Today is the first Election Day of 2016 -- and the stakes for the 45th president could not be higher. Go get 'em, right? Wrong. HALT. More votes are lost when you're hungry, angry, lonely or tired, so it's essential that everyone HALT before you caucus. That goes double for advocates watching from the sidelines, on social media, or phone banks who fail to center themselves, square their eyes on the prize, and prepare to bring their excellence as ambassadors for their candidate.
Why HALT? As I write in Campaign Boot Camp 2.0 and have counseled in boot camps in 41 states:
Candidates and volunteers often go without sleep or get nervous, and that's when a gaffe can derail the best of campaigns. In the recovery movement, they say that people are most likely to relapse when they are hungry, angry, lonely, or tired (HALT).
In that spirit, think HALT--and literally halt. If you are hungry, eat something. If you are angry, shrug off political attacks rather than taking them personally. If you are lonely (politically speaking), reach out to a broader audience and connect with people who are there to help the campaign come together. If you are tired, get some sleep. In the last few days, candidates may be asked trick questions, so be especially careful that everyone on the team--the candidate, volunteers, or issue advocates--has the presence of mind to HALT and display grace under pressure.
So why does this matter? Why HALT today? Because the Iowa caucuses are intensely intimate experiences. People will come together for hours at a time in close quarters to represent their candidates for president of the United States. What is said and done in and around the Iowa Caucuses will not only shape national history, but personal history as well. For some it is their first election, for others their 20th (!) -- for all, for the rest of our lives, it is a lifelong emotional memory.
Full disclosure: I'm hoping Hillary Clinton wins Iowa. I want to see her excel and her supporters do well. As I see it, Hillary Clinton will need Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley -- and their supporters -- come June, so I hope that everyone out promoting Hillary does so with grace and dignity. To my friends supporting Sanders and O'Malley, we share common dreams and values that our Democratic nominee must fulfill. We need a Democratic president and a Democratic Congress to build on the progress that President Barack Obama, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Leader Harry Reid, and the hundreds of thousands of activists have made. We need each other to win -- and to make progress in the lives of the American people. No matter your favorite of the three, ANY of the three Democrats will make a far better president than the alternatives.
Think about where we will be a year from now if we don't come together and the Trumpians win. Can you look a poor child in the eyes and say, "I'm sorry we can't help you get clean water or your mom make a living wage, or your dad have quality healthcare, or your grandma enjoy secure retirement, or your uncle get a job, or your aunt avoid racial profiling or deportation because SOMEONE WAS MEAN TO ME"?! No, of course you can't! Because you know -- we all know -- that other people pay the price of our divisions. The kid poisoned in Flint because a Republican governor usurped democracy with an emergency manager who usurped common sense with a pipe switch that brought dirty waters -- that child pays the price of our divisions. The mom working in the Fight for $15 who wants a decent wage and a voice on the job pays the price of our divisions. The dad with cancer needing healthcare pays the price of our divisions. The grandma needing the American Safety Net of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid pays the price of our divisions. The uncle looking for a good paying job -- not trickle down laissez-faire economics -- pays the price of our divisions. The aunt threatened by racial profiling or deportation pays the price of our divisions. Everyone in the American family who needs a progressive society pays the price of our divisions. No one wants to hear that they can't have a better life because you couldn't bring your best self to politics when you had the chance.
I'm not saying it's easy. Politics tests friendships and reveals character. Social media allows us to pop off and type under our breath where we may have previously muttered under our breath and moved on. What is posted in haste may be etched forever in memory. Many of us saw Democrats stay home in 2010 and 2014 -- and have seen the American people pay the price of our party's divisions. But we also know what can happen when we do stick together. We have seen people have opposing views and manage to rise above them for a common purpose. Some days -- like today -- that is incredibly hard. Yet it is our responsibility to our own calls to service, to our community, and to our country -- to rise above the petty, fight to win, and prepare to unite.
We cannot control much in our lives, that's part of why people are angry. But we can control our actions and reactions. We can decide whether to bring our excellence and engage with strength. We can choose to tread lightly on each other's dreams and to respect one another. All we have to do is HALT. So before you stand with Hillary, feel the Bern, or hold strong for O'Malley, enjoy a HALT (power nap, moment of meditation, call to a friend and bite to eat) and then engage the caucus elections. The dreams you save may be your own.