Editor’s Note: Chet Martin not only is an intern for Peach Pundit, but he also volunteered his time for the Jack Kingston campaign. Charlie has written about how an election loss can be more difficult for those that volunteer their time than the candidate him or herself. Here’s the perspective from one of those volunteers.
The first time my father and I met Jack Kingston, he offered us a ride in the back of a pick-up. It was the Alpharetta Old Soldiers Day Parade, and we were parked far from the finish line. Jack had his truck circle around to offer us a place in the flatbed, in which we chatted about the pleasures of Athens, the charming illegality of riding in a truck’s bed and, inevitably, college football. When we hopped out, my dad sad “I guess I can cross ‘Ride in a pick-up with a sitting US Congressman’ off my bucket list.”
Over a year later, I sat dazed in a hotel ballroom, struggling to accept the fact that this man would not be my senator. For whatever reason–low turnout, unfortunate weather, the primacy of Atlanta in statewide politics–the numbers we’d been enthusiastically following had turned against us. We’d lost. My friends and I solemnly shook hands, entirely aware that the crucible that made us a team hadn’t forged a thing.
Except for us. Jack had a way of inspiring loyalty, from the volunteer-turned staffer who had taken out thousands of dollars in loans to devote herself fully to the campaign to the promising law students who neglected their studies and their careers for a cause. Dozens of high school and college students befriended their peers as they actively engaged in democracy for the first time. By some miracle, Jack even managed to endear his most objective supporters–his family–to the campaign.
We all had our moments. There was the 15-year-old intern who unloaded a generation’s worth of familial problems to his elected representative. There were the college students who dared to make a blue joke in front of a congressman. There was the staffers and their shared privations of another sub-par barbecue lunch and a long, contemplative drive home. There were thousands of supporters and voters who were inspired–literally, “to breath life into”–by this radically normal and honorable man.
I’ll admit the whole thing sounds a bit messianic, and it times became that way. When confronted with her son’s defeat, Jack’s beloved mother “Grand Am” shrugged her shoulders and quite sensibly replied “What are you gonna do?” The egoless concession speech gave all credit to the team and joyfully advocated unity with what had five minutes before been the enemy. Even the most fervent backers of Jack’s campaign would acknowledge that the policy differences between the two potential senators and the way they would likely vote on a given issue was minuscule.
Yet this extended fraternity of campaigners had been drawn together by a shared trust in a single man. After a brief bout with depression, most of us dragged ourselves to a nearby bar. We still believed in Jack Kingston. We had to grapple with the notion that a majority of our fellow party-members did not. Alcohol, dark humor, and premature autopsies made it a bit easier. But in the end, we came to grips just as a serendipitous song on the radio suggested–with a little help from our friends.