Why I am stepping away from Politics (not a rant about people.)

I know that I am not one of the more well known posters here, although I was pretty active during the campaign season and like to think that I made some friends here. I have enjoyed sharing my views with all of you, arguing, sharing humor, snark, and a more serious tone when it is warranted. Some of you may know that I have worked for the last four years as a campaign manager, and in other positions, on various races in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Virginia. I started while I was in college volunteering for local races and planning events for candidates when I could. Being involved in both winning and losing campaings over the last four years has led me to making many friends, some great contacts and has given me some amazing experiences. All things considered I wouldn't trade it for the world. That being said, I don't really see any choice but to say that I am done.

This is not the first time someone has broached this type of conversation here at MYDD and sadly it probably will not be the last. The Democratic Party has been notoriously bad at keeping young volunteers and operatives involved over the years. When I started down this path I knew that it would not lead me to riches, I only hoped to do my part for a cause I believed in and pay my bills along the way. I thought I would eventually go back to school for a graduate level degree, which I still may do, but I really fell in love with the campaign environment and wanted it to last for as long as it could.

What I have found over the last few years is that, although the pay was not good, there was always a candidate who needed help. I worked on building my resume and my reputation and networking. I slowly started getting better jobs, culminating this last campaign season with a state lead position for a prominent Democratic organization. The pay was good, I liked the people I was working with, and I had a great deal of responsibility. I also, for the first time, supposedly had stability. I was told, when hired, that if Obama won the Presidency I would be employed at least through August 2009.

We all busted our collective asses through the campaign, and on Election Night I stood with literally hundreds of volunteers and staffers in a Union Hall watching the results come in. We laughed, we cried, we hugged people we didn't know. We had done it. For me it was a journey that started on Election Night 2004, the first time I looked at MYDD and the point at which I made the decision that I had to be part of turning things around. The journey was worth it and it felt great...for approximately 12 hours.

A little after noon on November 5th my boss called me. I was cleaning up my office and getting ready to drive to D.C. for debriefing and to find out about my next assignment. He told me that I didn't need to come. He told me that he had argued for my job. He told me that I could use him for a reference. Then he told me that they had decided two weeks ago to cut most of the staff that had been hired for that specific project. This was not a fly by night organization, nor was it an organization without money. It is an organization with A LOT of money. They simply flat out lied to me.

I always knew when I went to work for a candidate that it was temporary. I often took tough jobs with long shot campaigns. We won a couple, we lost a couple. I always knew I would be moving on to the next gig though. This was different, and I just can't do it anymore. I have been struggling since Election Day to find the next gig. Its funny, I never had trouble finding another candidate, another job, after losing a tough race. We finally won the big one and I am one of many who are now stuck on the outside. It isn't right, but it is the way it is.

I am not writing this to get people down on our party or our organizations. I am simply sharing why I feel the way I feel in hopes that it will be changed for others eventually. There are three things that need to be done IMO:

1.) Young Operatives need to have access to Health Insurance. This is very important. I have been without Health Insurance, barring 6 months of last year, for the better part of a decade. Some have gone longer. If we believe in Health Insurance for all we have to find a way to start with our own.

2.) We need to be honest with the people we employ. If this organization had told me I would be gone the minute the election was over I still would have taken the job. It was a great job and it was an even better cause. It wasn't losing the job that hurt. It was the suddenness and the lies. Its like they wanted it to hurt.

3.) We need to reward people for good work. There are a lot of good operatives that are out of work right now and it just doesn't make sense. We won and the people who made that happen deserve to be part of what comes next. People need to be given opportunities to grow and chances to take on bigger jobs. This just doesn't seem to happen though, unless you are somebodies nephew or very lucky. We are not supposed to the party that operates that way.

Anyway, that is why I am stepping away. Flame, comment, question. Tell me what you feel. I will still be around, though not as much as I used to be. Thank you all, and good luck!

Tags: campaing, Economy, Employment, Party Building, the Future, young people (all tags)

Comments

37 Comments

Re: Why I am stepping away from Politics.

Just wanted again say thank you to everyone here. I hope that this sparks some discussion.

by JDF 2009-02-16 09:02AM | 0 recs
Re: Why I am stepping away from Politics.

Sorry to hear this. After all your blood, sweat, tears and commitment, to be treated like this must suck - big time.

I just hope your political enthusiasm and obvious talent with be rekindled and inspired some time in the future.

My son worked on the Obama campaign in Harrisburg. He had the time of his life, but he was very young and a complete volunteer (I wonder if you met?), but the late 20s/early 30s are a time when you shouldn't have to choose between following your passion, and having some kind of viable life. I'm sorry it has come to this.

You'll be missed, here and no doubt in real life too.

by brit 2009-02-16 09:08AM | 0 recs
Re: Why I am stepping away from Politics.

I am actually from Harrisburg but spent most of the campaign in Iowa and later Toledo, Ohio.

I did get a lot of calls on my cell phone from volunteers in the Harrisburg area though, so maybe I talked to him.

I am glad he enjoyed it and hope that if he sticks with it things go well for him!

by JDF 2009-02-16 09:12AM | 0 recs
Re: Why I am stepping away from Politics.

You might have noted a British accent. He was organising the out of state volunteers for Harrisburg

by brit 2009-02-16 10:36AM | 0 recs
Re: Why I am stepping away from Politics (not a ra

JDF - Just a thank you for all your hard work, without it and many like you who knows what might have happened.

by jsfox 2009-02-16 10:28AM | 0 recs
I am so sorry to read this news

You worked hard and deserved to be treated a lot better than that.

We need some kind of public health care program anyone can join ("Medicare for All"), because campaigns and cash-strapped advocacy organizations are not (realistically) going to be in a position to offer their organizers good benefits. But it is wrong to expect committed people to take on the risk of going uninsured in order to do work they are passionate about.

by desmoinesdem 2009-02-16 10:44AM | 0 recs
Re: I am so sorry to read this news

Thank you Desmoinesdem...and thank you for breaking bread with me when I was in Des Moines.

It was a pleasure to meet you. If ever I pass through Iowa again I will be sure to send you an email.  

by JDF 2009-02-16 08:35PM | 0 recs
A brutal business...

But, really, it's not much better in the private sector right now.

We have had two lay-offs at a company that made 20% profit every year since I got there.

But, less then ONE quarter of bad numbers, and they laid off about 1/5th of the staff, then two months later, another about 1/5th.

We were STILL making money, just the burn rate was so high, our profit was in single digits.

They pulled the trigger instantly, without a moment of hesitation.

Many of the people they laid off were considerably older then you I suspect, some were the only bread-winner in a family situation.

One of the biggest lies we are lead to believe is, who we work for has some loyality in return for what we give them. They use that falsity in my opinion, to make us more subserviant.

Good luck to you, and, welcome maybe to the private sector?

Not that many feel good stories out here either these days....

by WashStateBlue 2009-02-16 10:47AM | 0 recs
Re: A brutal business...

We'll see. The economy is such a mess right now that I don't know that there is much in the private sector for me either. I am considering going back to school. I just really didn't plan on being a broke college student into my thirties.

by JDF 2009-02-16 11:50AM | 0 recs
On the point about healthcare

National Healthcare in Britain was a way of saying thank you to the Veterans of World War II.

They came home to inexpensive, high quality healthcare. And now that Great Britain is now leading the way forward in Health and Medicine and America is lagging the world in innovative technique

I suppose perhaps killing two birdds with one stone might be a good way to cut down on the spending for throwing stones.

I am happy to see someone notice that alot of the people who walk in off the street to help with their country , are usually not covered - maybe there is more than 120 million people who are not covered in America.

Maybe it will help our economy if we didn't have to be paranoid about unexpected medical expense.

And maybe it would help the party to actually follow through on some of their promises.

by Trey Rentz 2009-02-16 10:48AM | 0 recs
Re: On the point about healthcare

I lived in the UK for two years and I can tell you they are not leading the way forward in any manner when it comes to health care.  The only innovations the Brits have introduced are ways to limit health care resource consumption.  Their system is not so great.  If you want to talk about good social healthcare programs, you have to look to France.

by orestes 2009-02-17 05:03AM | 0 recs
Re: Why I am stepping away from Politics (not a ra

there is no way that the democratic party was going to employ the same level of people it did during the campaign once dems were in power.  it sucks that you're out of work, but perhaps it has less to do with lies and more to do with the fact that there aren't nearly as many available positions as there are dedicated seasoned operatives.  ( i know people in the same position )  my guess--  in 6 months, the picture will be different as midterms get closer.

by bluedavid 2009-02-16 10:49AM | 0 recs
Re: Why I am stepping away from Politics (not a ra

The picture will certainly look different in a few months, but my experience is that it will be more of the same. I think it is a fundamental problem in the way we treat people more than anything else. The problem is not the lack of low income campaign jobs, those will always be available. The problem is that there is very little actual room for advancement and that it seems to be incredibly difficult to move from the campaign world to another type of political job. It is compounded that there is very little appreciation for the people who give themselves over to this work.  

Also, to reply to some of the above statements, of course there were going to be far fewer jobs once the campaign was over...but organizations that are not solely in campaign mode should not have been promising lasting jobs if they had no intention of it being true.

by JDF 2009-02-16 11:49AM | 0 recs
stepping away from Politics

Welcome to the Democratic Party. Maybe now you will have a little more appreciation for the Clinton supporters you trashed here, many of whom have volunteered for Democratic campaigns for decades.

Have you looked at Democratic GAIN? They've been working since at least 2003 to try to supply benefits and support to Democratic campaign operatives.

by souvarine 2009-02-16 12:37PM | 0 recs
Re: stepping away from Politics

Actually I have gotten 4 jobs through Democratic Gain over the years so thank you for mentioning them, they are a great organization....

I'll leave the rest of it alone.

by JDF 2009-02-16 02:12PM | 0 recs
hmm
wow. So this is it, kiddo? Good luck to you and i hope life treats you splendidly.
by selfevident 2009-02-16 01:19PM | 0 recs
Re: hmm

Thanks :-)

by JDF 2009-02-16 02:12PM | 0 recs
Re: hmm
hey, you stole my sig. and i was just about to change it back. err. Its a good thing you are leaving boy. ;)
by selfevident 2009-02-16 11:21PM | 0 recs
Re: hmm

Next time I change mine you can have it back ;-)

by JDF 2009-02-17 09:14AM | 0 recs
Re: hmm
i did one better jerkface. :P
by selfevident 2009-02-17 09:47PM | 0 recs
Re: hmm

Oh come, if you are going to do it do it right:

"Hold on to your rifles boys and don't give up the dream: a republic for the workin' class, economic liberty."

by JDF 2009-02-18 10:10AM | 0 recs
Re: hmm
argh. i concede, you win this one. happy? :p
by selfevident 2009-02-18 04:33PM | 0 recs
Are you sure you would like to leave? I understand
that you don't want to be left holding the bag at the end of the day with tons of debt. What happened to you is an awful experience...but aren't there other opportunities that can gain from the experience that you had garnered? At the end of the day, are you sure that you would want to do things that you're not really passionate about? Why don't you check some of the political consultant firms? Or if you decide to go for grad school, how about looking at school of politics or social policy...I don't want to sound like a counselar but it sounds like that you are at a fork in your life and the path you take would form a great part of your life...
My own rule at a job is to ask myself "am I excited to go to work...." when I get up every morning especially on a Monday morning,
by louisprandtl 2009-02-16 04:35PM | 0 recs
Re: Are you sure you would like to leave?

There is nothing wrong with offering good advice, and I do appreciate it. As to whether I want to walk away, I certainly do not, but one definition of insanity is continuing to do the same thing while expecting a different result. I would never completely close the door on this aspect of my life and if I ever see the right opportunity again I would certainly take it.

You are right about a lot of things, particularly the importance of being excited about your job. For me a large part of it is that I am reaching an age where a certain amount of stability feels like a necessity in my life.

I really hope that, as a group, we will start to do better at all of this in the future. I have met a lot of talented political operatives who are now doing other things because of the way this business works. It is very easy to burn out on the perpetual campaign when the opportunities to advance in the profession do not appear to be there. I suppose in some ways it is not all that different from other fields, but the sum zero nature of campaigning really takes a toll.

For me, when I decided this was what I was going to do it was, in part, out of a desire to be a part of something meaningful and in many ways I feel like I accomplished that. Now it becomes more a question of what I have to do to get my own life in order and I think it is a difficult thing to do in this world.

Believe me though, I will never say never, and I will still be checking in here at MYDD. Thank you for the suggestions, and as I move on in the coming days and weeks I will keep it in mind!

by JDF 2009-02-16 05:16PM | 0 recs
You remind me exactly of the reasons why many

leave postdoctoral positions or graduate research assistantships when passion for research cannot compensate any more for the poor pay and keep family in a standstill...

I'm upset to see folks like you leave because of lack of proper opportunities and compensations. Unfortunately leeches like Mark Penn make all the money on the backs of folks like you...

Along with MyDD, please also visit us at MotleyMoose when you can...

by louisprandtl 2009-02-16 05:37PM | 0 recs
Re: You remind me exactly of the reasons why many

I will stop by! I have heard good things about the Moose.

by JDF 2009-02-16 06:44PM | 0 recs
Re: Why I am stepping

That's too bad about having them renege in their promise.  That happened all the time to me when I was freelancing: places will lure you in cheaply with the promise of something longer term, and then at the end of it make up a reason for getting rid of you when the project is done, but you would expect people to treat each other better in movement work.

You're intelligent and motivated - you'll be alright.

by Jess81 2009-02-16 05:15PM | 0 recs
Re: Why I am stepping

I will definitely be alright, and thank you for the kind words. As an aside I think people would be even more shocked if I told them who I had been working for. I won't do that though because regardless of what they did to me and others they have been an important part of our movement for sometime and I truly do not believe we would be where we are without them.

by JDF 2009-02-16 05:18PM | 0 recs
Welcome to the Club

I put in over 100 hours of week for 20 weeks in the 2004 election for about a dollar an hour. I received no benefits, no thank you note, no future job and even had to pay social security tax on what little I earned. Still, I vote for Obama and will vote Democratic probably for the rest of my life.

by Zzyzzy 2009-02-16 06:55PM | 0 recs
Re: Welcome to the Club

Did you get the impression from this somehow that I stopped caring, or would stop voting?

Did you get the impression from this that I was simply bemoaning my bad luck?

I find it amazing that someone who has had the same experiences I have either completely missed a point that everyone else here got or is being deliberately obtuse.

To be clear, I am not simply complaining that I got a raw deal. This is not just bad for me, or just bad for you. It is bad for the party. It is bad for progressive causes. It is just bad. If I didn't care I wouldn't be having the conversation. I wouldn't have discussed my experiences and engaged in discussion on this board.

Generally I have found you to be one of the good guys(in the gender neutral sense) so I am going to assume you just missed the point.

I too will be voting Democrat for the rest of my life. I am still thrilled to death that I have played some small part in our recent victories. I will remember every campaign and every election night I have been a part of with a great amount of joy. This was simply discussing why I can't do it anymore and why that is not, ultimately, a good sign for us.

by JDF 2009-02-16 08:34PM | 0 recs
Re: Why I am stepping

I feel terrible that you've been treated this way.  I wish you luck in the future.

by Robroy of Dunhill 2009-02-17 03:35AM | 0 recs
Re: Why I am stepping away

Good Luck!

by 30000Fine 2009-02-17 04:10AM | 0 recs
Your experience

is identical to mine, but about 20 years later.

Democratic organizations lie to their employees.  I have never seen anything close to the outright dishonesty in those organizations in the private sector.

It's depressing as all, and has been around as long as I have been in politics (since the mid-80's)

by fladem 2009-02-17 05:47AM | 0 recs
Re: Why I am stepping away from Politics

Sorry you got screwed.  You deserved to be told from the beginning that you would have no job afterward.  Next time, hopefully, you'll be able to get it in writing.

A political campaign lied to you.  You should not have been surprised.  The best advice is that in the future you should scatter your eggs.

Obama, Biden, and the multimillionaire staff thank you from the penthouse at the Plaza.

I wish you the best.

by SuperCameron 2009-02-17 06:09AM | 0 recs
Re: Why I am stepping away from Politics

To be clear, I was not working directly for the campaign. I was working for an organization that was running parallel campaign activities.

by JDF 2009-02-17 09:12AM | 0 recs
Re: Why I am stepping away from Politics

Have a good rest, it's good to get away from political campaigns at times. Good luck.

by Jerome Armstrong 2009-02-17 08:29AM | 0 recs
wanted to comment...

had some computer problems in the last couple of weeks, so missed this initially.  you should be highly commended for using your professional life to better the world.

take your needed break - but please do not leave!

by canadian gal 2009-02-21 05:13AM | 0 recs

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