Friday, May 21, 2010

On the Campain Trail — Now about that fear and loathing

More than seven years ago, a young newspaper reporter green and a fresh graduate of a reputable J-school penned a column that ran in the Chronicle Tribune, Marion, Ind. with the headline, "We should all fullfill our civic duty to keep politicians in line."

After the column had published I recall a conversation with my bulldog of an executive editor, lambasting me for what I had wrote. She warned that I hadn't earned the authority to make such aggressive statements about my disdain for politics and politicians, especially coming from someone relatively new to the community. (Good luck to anyone who can find that column, it ran a little more than a month ahead of a primary election).

Fast forward seven years and I find myself on the other side of the politics game — and that-it-is; a game! There is a strange juxtaposition when you jump from in front of, to behind the printed political story. But the words I shared with the community of Grant County, Ind. comes full circle to my current work as a field organizer for Das Williams' campaign for California State Assembly, District 35, which spans slightly north of Santa Barbara, down to include most of Oxnard.

I feel different than most of these politicos. Much of the time I feel like the lone strait, right handed cat in the room wearing his watch on the right wrist. Or maybe I'm just the only cat in the room who would pay attention to such detail.

But now, I have become a part of the very political machine from which I have previously felt disenfranchised, have scrutinized and bemoaned. I went from being that unemployed guy, to working on my first campaign, like I hopped into the cockpit of Bugatti Veyron. Although, much less glamorous. Twelve hour days are a welcome delight. It doesn't exactly feel like work always, but I've got plenty of work to do.

In my past, I have covered plenty of elections, from small town politics and school board races to pieces of the historic 2008 Presidential election. The latter, from THE battle ground state of Ohio. Then, I was working as the education reporter at the Toledo Blade. One day, on that campaign trail, my assignment was to follow and cover the rallies of Sarah Palin as she traveled the state, from Canton to Columbus. I contributed on the scene add-ins to the overall coverage. Sidebar: Those Secret Service guys are alright, but they are on their job. I guess game recognize game though.

Let it be known, covering an election and working for a campaign are like comparing a one night stand to a summer fling that has the potential to turn into something longer term.

I was ignited in part by that need-to-know associated with being a newspaper man. The rest of the fire came out of the annoyance of having to quietly sit in the stands and simply report what I saw leading up to and through the announcement that Barack Obama was going to be our 44th President. So I jumped at the chance to put my skills to use for a progressive, smart and upcoming young man with a background as a community organizer and university instructor. Additionally, Das has a strong endorsement from a highly respected friend. Then, when my skeptical gauge realized the genuineness of Das, I know his intentions and actions are in the right place and he isn't going to be one of the "many or multiple" "small blood-sucking insects" I wrote of in March 2003.

"Political influence is a chance to utilize the power that citizens create for you to change not only yourself, but also the community you represent."

I feel like Das Williams really gets that and it's something he has been doing through his grassroots campaign for State Assembly. House to house, neighbor to neighbor, the past few months have flown by. The countdown is now fewer than 20 days until the June 8th Primary. The day 69 count seemed like it was just last week — but that's also when my written words got the 7-year itch.

To date, this campaign trail is riddled with good times, inspiring young minds, plenty of talking, occasionally some gawking; takes lots of cojones and can be cold and lonely, much time spent on the phone, many "I'll vote for, but volunteer ... no." Networking and meeting all new people, the campaign trail pushed me back through the churches steeple.

"Decisions should reflect Kingdom values and not abandon the basic tenants of our faith," Das said to the congregation.

My man. It was the most in-his-element I had seen the candidate. Though my bet is that he'd be even more comfortable once he's elected and can directly effect change. But the road to that aim is paved with slung mud and lined with tactics and distortions. Just more of what had previously kept me out of the process.

"Politics is a blood sport, people need not forget it," the Derby Jedi reminded me early on the campaign trail.

"Axel grease wards off the theft of yard signs. Wipe it on a towel and smear it around the edges," the wise sibling suggested.

I'm just going to stay on the grind and stick to the winning plan. Have got to get on my game. Must I fall at the feet of my sugar mama again, this time in my three-decade-old birthday suit? The campaign trail made me do it!


  1. i so admire everything you write. there is a poetry to your words that i seldom find in those who write similar articulations. thank you, james. from years of youth to years of....whatever the hell the rest of this will remain an inspiration to me.

  2. Well stated, Brother! Thanks for sharing your eloquence with us, a true insider (or should I say turned inside-outer?)now. Great perspective! Let's hope he is successful for all of us. Your necessity has bred truly insightful and growth promoting knowledge which will pay off for you. Just like how you grew from your experience with the editor, you will grow from this experience win or lose.

  3. Boniter, again - humbled and honored. Thank you ... and while we are at it: Be sure to check out a talented - but slightly twisted - young lady, author and good friend from back in the day!!

    Buy her books!

    Byron, thank you as well. I think that would be an outside-inner and I like it!
    President Obama was hope, I know we will be successful! We have the best candidate and the Bush years are behind us — I have faith that the best candidate will win in this one! :)
    Again, I thank you!

    And I already am learning much, each day, about myself, my new community

  4. I've got my walking shoes on and axel grease at the ready. Let's go my fellow "cat"....

  5. You should be able to check this link ... cut and paste the following link.

  6. Another excellent piece of work. I think seeing you in action makes the words that much stronger. It is very easy to see why you and the others believe in Das. Even after meeting him I too feel he is the change needed in Sacramento. Like I told you before I wish much success for all involved in the campaign. 6/8 is right around the corner.