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“Men and women who once were quasi-normal human beings become alien life forms”

Friday, Feb 16, 2018

* My old buddy Lance Trover has a very well-written op-ed in today’s Sun-Times entitled “The craziness inside a campaign bubble”

In fairness, for campaign staffers often working 18 or more hours a day, life is nothing short of a living hell. Men and women who once were quasi-normal human beings become alien life forms surviving on adrenaline, coffee, junk food and booze.

Reality loses out to the bubble in which they live. It becomes easy to lose sight — trust me on this — that today’s debacle does not necessarily mean a campaign is doomed. […]

It’s hard to do, but campaign staff would be well served to remember that not every negative news story or tough moment is the end of the world.

Come March 20, the voters in the Republican and Democratic primaries will do their part. And on the very next day, March 21, a lucky few candidates will begin the fight for the big prize.

Meanwhile, in the real world, it’ll be what most folks refer to simply as Wednesday.

This excerpt does not do the column justice. Go read the whole thing before commenting, please.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

28 Comments
  1. - Not Again - Friday, Feb 16, 18 @ 9:40 am:

    Great read, maybe Edwin will give Lance a regular column?


  2. - Political Animal - Friday, Feb 16, 18 @ 9:41 am:

    Campaign work is one of the hardest jobs you can do. The lag isn’t good enough. Voters will malign you as an insider or a hack. The hours are ridiculous.

    But it’s extremely important work. Especially for the rare staff that pick their candidates based on policy, not just based on who can pay them. They’re trying to effect change in the world, and they deserve praise for that.

    The real kick to the gut comes when the candidate breaks promises or let’s you down after they win Office. Campaign work requires optimism that what you’re doing matters.


  3. - Political Animal - Friday, Feb 16, 18 @ 9:41 am:

    Was supposed to say the PAY* isn’t good enough.


  4. - perry noya - Friday, Feb 16, 18 @ 9:46 am:

    I’ve seen marriages break up because of the long days and low pay. And for what? So that Politician A might replace Politician B.


  5. - Amalia - Friday, Feb 16, 18 @ 9:48 am:

    oh this column was like therapy. especially the part about the candidate obsessing over yard signs. (although there is buzz out there now about how yard signs won Alabama for the Dem). I once heard that for every month you are on a campaign you need a month off to decompress. to forget the crazy. yelling. undermining. men groping. people who would someday be held in total disgrace. bad food. good food. victory celebrated. and occasionally victory regretted.


  6. - Alex P. Keaton - Friday, Feb 16, 18 @ 9:48 am:

    Campaign work is the greatest time you never want to have again.


  7. - A guy - Friday, Feb 16, 18 @ 9:49 am:

    == Especially for the rare staff that pick their candidates based on policy, not just based on who can pay them. ===

    This here, also well defines public service. The right horse doesn’t always win, but the right horse continues to be the right horse either way if you’ve chosen honestly.


  8. - A guy - Friday, Feb 16, 18 @ 9:53 am:

    And, Trover nails it pretty good in this piece.


  9. - Amber Ale - Friday, Feb 16, 18 @ 9:57 am:

    I feel like if you haven’t ever gained 20 pounds on a campaign, you don’t deserve to spout off on social media about your grand partisan thoughts. I just chuckle at all the firebrands on my Facebook feed who have never knocked on one door or made one phone call.


  10. - Chicago Cynic - Friday, Feb 16, 18 @ 9:57 am:

    So painfully accurate. My favorite line is this:

    “It’s hard to do, but campaign staff would be well served to remember that not every negative news story or tough moment is the end of the world.”

    This is not just an important lesson for campaign staff but for political reporters and especially CapFax commenters as well. Not every negative story about Rauner or Ives or JB or Kennedy or Biss is the end of the world because we are not normal. As Lance so perfectly put it, to most people today is just Wednesday (or Friday as the case may be).


  11. - Punditry - Friday, Feb 16, 18 @ 9:58 am:

    We need more real former operatives like Trover on TV. What passes for operatives on cable outlets now is a joke.


  12. - Rich Miller - Friday, Feb 16, 18 @ 9:59 am:

    ===Campaign work is one of the hardest jobs you can do===

    Yep. As I often say, campaigning is pretty much the only business where you can work harder and better than you’ve ever worked in your entire life and still lose.


  13. - Because I said so.... - Friday, Feb 16, 18 @ 10:01 am:

    Win or lose, the campaign ends at some point. You can’t wait for it to end but when it does, it is abrupt. It’s difficult to ease back into “normal” day to day life. Friends and loved ones often have no idea what you have been through.


  14. - Alternative Logic - Friday, Feb 16, 18 @ 10:02 am:

    We get it! :-)
    Every accountant before tax time.
    Every lawyer before a trial.
    Every movie producer before wrapping.
    Every journalist before a deadline.
    Every financier before an IPO.
    Every restauranteur before an opening.
    Every actor before the curtain rises.
    Every …
    Best advice ever: Find a career path of fulfillment or your soul can be crushed.


  15. - Southside Markie - Friday, Feb 16, 18 @ 10:07 am:

    I applaud the tremendous article and all of the very thoughtful, insightful comments that preceed me. I couldn’t improve on any of them. But they make me recall the words of a former political operative, said very tongue in cheek. “I heard that they held an election last year without me. But I don’t believe it.”


  16. - Back to the Future - Friday, Feb 16, 18 @ 10:09 am:

    Thanks for posting this. Really enjoyed it.
    Working on shaking the political bug. Been working on giving up on having anything to do with politics for 50 years.
    Still fun.


  17. - Responsa - Friday, Feb 16, 18 @ 10:09 am:

    There is such honesty in Tovar’s subbtle message that much of any campaign’s stress and drama is self-inflicted and magnified within the campaigns themselves.


  18. - Rutro - Friday, Feb 16, 18 @ 10:10 am:

    There should be an alon type group for the spouses of campaign workers. As hard as it is on the campaign worker, it’s just as bad on the family


  19. - Rich Miller - Friday, Feb 16, 18 @ 10:12 am:

    ===but when it does, it is abrupt===

    Yep. As I read somewhere long ago, the end of a campaign has all the subtlety of a freight train crashing into the side of a mountain.


  20. - Anonymous - Friday, Feb 16, 18 @ 10:19 am:

    ===campaigning is pretty much the only business where you can work harder and better than you’ve ever worked in your entire life and still lose===

    Only 3 to 4% of teams in any professional sports league win the championship in any given year, and most of them work really hard to win it, so there’s that.


  21. - Southside Markie - Friday, Feb 16, 18 @ 10:20 am:

    Rich Miller: I’m curious, now. What’s the end of the campaign season like for a reporter? Is there a let down?


  22. - nadia - Friday, Feb 16, 18 @ 10:20 am:

    The campaign field staffers live with “say this, don’t say that”, “do this , don’t do that”. The phone and door to door lists resemble Newman’s rant from Seinfeld about the mail never stopping, you finish a phone/door list and someone is there handing you another one. The mid-level campaign staffer has to listen to their candidate, listen to their political director and listen to their spouse/significant other. Often working those 18-20 hour days in places they have never been to before and, if not driving back and forth to their homes, they may be living in small, tacky apartments or studios or maybe living in a strangers extra bedroom sharing the family bathroom.

    After each of the half dozen campaigns I have worked I realize how amazing most of these young staffers really are. And in most cases their candidate, and for sure the public, never realize who is really making things happen. A shout out to all of them who perform hard, grueling work that pays next to nothing, in bad or good weather, in places they never want to return to, and who, after the campaign, hear “don’t forget there is session tomorrow or next week and you need to brush up on the list of bills I gave you to research.”


  23. - ItsMillerTime - Friday, Feb 16, 18 @ 10:31 am:

    To echo the previous comments, this article was good therapy for me, and now I have something to give to friends and family to help them understand how crazy a campaign is. One of the things that make working a campaign so hard is that loved ones don’t understand how necessary campaign work is so they are frequently asking why you are destroying yourself for a “temporary” job.

    My first campaign I was living with my parents, and I had plenty of times when I would come back from 10 hours of door knocking and phone calls to my parents asking me repeatedly when I was going to find a “real” job. Almost had a mental breakdown thanks to those conversations.


  24. - 47th Ward - Friday, Feb 16, 18 @ 10:34 am:

    Campaigns are only fun when you look back on them. Trover is spot-on. In the moment, campaign work is a hellish existence.


  25. - Northside City Dweller - Friday, Feb 16, 18 @ 10:46 am:

    ==Campaigns are only fun when you look back on them==

    I couldn’t agree more


  26. - Ginhouse Tommy - Friday, Feb 16, 18 @ 10:57 am:

    Maybe those long hours have made Rauner’s people lose it. They need to come up for air. How else can you explain the attack ad on Ives which aligns her with Madigan and accuses her of taking “shady union money”. This campaign has turned vicious.


  27. - PublicServant - Friday, Feb 16, 18 @ 11:36 am:

    ===campaigning is pretty much the only business where you can work harder and better than you’ve ever worked in your entire life and still lose===

    That and being a DNAInfo Reporter…just sayin.


  28. - Conventional Wisdom - Friday, Feb 16, 18 @ 4:28 pm:

    Trover seems to be yet another professional political establishment type that has taken to believing that yard signs are worthless. However there has never been in the history of politics a victorious campaign that put out zero yard signs. Never. Not one.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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