Sunday, December 04, 2016

The Post-Election (Personal) Plan

It seems every Democratic writer worth their bandwidth and every Iowa Democrat with an opinion has written their manifesto of What Went Wrong and Where Do We Go From Here. I've of course been considering the question, but have had little to say. In fact, this began as an intro to my attack on that issue, but has instead turned into a separate post, and yet another indication that my head still isn't in the game yet.

Instead,  I've retreated into the personal more that usual. The end of an election, any election, even one where I'm happy with the outcome, is a major life milestone for me. It's essentially the start of my New Year more than the late December/early January holidays are. I go through a big emotional crash bordering on depression as the excitement suddenly stops.  (One New Year's Resolution is to write more openly about my mental health.) This cycle is even more of a milestone, as I've essentially been going non-stop since I started my serious caucus prep work in August 2015.

I did a little theater in college and that's the only thing I can compare it to. You spend weeks and months building and planning and dress rehearsing a show, spending long hours with the same people. There's an absolute, The Show Must Go On deadline. It all ends with an extremely long day - the theater tradition is you strike the set immediately after the last performance - and a late night party. (Cast parties are WAY better than even the best victory parties.)

Then it's over. The thing that was the central facet of your life for so long is gone. The people you practically lived with vanish and scatter. And even if the show was great or the election was won, that's depressing.

It's even more depressing when the outcome is disappointing. I've gone through election cycles not only in my current role as an an election office staffer but also as a volunteer, a journalist, and a candidate. But I NEVER worked harder than the cycle I was a staffer. And that crash has got to be especially hard this time; not only the defeat, but the end of the job AND the loss of opportunities for the next job.

One of my big mistakes that staffer cycle was that I didn't have a post-election plan, even to the extent of "finding my next job." It didn't help that nearly all my local candidates lost.

So even though job hunting isn't necessary for me, I've tried to make a post-election plan since about 2004.  I'm realizing now this would have been more useful to people BEFORE the election. But the writing muse is hitting me now, so I'll re-up it a couple weeks before the next election.

Some of these plans are better than others. In 2006 I got serious about my writing, and in 2012 I had a change in career direction with a new boss and an immediate mini-election season of three special elections in a row. Changes at Work are also part of this year's plan, as the new GOP Trifecta in Des Moines is likely to change election law significantly.

Other plans are less plausible this year, like the Packers 2010 playoff run. Football victory eased the pain of election defeat. Though I'm still mad that Scott Walker and the Wisconsin Legislature, in addition to destroying a century of the Wisconsin Progressive Idea, also ruined the month that the Packers won the Super Bowl.

This year, I've done a week long vacation, which was also part of the 2004 plan. There is a lot of time off coming up as we complete the final stages of election close-out. The government employee holidays cluster tightly from Veteran's Day through MLK, and I'll enjoy them while I can. The nature of public employment is likely to change dramatically in this state come January. The is much scuttlebutt about Trump sending Terry Branstad to China, but I'll bet the beret that he stays in Des Moines long enough to sign the repeal of the Chapter 20 collective bargaining law, the My Precious he's been seeking for almost 30 years.

The snow held off long enough for me to clean out The Smallest Farm and yard. Even managed to harvest one last crop of beans and eggplants, since we didn't get a hard frost until about November 15. Picking hot-weather veggies in Iowa in November. Too bad climate change isn't real, huh.

I got a new tank for Shelley the turtle during the seven day workweeks of  late October and set it up on that first Veterans Day three day weekend. Sometimes, rather than thinking about solving the unsolvable,  it's just more rewarding for me to sit and watch her slow calm life. Bask in the sun lamp for hours - not sure who's lazier, her or the cat. Then go for a swim, with a combination of graceful gliding and floating and goofy awkward leg waving. As one on the autism spectrum I can definitely relate to hand flapping.

Also this year I've developed a new obsession with a geek stereotype hobby, short wave radio. I got my first cheap radio last year, as part of my post-election plan for the city election. (That one was a very big win for me emotionally, but the crash happens anyway.) Then a couple weeks back I got lucky and found a high-end radio at a steal of a price at Goodwill Reboot, and I've stretched a long wire the whole length of my football field sized lot as an antenna.

Short wave has declined as a medium in the internet era, as foreign services have shut down their broadcasts to North America. The only signals that are easy to pick up are religious broadcasters and Radio Havana.

Struggling to pick up an iffy signal from Cuba in my basement in the days after Castro's death has a deeply clandestine feel to it, like you're literally the underground resistance. So maybe it's an appropriate hobby and metaphor for the Dawn Of The Age Of Trump.

Maybe this feels like a cop-out. But like my turtle I'm moving at my own pace. Sometimes you stick your neck out, sometimes you hide in your shell.  If you're reading this two years from now the politics and circumstances may be a bit different but you still should make your post-election plan.

The damage this election did won't be undone in my lifetime, and I'll be spending the immediate future on defense and the rest of my years playing the long game. For the long game, you need your strength. The What Went Wrong Manifesto is still in my head, but right now the Packers are about to kick off.

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