Outside the Classroom: Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail
I worked as a field organizer for the Democratic Party of Virginia’s Coordinated Campaign, which meant that I was working on behalf of the entire Democratic ticket. In my turf, that included the President, Tim Kaine for Senate, three congressional candidates, a school board candidate, and a candidate for town council. I worked with community members, local activists, local leaders, and the candidates to organize grassroots supporters to persuade and turn their friends and neighbors out to vote.
In theoretical terms, that sounds great. It’s the best way for Democrats to win elections, and we were all still in awe of the sophisticated grassroots effort that Obama for America created in 2008. My first day on the job, I couldn’t have imagined the hours I would spend knocking on doors in temperatures topping 100 degrees. Nor would I have guessed that I would spend an entire weekend putting out literally thousands of yard signs along a five mile stretch of highway leaving blisters on my hands that have yet to completely fade away. I was aware of the long hours (12 hours a day, 7 days a week, by the end of September), but I never anticipated the intense toll that kind of commitment would take on me.
I also had no idea the lessons I would learn. For instance, talking down a woman having a manic episode in my office, or dealing with deliberately obstructionist activists taught me more about patience, perseverance, and creative problem solving than I could ever learn pulling all nighters in Snell. I came out of this campaign with great friends, too. We were working side by side for people and ideas that we all felt were truly important. There’s also something about late nights with cheesy bread, beer, and hundreds of data sheets that really brings people together.
Working for this campaign was by far the hardest thing I have ever done, but it led me to one of my proudest moments. 11:30 pm. November 6th, 2012. Prince William County, Virginia. The races were called. It was over, we had won, and I could say with certainty, that I had a hand in that historical night.
Callaghan Guy, Political Science