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.