Friday, November 5, 2010


by Sheila Connolly

No, I'm not going to write about politics, exactly.  I'm going to wallow in the blessed quiet now that we are not being bombarded by mean-spirited and mendacious ads every five minutes.  And robo-callers, who managed to crash parts of the phone system in Massachusetts the other day through sheer volume.  BTW, Massachusetts had near-record voter turnout, so maybe all those calls worked.

Clearly some people get very invested in politics, local or national (that is, not the ones who say "I don't vote because what difference does it make?").  I understand that, because I was part of a couple of political campaigns, nearly twenty years ago now.

I have to say that the U.S. Senate race for which I was a paid staffer provided some of the most exciting moments of my life, before or since.  I showed up in typical volunteer fashion, because I was between jobs and had free time, and because someone I knew was doing it and I respected her opinion.  I knew little about the candidate and her positions, but I liked the idea of working for a woman candidate.  I started out doing data entry--if you can believe it, there was only one young guy doing it when I arrived.  I did this for a couple of weeks and then told the senior staff that they were about to get overwhelmed.  They put me on staff.  In the few months I was there, we processed 60,000 contributions (and I got carpal tunnel).

At 40-something, I was one of the oldest members of the staff, after the candidate and the campaign manager.  The rest were eager, starry-eyed kids--but I learned that you need that kind of energy to run any campaign.  It became an ad hoc family--we celebrated small victories, and griped about the unfairness of it all when people said mean things about our candidate in the press.  There was a persistent flavor of Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney saying, "hey, let's put on a play!"  We were making it up as we went, and having a very good time.

On Election Day I woke up (around four a.m.) feeling like a kid at Christmas, eager to dive into the presents under the tree.  All things were still possible, and at campaign HQ we all believed that to our core.

We lost.  We lost for good reasons--our candidate wouldn't play ball with the city pols who wanted "walking around money" for their poll people.  We ran a good, honest campaign, but it wasn't quite good enough.  At least it was fair.

So I understand the excitement that surrounds elections.  People care--maybe for the wrong reasons, but they care enough to get involved and take action, and I applaud that.

And I'm going to tap into that in the next Orchard Series book I'm planning.  I want to look at local politics--and what would lead someone to kill for a campaign.  I think it's completely believable.


Rochelle Staab said...

And while you're plotting, Sheila, will you have a character murder the advertising whiz who writes the nasty commercials? Justifiable homicide?

Sheila Connolly said...

Rochelle, I certainly will address how people can twist any statement and make it seem negative. Is there such a thing as abuse of language? Not to mention statistics? After a while, you can't believe anything you hear in political ads, or you find yourself trying to imagine what the person really said.

Elizabeth Zelvin said...

Speaking of robocallers, I had the only-in-America experience of hanging up on Bill Clinton a few days before the election.

lil Gluckstern said...

Ditto for me-only it was Robert Redford.
As if! Look forward to your next book, Sheila. I'm sure you will allow us the pleasure of killing someone-for us!