I figured he'd be miserable. It was election night and his guy lost.
I came to the election night party late. After the results had come in. I knew. We all knew. It was one of the races that was decided early. I arrived around ten, bought a drink, gave my friend a hug and asked him how he was doing. And he surprised me. He said he was doing great.
My friend, B__, he's been doing political work for a long time. He's run a lot of campaigns. Some great, some disappointing. You win some, you lose some. It's a job. Even though he's young (younger than me), sometimes I see him as a grizzled old veteran of the political wars. He just does the job for whoever hires him. And that's where I was wrong.
B__ told me how proud he was to have worked on this campaign. He told me about the thousands of hours of volunteer service that the campaign had gotten. How he was the only paid staffer on a citywide campaign (!) and yet, he was never the first person in the office. There was always some bright-eyed volunteer who got into the office before him because they just couldn't wait to get started.
And B__ told me about his candidate. Told me how proud he was to have worked for the candidate. He wasn't perfect, but he was dedicated to public service. He made decisions and he stuck with them, damn the consequences. And he was sincere. Too sincere, in fact, to make it as a politician.
But he had made an impression. Even in losing, he had made B__ proud to know him and work for him. And I think that this campaign, this losing quixotic campaign, renewed his faith in politics.
I believe in politics because I believe in people. I started in politics as a community organizer, and you have to believe in people to organize. You need to have a hard-wired belief that people are essentially good and that they will, given the choice, decide to do the best thing for the most people. That's politics, at its essence. That's what it's all about.
Politicians don't get into the job because they want to destroy people, or wield unrelenting power. They do it because they care - about their communities, about their neighbors, the kids on their block, the homeless people in their alleys. And political campaigners like B__ are seduced into the job. They fall in love with a candidate, and they devote themselves to a candidate. And win or lose, it's that love for the first candidate that they always hold onto. Sometimes it can just turn into a job. But at its heart, politics - and even political campaigns - come down to love.
I was proud that night to see that my friend wasn't mourning. There was fire in his eyes. He had rekindled his love for a public servant, someone who would rather be wrong than be victorious. He saw the goodness in his candidate and in the pursuit of victory for him. And he saw, for a brief few weeks, that that was the reason he'd gotten into politics in the field place.