Thursday, August 31, 2006

I Wish I Could Quit You

God was playing a practical joke when he decided to put me in Wisconsin, I explain to people. Me, who doesn't like snow or cold or winter. Who is very much a city girl. Who has never milked a cow in her entire life. Who would shrivel up and die without museums and the symphony and a Banana Republic within driving distance. Ha ha! Funny guy, that God fellow.

The political creature in me has been getting itchy lately. It's an election year, but nothing terribly exciting is going on out here in Cali -- the Governator is sure to win re-election...it's a snoozefest. A friend suggested I volunteer on a campaign. Somewhere, anywhere that looked interesting, competitive and in need of some help.

I immediately jumped on the idea. This is exactly the kind of adventure/experience I'm after...to show up, site unseen, and throw myself into whatever comes my way. You can't plan for it, just dive into the deep end and come up laughing.

I trolled party websites and pestered some friends for info. I read the National Journal's list of the 25 most competitive races (updated weekly, including last week's ranking, just like college football polls!) and clicked on campaign sites for various races across the country. I could go anywhere -- it's all just a plane ride away.

There's a certain aesthetic associated with the Midwest. Everyone pictures the cows and the corn and the pick-up trucks and the wholesome Norman-Rockwell-painting goodness of it all. And, while that's a bit of an exaggeration, it is absolutely like that.

The people. Oh, the people! They are good and kind and hard-working. And, yes, they might like guns and beer and tobacco, but they go to church every Sunday and take their neighbors a casserole when someone dies and teach their children that money isn't everything, but the Golden Rule is not to be messed with. They don't want everything. They just want what's right and fair, and they're willing to work for it, even if they never achieve it.

A couple hours of research netted me several good leads. The frontrunner, and the first campaign that caught my eye, was the same one a friend had annotated, "Looks good, but do you really want to spend time in Indiana?"

In 20 Hours in America (West Wing, season 4, and it's not plagiarism if you attribute it!) Donna rebukes Josh and Toby for their non-stop talk about big-picture policies and DC-centric thinking, rather than noticing what was going on in the Heartland: "I am not kidding. I have such an impulse to knock your heads together. I can't remember the last time I heard you two talk about anything other than how a campaign was playing in Washington. ... You made fun of the fair but you didn't see they have livestock exhibitions and give prizes for the biggest tomato and the best heirloom apple. They're proud of what they grow. Eight modes of transportation, the kindness of six strangers, random conversations with twelve more, and nobody brought up Bartlet versus Ritchie but you."

It is absolutely like that.

The people. These are MY people. I know them. I know what they worry about. I know what they value. I know what makes them get out of bed every morning.

I know, because I am absolutely one of them. You can take the girl outta the Midwest, but you can't take the Midwest outta the girl! At least, not this girl.

And that is why tomorrow I'm getting on a plane, bound for a campaign in Indiana, working for and with people I've never met but have known all my life. And if there’s a campaign event at the county fair, I’ll be the first to volunteer for a shift in the milking barn.


Note to you work-type folks: While I'm sure you all know my political persuasion, this volunteering-on-a-campaign thing is uncharted territory in my office, and I'm implementing a Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy, so please keep this info on the D.L. Officially, I'm going to Indiana to visit my sister. Which is true, but obviously not the whole story. Thanks muchly.

2 Comments:

At Fri Sep 01, 06:14:00 PM PDT, Anonymous Clueless said...

Ah, politics. I am passionate about local politics. I was a small-town mayor for two terms from 87 to 91. That's where you can make a difference. That's where the rubber meets the road. You go girl!

 
At Sun Sep 03, 11:31:00 AM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"...these were alpha girls Sam."

 

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