Wednesday, May 14, 2008

DC Is For Wonk-Lovers

Himself, the wonkish husband.

If you have a pulse and a television, you must know by now that it is a presidential year. Actually, it's been a presidential two years, maybe 2.5, but who's counting?

The families, spouses, and partners of campaign and election consultants, that's who. And there are a lot of us here in Washington, DC, what I like to call the "factory town of politics." Politics and elections are the bread and butter of our city. But during a presidential year, we are also the town of "those left behind", of POWs (Partners of Wonks). We are the city filled with spouses, partners, children, and friends of campaign staff, PR consultants, reporters, and strategists. And we have not a clue as to when we might see our wonks again, so don't ask us.

It's safe to say that when I married my adorable, wonkster husband 14 years ago, I didn't know what I was getting myself into. Sure I love that man, but that is after (and partially due to) spending about the first decade of our marriage trying to figure out what he did for a living. (His specialty is mobilizing voters, known as GOTV.) And I am not a stupid person. It's just that the nature of campaign work -- the long hours, its ability to swallow people whole, the way it springs up from nothing like a very well-funded mushroom -- is not what you grown up thinking it would be. On TV and in the newspapers, campaigns look regal and organized. They look like they are filled with smart, capable people who thoughtfully come up with big plans and massive mobilizing forces and political platforms and perfect hairdos. And they are -- to some extent. But campaigns are also filled with sleep-deprived people who have been eating take-out for WAY too long and have become physically attached to their blackberries and pagers and have been staying in hotels so long that they will actually weep when they are given access to a washer and dryer. These are wonks, and they are OUR people.

But, before these wonks became this way, they were someone's son or daughter, wife or husband, lover or friend. These wonks had relatively normal lives and held conversations for 10 minutes at a time without having to go on a conference call. And this is what we POWs strive to remember as we take messages at 11PM from press staffers or fedex fresh T-shirts to Desmoines, because our wonks can't even walk across the road to the Target across from campaign headquarters. We are the POWs and we understand this. We know that by Labor Day, expecting phone conversations with our wonky loved ones that are longer than 5 minutes and uninterrupted will be a hazy memory. Email is better. We know that home life and wonk life will steadily diverge, like a highway off-ramp jutting away from the road.

But, we know that sometime around November 8th, the effects of drinking jet fuel in the morning will begin to wear off our wonks. As the new administration takes up the equally relentless work of starting up a new presidency, our wonks will find those people they used to drink real coffee with in the morning. We will be the ones rattling around in what looks vaguely like those houses or apartments (with the washer/dryer!) where our wonks once lived way back when in July of the previous year. And as that loving look of recognition lights up in the eyes of our wonks, we are the ones who will say, "You're back! I missed you."

Talk about wearing your heart on your sleeve! Obama supporter rallying the troops on DC's Primary Day.

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