This week, I've had an ongoing e-mail exchange with one of my oldest friends. Like virtually all of my oldest friends, he's retired now, but was a successful advertising executive for many years. Before I get to his questions, let me start with the response I sent him this morning: "You're a good, logical writer and a hard and dedicated worker, which immediately puts you way ahead of most political staffers. These days, congressional races are almost completely nationalized and only incidentally about local issues exclusively. Your experiences working inside corporate scenarios could be helpful to many campaigns, some of which are just family affairs with zero professional experience at all."
He began on Monday with this:
Maybe you get questions like this from a lot of people, but it's driving me nuts.
I try to stay on top of events, but I can only drink from a toxic fire hose before my brain shuts down in self-defense.
I also have [my wife] as my personal Cassandra, so there's not much that escapes my notice.
The end result is that, like so many people, I fret and fume but lack any practical outlet to make positive change. I've come to despair at my own party's timidity and lack of focused messaging.
WTF is a person like me supposed to do other than throw insignificant contributions (compared to PACs and corporate donors) at political candidates in other parts of the country. I hate to think that building my personal arsenal is the best (or most effective) action I can take.
He's a longtime avid target shooter and he and I have been discussing which gun I should buy... just in case. That's another story I hope to expand on another time. Meanwhile, a followup e-mail, the one I responded to this morning, showed him still in turmoil over how to contribute to protecting our democracy and the legacy of political progress. I might add that he lives in a suburban area where two congressional districts come together, one held by a super-progressive Democrat and one held by a worthless DINO with one of the worst voting records of any Democrat in Congress, no primary challenger and a campaign account with close to $2 million on hand and corporate cash flooding in daily.
I keep thinking about how to get involved, and I realize how little I've done (politically) in my life. Even in college, I didn't feel fully engaged in politics in spite of being eligible for the draft. I've always sat back and assumed that "others" would sort things out.
I'm woefully ignorant of my local town politics. We've lived here for 37 years, but I've never volunteered, much less run for office. I can't even name my town supervisor. How inexcusable is that???
So, does it make sense for me to volunteer to work for a campaign in some other part of the country where I don't even understand the local issues?
During my career I worked for global companies as well as entrepreneurial businesses, so I'm very familiar with the realities of capitalism. As you know, being responsible for profits and losses, hiring and firing and surviving in competitive markets gives you an unromantic world view. Much of my focus was on the internal processes of my organizations. I ran teams and brainstorm groups, and my primary objective was getting people to listen to one another and to build upon each other's ideas. The collaborative process was the means by which we achieved the best end results.
I'm just having a hard time seeing where and how my background intersects with today's desperate situation. Maybe I'm not suited for political action. But if not, then what else can I be doing?
Does my friend sound anything like you? Grassroots campaigns are built around volunteers. The campaign that gets this particular friend of mine is going to be suddenly endowed with an unexpected and very powerful asset. I can tell you from a great deal of experience, most political staffers-- even the ones working for incumbents!-- are as likely to be detrimental to moving a campaign forward as in helping with that effort. If you know a campaign looking for someone like my friend... let me know.