For quite some time… I have written about the day-to-day experiences of politicos and the fear of personal details becoming a headline. And living with the consequences. Certainly, Idaho’s Larry Craig finds himself with (presumably) his worst nightmare playing out on the pages of tabloids and dailies alike. Don’t get me wrong, I am not sympathetic. But as a woman… it’s simply not something I can relate to. Living a lie may be universal – but assuming it’s okay to hide a criminal act is beyond the pale.
It has been a long time since we heard a hint of romance, a hint of mystery. A hint of tangible desire playing out behind the political curtain. Fortunately… as I am in research mode for my next book – I have interviewed some of the most interesting politicos inside – and outside – the Beltway. Former elected officials. Members of the press corps all across the country. And folks at the coveted “counselor” or “senior adviser” levels to those holding real power, or shaping the national political framework.
The one lesson I have learned is our sense of humanity is lost… Americans view politicos with such apathy and cynicism, they have forgotten these are men and women. With real passion, real lives. Love unrequited and betrayal and the pride of becoming a parent… there are moments of discovery. Moments of choice.
The honesty between a man and a woman often amazes me, especially where intimacy is critical to the relationship. The balance of professional power evaporates behind closed doors, with only each other. Pouring their souls into speeches and policy papers and designing direct mail and cutting ads and mapping lit drops. Organizing phone banks and press interviews. Scheduling time for fundraisers.
Men in politics accept a painful price if they fall for a woman, whether or not there is an affair. There are things about her that he will never know… another man will marry her, make love to her, and give her his name. Another man will hear all her opinions, learn how she thinks and see her smile in the morning – no makeup, just raw and natural. Watching her at the myriad black tie events, on the arm of a man strong enough to hold her attention.
For women it is the realization that love is not currency, that in this line of business – the romantic, wash-over-and-consume-me love is for people with nothing to lose. Walking away from a man who is tied to his career, or his candidate, or is married – takes toughness. Choosing self over instant gratification means political wisdom, understanding that with very rare exceptions – a political career & unrequited love/passion simply can not coexist in the same time and space. It is Political Physics 101.
When lightning strikes, a few find both. They build friendships and working relationships where they have proximity, if not real closeness or intimacy. They share political successes and failures, with a few stolen moments giving a brief glimpse… and the occasional moment of weakness. The unscripted calls. The sense of obligation to call when a life changing event takes place. The calls they would make, if they were really together. The alternating periods of silence and close contact. The wonder. The what ifs. The surrender. The pulling back and returning to politics as usual.
Politics is different. The stakes are higher. The feelings are just as real. And unlike Hollywood, when this show goes on – it is the presidency that is at stake. Or the governorship of a state or commonwealth. Real things. Real responsibilities. Real impact on the lives of the people living in the world around them, people who are voters. Voters holding them to impossible standards. Standards they do not live by. Because they do not have to.
— Media Lizzy