Back in January of 2010, I drove my old Honda from D.C. up to Massachusetts to help out the Scott Brown campaign in the final days of the push to get him elected to the U.S. Senate. It was a very stimulating experience, because the entire country was caught up in the special-election drama of a charismatic Republican’s bid to win what had for decades been Democrat Ted Kennedy’s senate seat, and of course because Brown did end up winning.
It was exhilarating, to join in and be part of what seemed to be such an historic accomplishment in American politics.
Something very unsettling happened on that trip, however, which illustrates and exemplifies the ongoing rift within the GOP–the sort of civil-war split between the grassroots, Tea Party rank-and-file in the “flyover” states(whose voting-turnout loyalty to the GOP can be somewhat fickle depending on the conservative bona-fides of a candidate) and the elitist, establishment,
When I arrived at Brown campaign headquarters, I was given a hotel room (lodging paid for by the campaign) with another arriving male campaign volunteer as a roommate. Like me, he had just traveled(in his case, flown) all the way from Washington, D.C., to lend a hand for the final get-out-the-vote effort in the last 72 hours of the campaign.
There was some kind of instant tension between the guy and me. He was a lot younger than I, incidentally, by about 20 years. I was eager to make friends among the crew of campaign staff and numerous volunteers who had come in from all over, but to me he seemed a bit irritated that he had to hob-nob with what I think he saw as the riff-raff, the hoi polloi of GOP activists. I soon found out why.
It turned out that this guy(whose name I remember, but will not mention), despite working on the Brown campaign as a volunteer, was actually a paid, professional political consultant on Capitol Hill. He was there mainly to network, and to enhance his resume, I could tell.
Whereas I had taken unpaid leave from my full-time ordinary job to make the trip, he did this kind of thing for a living–most of time that he wasn’t manning the phone banks alongside myself and others for the Brown campaign, he was in a frothing frenzy on his cell phone to his D.C. colleagues, loudly arguing and screaming about the political advertising campaign they were trying to create and coordinate for whoever, wherever.
Like many Capitol Hill political operatives, he came across as very tightly-wound, abrasive, and intense, to the point of being obnoxious.
Mind you, now, it wasn’t necessarily his preoccupied, frequent, agitated hollering into his phone that I found particularly unsettling while we were back in the hotel room together at the end of the day–I understood fully how trying to collaborate with others on a competitive, creative project on an urgent deadline can often compel one into hysterics to get one’s points across.
But this guy seemed arrogant, and angry that he even had to share a hotel room with me. I sensed that to him, my political acumen wasn’t sophisticated enough or something, seeing as he’d accurately sized me up as an ardent Tea Party activist, and an amateur. Despite my having served as the Republican precinct captain in my McLean, Virginia neighborhood, and as a state delegate to the 2009 Virginia GOP convention, to him I was just another rube of the rabble, by virtue of my identifying with the Tea Party.
It was contempt.
People had literally come in from all over the country to pitch in on the Brown campaign, and this was at the height of the massive Tea Party tidal-wave that was sweeping the land in response to the massive stimulus bill, the Obamacare bill, the quasi-nationalizing of GM and AIG, and so on.
I met and talked with excited, enthusiastic volunteers who had driven to Massachusetts from as far away as Tennessee and Ohio. We all knew the score as far as Scott Brown was concerned; that he wasn’t necessarily a Tea Party candidate(more like a RINO, of course), but that getting him elected in “blue” Massachusetts would not only give us the needed, promised additional republican vote that we thought could block Obamacare in the Senate, and would also send a loud and clear message to Washington about the seismically-shifting political landscape in the country.
My roommate definitely seemed more interested in using the occasion to connect with other professional political types, and with prospective clients, than discussing the mood and direction of the country with us ignorant, God-guns-n-guts Tea Party bumpkins.
I even caught him in an under-handed, vain attempt at one-upsmanship, which can only be explained as egotistic mind-games or something along those lines: We had been working the phones all day at rows of tables in a big hotel banquet room, calling up registered voters from lists in a computerized phone bank system. He was sitting a different table than I was all day, and seemed to be avoiding me, but in what appeared at first to be a rare moment of collegiality, he suddenly sauntered over to where I was and asked me how I was doing; how many calls had I made?
I looked down at the digital display on the phone itself, which gave me the number, and told him what it was. He then smirked and scoffed at my number, saying how he had me beat by whatever number it was he stated. Then he waltzed off to the men’s room or somewhere, out of the room. I got up and went over to the phone he’d been using–the digital display showed that he’d actually made fewer calls than I had.
I felt a mixture of mild disgust and a teensy bit of pity for him.
I could go on and on with other details of what transpired between he and I over the course of three days, all the way to the pandemonium/aftermath of the victory party in downtown Boston(site of the original Tea Party, don’tcha know), when his luggage was still in the trunk of my car after he’d persuaded me to give him a ride there(because of his behavior on the trip into downtown, I considered ejecting him from my car and leaving him to fend for himself in the January rain). But I’ll cut to the chase, as they say in show business.
At some point, my roommate let it be known to me, in the open: “I hate the grassroots,” he blurted out sullenly, in response to what specifically, I can’t recall. But his utterance rings in my ears to this day, especially when I listen to Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, and others describe how the Republican establishment elites hold us Tea Party types in disdain.
It’s a fact. They do have contempt for us. I have to confess, there’s definitely some mutuality to the sentiments. What the ramifications are, and what should be done about it all, may have to be the subject of another column.
Maybe I should look up my roommate from the 2010 Scott Brown campaign and get his professional opinion about it all…?