiking in Virginia and fantasy football to fill the void left by campaigns. You see, the true campaign person secretly believes that people doing anything else have to be, in some sense, kidding. Grad school felt like beginning adulthood, but DC felt like buying a house in the suburbs. One of my favorite comedians, Mike Birbiglia, has this line about how he didn't want to get married until he was sure nothing else good could happen in his life, and that's how I felt about DC. Just this great resignation.

Mike Birbiglia is married now and as far as I can tell good things continue to happen to him. He had a feature film produced last year. Maybe the same forces that drive men who are commitment-phobes in their 20's to get married in their 30's are what lead me to lustfully skim DC apartments on Craigslist at 29. What I know now that I didn't know two years ago is that no one really feels like an adult all of the time. (To wit, I recently walked in on my mother dressing a barbie doll as Miley Cyrus whining, "IT DOESN'T LOOK REEAAAAL.") That said, I've noticed that valuing flexibility and fervor over stability and self-care no longer feels authentic to me. Moreover, admitting that no longer feels like a betrayal. I still don't feel ready to write the eulogy on my sense of adventure, but I don't need to wear it on my sleeve to know that it's there. I can change what I want without changing who I am. After all, I could live alone on a mountain top, but I would always be a campaign person.

And that is the most valuable thing I could have gotten from these past two years: not a boyfriend, or a job, or a leaner midsection, but the confidence and sense of self to have none of those things, to be completely out of my element, and to know that I will be okay. I've had jobs and boyfriends and a waist before and I have the tools to get them again. So maybe stability is my next big adventure. Maybe it's something else. But if all goes according to plan, it may just be in DC.*

*Unless I get the one job I am applying to in New York.