This won’t be a fun letter for me to write, but I do think it’s necessary. See, I’ve reached a point where something is simmering within me, something just beneath the surface and I’m concerned that it may soon reach a boiling point. What might help, I think, is telling you what’s going on with me and specifically – how you’re a part of it. I need to share how I feel about some of your behavior towards me and offer a few things to think about changing in the future. Sounds a little parental and a little childish at the same time, doesn’t it? Agreed. It sounds clinical.
But I don’t know what else to do. We’re friends, you know. So I’m not going to walk away from you, upset as I am. I’m not going to end the relationship, even though sometimes it’s easier to just not talk to you for awhile. Those things seem extreme, seeing as there is so much history between us that has nothing to do with why I’m upset. But I’ve come to believe that, for the good of our relationship, we need to have a little talk.
So that’s what this letter is. Me giving you a little talk.
Enough preamble. Here’s the deal – Some of you flat out pick on me during the election season and I’m sick of it. Beyond being sick of it, I’m also concerned that it’s starting to hurt our friendship. This may sound surprising or like it’s not a big deal, because we’ve never had a heart-felt conversation about it. I haven’t communicated to you that this is bothering me either, and that’s my fault. Instead, I’ve jabbed back, laughed it off or, in many cases, flat out ignored you. I’m sorry for that. Me not communicating with you isn’t helpful.
But it really bothers me, and I’m resenting you these days. That I know.
Some of you have a more acute understanding of what I do for a living. Still, I don’t know if you realize that it’s been almost fourteen years that I’ve been working in this field. Fourteen. Not voted – worked. In politics. You didn’t realize it had been that long. Me either. It’s nearly all of my grown-up life. I began political work during graduate school, only two years after finishing college. I don’t often think back about what has gone on over that time, but just now I started to write down everything I can remember working on and was surprised by the size of the list. Check this out:
March 1997 – Special Election – Hawthorne School District Bond Measure
November 1997 – Special Election – Pasadena Unified Schools Bond Measure
April 1998 – Special Election – Anaheim School District Bond Measure
June 1998 – Special Election – U.S. Congress – NM District 1
November 1998 – Election – U.S. Congress – NM District 3
March 1999 – Special Election – San Diego County Library Tax Measure
June 1999 – Runoff Election – City Council – Los Angeles District 7
September 1999 – Special Primary Election – U.S. Congress – CA District 43
November 1999 – Special General Election – U.S. Congress – CA District 43
January 2000 – Special Election – State Senate – CA District 32
March 2000 – Primary Election – State Assembly – CA District 44
March 2000 – Primary Election – State Senate – CA District 21
March 2000 – Local Election – Municipal Court Judge – Alhambra, CA
March 2000 – Primary Election – Constitutional Amendment – CA
June 2000 – Clean Air Campaign – Southgate, CA
November 2000 – General Election – President – NM
April 2001 – Primary Election – Mayor of Los Angeles
June 2001 – Runoff Election – City Council – Los Angeles District 13
October 2001 – Special Election – Baldwin Park Firework Measure
November 2001 – Primary Election – Montebello School Board
January 2002 – Special Election – Downey Firework Measure
March 2002 – Primary Election – San Francisco City Attorney
March 2002 – Primary Election – State Assembly – CA District 13
June 2002 – Primary Election – New Mexico Land Commissioner
November 2002 – General Election – U.S. Congress – UT District 1
November 2002 – General Election – Governor of Oregon
November 2002 – General Election – U.S. Congress – IN District 2
March 2003 – Primary Election –School Board – Los Angeles District 3
May 2003 – Runoff Election – City Council – Los Angeles District 12
November 2003 – General Election – Mayor of Ft Wayne, IN
November 2004 – General Election – President – OH
November 2005 – General Election – Ballot Initiatives – OH
November 2006 – General Election – Governor & Minimum Wage Initiative – Ohio
November 2008 – General Election – President & State House – OH
November 2010 – General Election – Senate, Governor, Congressional & State Legislative races in WI, MN, PA, NH, OH, CO, NV, NM, MI, FL.
Surely I’ve missed a few things, but still…it’s a pretty long list. And these were jobs I had, remember, not elections I voted in or campaigns I volunteered on. A lot of stuff crammed into 15 years and, for better or worse, it’s led me to where I am today. I’m very invested in the path I’ve taken, and I definitely picked something I’m passionate about. It’s what has allowed me to move forward in the world, grow confidence, find a wife, put juice in the fridge for my kids and have an impact on what I believe in. Maybe all that goes without saying. But maybe it doesn’t.
Look at the last fifteen years of your professional life. Hopefully you picked a line of work that you’re passionate about. I’m really not sure, but if you say you did I’ll believe you. You’re pretty good at what you do, I know that. Does it make you feel accomplished? Makes you feel confident? When was the last time I took issue with your lesson planning? With how you clean out a tank? With your customer service? With how you police the city? Answer: Never.
But alas, as it turns out, the rest of the world is pretty passionate about my line of work – you included. Listen, I know when it comes to politics, people are fervent. They believe what they believe. Sometimes it’s with a good grasp of the issues, sometimes it isn’t. And the chatter is always heavier in the fall, around elections. It’s hard to find a conversation in September and October that doesn’t somehow veer to politics. But then comes November. Campaigns come to an end, the media dies down and folks get back to thinking about politics less in December than you did in October. You too. I’ve noticed that you and I don’t have as many political interactions outside of those months. But none of that is the case with me. I don’t really have a campaign season that parallels your timeline. After Election Day, things just go on for me.
So when you get on my case, different than when you get on the cases of people who don’t work in politics, it probably feels different to me than it does to them. It makes me mad. Sometimes it hurts my feelings. I feel like you’re coming into my living room and knocking some shit over just to be mean, then leaving not realizing that when an election passes and you stop thinking about this mess of government and leadership – I don’t. I’m still thinking about it. But then I’m also thinking about how you made it a point to not consider my personal passion and professional role. You traipsed right over them. And listen, plenty of people take issue with my politics and my line of work and I don’t care. The difference between those people and you is that you are my friend.
In fact, as my friend, here are some things you can do to make my life easier and our relationship better:
Say Something – You clearly want to talk to me about politics so don’t be lazy about it – bring something to the discussion. Don’t just antagonize me with platitudes and hyperbole. I know this is a steep ask because most of you get your information from Fox News. I won’t say you get it from “the” news, because Hannity, Beck, O-Reilly, etc are not news analysts, even self-proclaiming what they offer as ‘vibrant opinion’ versus ‘news reporting.’ But whatever. I’m not suggesting one media outlet over another, just that you all seem to orbit around one of them – Fox. And don’t feel bad – that’s where most people get their information. The distinction I am making between most people and you is that you are my friend…my conservative friend, and you engage me in political discussions. So seriously, have something to say. It makes your unique human contribution relevant. I can read bumper stickers anywhere and I don’t have to get my feelings hurt doing it.
Don’t be so Paranoid – Now that you’re paying attention… All the crap you’ve been throwing at me (see: They’re saddling our children with all this debt! They’re spending us into the poor house! They’re wasting all our tax dollars! etc. etc. etc…) – this stuff gets said every single election year. Every one. Someone’s message has to be ‘stay the course’ and someone’s message has to be ‘we need change’. That’s how it works. And despite this revolving message used one year by the right and the next by the left, nothing ever really changes. Seriously. Look around you. Your life. What’s different? Things take time – good and bad. Government is like a barge and it takes time to change it’s course and even longer to for the new scenery to come. Creating laws and managing 300,000,000 people is complex, not simple, not responsibly distilled into two sentence tidbits. Deal with it.
I’m not going to lie, I don’t think some of you do your homework. And I should clarify, by ‘do your homework’ I don’t mean watch the news channels or read campaign emails. I mean do your homework. Watching the news is passive. Listening to co-workers is passive. Doing homework is active. I think if you were to actually dig in to some responsible, non-political sources to harvest some information yourself versus having it spoon fed to you by the news and other like-minded friends you’d find that you were a) more informed b) more confident and c) less antagonistic…because you actually could debate at that point, versus just be an asswipe. Seriously…there is waaaay more case to be afraid of the media than there is to be afraid of the government. And you’re smart, why are you buying everything hook line and sinker?
Do Something – Think you have all the answers? Think it’s that easy? Maybe so. Here is something that would be impressive and potentially lengthen the period of time that I’m willing to take shit from you: You getting active. That’s right – you running for office, volunteering on a campaign, writing op ed’s for the paper, going to town hall meetings with ideas about how to build something better versus bitching about dismantling something that’s defective.
Respect My Path and My Work – This is a big one for me personally. I chose this path because of what I believe in. I don’t just vote every other year or get fired up in happy hour conversations six weeks before Election Day – campaigns and elections are part of my everyday life. As such, my ego just asked me to tell you that I know more about campaign and election politics than you do. That doesn’t mean that I want to have a blow-by-blow policy debate with you (ever). But I work in elections. That means my entire professional existence is focused on understanding what you and your neighbors think and why. I know more about what the 2010 elections mean for Obama in 2012, whether or not the Tea Party is impactful, what legislation Nancy Pelosi has passed and – simply put – how government works than any of you do or ever will.
In fact, I’d like you to stop assuming that everyone’s opinion is so organic. My line of work is focused on feeding you food that’s easily digestible. To that point – I professionally contribute to the dumbing down of America and that bothers and frustrates me, but I can’t talk about it with you until I feel like you’re my friend again.
Shut the Fuck up Already – It’s ok to be passionate about politics, but you don’t need to be passionate about my politics. The political system we live in has become detached, no doubt about it. But there is also no doubt that we are the government. We are. And we’re all in this life thing together. It’s on us to figure out how to create the greatest good for the greatest number of people…or maybe it’s up to us to fend for ourselves and everyone else is on their own too. Maybe. That’s a political conversation worth having.
But right now I just want to beat you up and then have you be my friend again. Let me know if that’s possible.