How not to run a Get-out-the-Vote operation

There’s a famous quote to the effect that if you enjoy sausage or politics, it’s best not to watch either being prepared. I think there’s a grain of truth to that for almost any enjoyable pursuit–at least, that’s been true for all the ‘back of house’ kinds of experiences that I’ve had. I thought I’d unpack some of my least-favorite electoral boxes.

To that end, I present my Top Eight Pet Peeves About Field Campaigns (I was going to list my top ten, but I ran out of time):

  1. If you are the transportation coordinator who has to pick up 20 vans for GOTV weekend, all of which need to be driven by people with clean driving records who are 25 or over, do not start trying to find drivers on Thursday for Saturday morning. Additionally, do not wait to pick up the vans until 11:00 p.m. on Friday, even if the rental car agency is open all night. The people who are over 25 are generally cranky if they don’t get enough sleep.
  2. Putting three people in charge of securing housing for out-of-state volunteers virtually guarantees that none of them will secure housing. Calling total strangers and asking them to lend you a bedroom is not that much fun, and said three people will find many other tasks to occupy their time. Consequently, you will be housing those volunteers in a youth hostel that you found online. The volunteers may never return to your state, not even on vacation.
  3. If you are expecting over 100 canvassers at a particular site, make sure you have toilet paper in the bathrooms. ‘Nuff said.
  4. There are few smells I dislike more than the smell of thousands of pieces of newly-printed walk literature. Unless it’s the smell of thousands of pieces of walk lit that have been sitting in a rental van that was parked in front of my house overnight. At 6:30 a.m., it’s enough to make me gag. Or drive with the windows open even if it’s 39 degrees outside.
  5. There is no internet site or mapping software in existence that prints accurate maps and directions to and from turf 100% of the time. Rarely do the people who get accurate maps comment about how happy they are not to have gotten lost. However, the people who got the bad map will always let you know. Loudly.
  6. All campaign offices are filled with doughnuts. They’re also places where I need to kill a lot of time. While in normal life, I can occasionally resist the lure of a doughnut, I find myself drawn to them when I’m both nervous and bored.
  7. My cell phone rings so often that I think it’s ringing even when it’s not. Because there’s ringing in my ears. Did you hear that?
  8. 23-year-olds who think that because they work in D.C., they know everything about how the world works, and therefore don’t have to introduce themselves to people when they come in to your state to do work.

Of course, then there’s my #1 favorite thing about field campaigns:

  1. Winning.

November 8, 2006. politically motivated.


  1. mssisyphus replied:

    Yay! You won! I was watching last night thinking of you and hoping you won (we really only get the Pennsylvania and Michigan election results here).

    And Yay! You’re back! (I missed you.)

    And FOCL about the toilet paper.

  2. Suzanne replied:

    Winning is kinda sweet!

  3. chichimama replied:

    I love number eight. It is so true.

    Congrats and congrats to a campaign season successfully completed.

  4. Elizabeth replied:

    Congratulations. I was thinking of you last night.

  5. Andy replied:


    and I like the smell of new lit. I’m a freak like that. Congrats!

  6. Andy replied:

    Oh, and how can I not comment on turf? I run turf. Lots and lots of turf and I know how you feel all too well.

  7. Kate the Shrew replied:

    Happy end of the election season!

  8. Jessica replied:

    Hey, LM – I came over to congratulate you and share in a virtual victory jig! Mostly, though, I want to thank you for the work and dedication I know you put into this.

  9. Jennifer (ponderosa) replied:


  10. Anjali replied:

    Thanks for making a difference and working your butt off!

  11. Library Lady replied:

    Well done. And now I hope you get to take a break with the kids!

  12. Comfort Addict replied:

    I also like number eight. I’ve also encountered 23-year-olds who come into the state with the attitude of “OK, you rubes, I’m going to show you how we do it in the civilized world.” Talk about a campaign downer.

  13. panthergirl replied:

    How awesome are you??

    Now, as Comfort Addict points out, the Dems better not screw this up or we’re all fucked in ’08.


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