The Morning After, the Morning After

The morning after Election Day is emotional for everyone.  Staffers are either elated or inconsolable.  They’re either crying into their hair-of-the-dog or smiling their way through a champagne hangover.  For politicos, the morning after is either feast or famine.

But it’s the morning after, the morning after when things get really personal.  When reality sets in and the full weight of Election Day becomes evident.

On the Thursday after the election, most staffers return to their offices for the first time.  Some begin the long process of packing their belongings and finishing their work before they’re shipped off to the “loser cubes” in the bowels of Rayburn.  Others dive headlong into the Congressional move lottery (a crazy, awesome thing that we’ll talk about later) hoping to improve their official accommodations and set policy goals for the next Congress.  

Suddenly, all the emotion of the days before is replaced with realities both harsh and satisfying.

Even though most voters would say that there is no bipartisanship on the Hill, they’re wrong.

Congressional staffers, by necessity, forge professional and personal relationships with staffers on the other side of the aisle.  Or as we jokingly say, “Some of my best friends are Democrats/Republicans.”  Hell, some of my fellow staffers are so bipartisan that they even married someone of the opposite political persuasion.  

On Thursday, you learn which of your friends are staying and which are going.  And there’s nothing worse than when the conciliatory e-mails, resumes attached, begin to flood your inbox.  But this is the reality of working for Congress.

Voters don’t usually think about the people behind the politician.  Until, of course, one of us screws up and finds himself part of a Wonkette expose on closeted drag queen staffers who use illegal drugs while polishing their knife collections.  And for the most part, that’s fine.

We signed up for this life, and we know what happens if our Boss loses an election, dies while in office or gets caught with his hand in the cookie jar, forced to resign in disgrace.  But the morning after, the morning after, when the giant blue trash bins start to appear in the hallways of the House Office Buildings, we all feel the pain of the loss.  Because as you watch your fellow staffers march off to Departing Member briefings like a procession of funeral bound mourners, it’s hard not to think that that could be you some day.

Sure, there are winners and losers, more so this year than in most years.  And I’m grateful that my Boss won, and that our party will be back in the majority once again. But as a staffer, walking through the almost silent House Office Buildings, it’s hard not to feel for the folks who are packing up, preparing for the day when the AOC comes to remove their Boss’ name from the door.

In a few days, it will be business as usual here on Capitol Hill.  There will be early morning briefings and late night votes.  But until the rhetoric returns, each quiet day will bring new reminders that some of your friends and colleagues won’t be here much longer. And that’s the reality that the voters don’t see when the confetti drops on Election Night.


    leave a comment

  1. H says:

    Well put.

    November 4, 2010/Reply
  2. Ashley says:

    Nice commentary. I started to work for a State Legislator in July who was up for re-election this year. It was nerve racking leading up to election day.

    November 4, 2010/Reply
  3. deedee says:

    So what about you? Did your Member get reelected?

    November 4, 2010/Reply
  4. CR says:

    Thanks for posting this. I know this is a fashion blog, but I love how diplomatically and eloquently you phrase your political commentaries. Thank you for all the hard work you and every other Hill staffer do!

    November 4, 2010/Reply
  5. DCGal says:

    belle, that was so sweet. thanks for sharing.

    November 4, 2010/Reply
  6. Ash says:

    Great post. In addition to forgetting the people behind the politician, people tend to forget that the politicians are people too. Thanks for reminding us.

    November 4, 2010/Reply
  7. Zoe says:

    Spot on, Belle. I never thought I would be bummed to see someone from the other side of the aisle lose, but after working on the Hill my first thought is for that politician's staff.

    November 4, 2010/Reply
  8. Darn it says:

    You guys are going to do the late night votes too!? Geez. At least take saturdays off the table.

    November 4, 2010/Reply
  9. LL says:

    This was really sweet. It's funny how I know this blog won't delve in to politics much, or at least realities of working on the hill, because that's not its purpose. But when you do it's always either highly entertaining (the post about the unusable environmentally sound utensils comes to mind) or very poignant, like this. Thanks for the rare snapshot into this life

    November 4, 2010/Reply
  10. Hannah says:

    I'm with LL – a thoughtful post by a graceful writer. It's no wonder I trust her advice on fashion!

    November 4, 2010/Reply
  11. A says:

    Great post. Thank you.

    November 4, 2010/Reply
  12. Sara says:

    I don't think I've ever been so moved by a blog post. My boss lost his primary (Senate side) and his story, and that of his staff who stayed when he came to a cross roads, are intertwined, and unusual. It's been a long, hard road from the moment they called the election for our opponent, and you summed it up perfectly.

    I almost left this life as a result of this election, but as things change, I'm starting to feel a buzz on Capitol Hill once again, and I know my work here is not done. It means a lot to know that other staffers understand and are there in solidarity.

    November 5, 2010/Reply