Award-winning left-wing humorist and former National Lampoon editor, Steve Brykman, has infiltrated the Republican party, working as a UX Designer & Strategist at Mitt Romney's headquarters in Boston's North End. For the hilarious inside story on one of the most insane, error-prone presidential campaigns in recent history, keep reading 'I'm with Mitt: Adventures in Amercia!' Coming soon to a bookstore or eBook reader near you, assuming someone out there possesses the gumption to publish it.
Disclaimer: this blog will not be dictated by fact-checkers.
II. Going In
The Romney campaign headquarters is located at 585 Commercial St. in the North End of Boston, a concrete three-story structure with all the aesthetic appeal of a used car dealership.
The security guard buzzed me in and asked for my ID. I handed him my license and said I was interviewing for a job on the campaign. He told me to make sure I got a badge ASAP so I could get into the building whenever I needed to, so he wouldn't have to print out a sticker each time. I told him I would do my best to make that happen.
Then my interviewers arrived and escorted me onto the elevator.
Stepping off the elevator onto the second floor, a childhood memory suddenly flooded back: I was nine years old. My oldest friend, David Neumann, and I were hanging out at his tennis club in Lexington, Mass. My folks didn't belong to fancy sports clubs, so my first impulse was to jeopardize the status of his membership by suggesting we sneak into the women's locker room.
First off, I was a tiny kid. So it was an easy thing to wrap myself up in a towel, walk past all the half-naked middle-aged tennis elite, position myself in a bathroom toilet stall, and close the door just enough that I could still peek out. For Neumann it was a different story. He was big not only by children's standards, but by any standards. As such, he was quickly rebuffed at the door: "Wrong door, honey." Neumann slunked off in defeat as I thanked the Universe for providing me so wealthy a buddy and so petite a frame. It was a glorious new day.
The interview went very smoothly. The two women who interviewed me proved to be just as charming and bright in person as they had been on the phone. This, I reminded myself, is how they get you. They walked me through the halls to meet everyone and shake hands, and -- not so surprisingly -- everyone they introduced me to was extremely warm and friendly. And female. As in XX. So as upsetting as it might be for you to read this, you can pretty much disregard anything you ever heard about Romney not hiring women or being somehow opposed to hiring women. Because as it turns out, he does. A lot of them. Dare I say, binders-full.
Along the way, we passed a campaign poster that read: "CHANGE BEGINS WITH ROMNEY." Odd, I thought, considering he's running against Mr. "Change We Can Believe In" and his whole focus is around getting America 'back on track.' Which is to say, back on track in terms of eliminating abortion, ending funding to Planned Parenthood, etc. But then I looked closer and realized it was a 2008 election poster. Of course, he lost the nomination to John McCain that year, who lost the election to Obama.
My interviewers said they needed someone who could fulfill both Strategy and UI/UX (User Interface/User Experience) roles, and that I fit those requirements perfectly. I walked them through my portfolio of work, which seemed to impress them, and along the way they revealed some fun facts about the campaign:
1. The entire Romney digital team is composed of 17 people.
2. All presidential-campaign staffs are extremely transparent, and the Romney for President (RFP) staff is no different. RFP employee names and salaries are publicly available on quarterly FCC reports. Thus, in order to keep certain employees off the RFP payroll, many contractors technically work for, and get paid through, Targeted Victory, their preferred and vetted vendor/digital partner. "It's the complete opposite of how Bush ran his campaign," they said.
3. To speed the hiring process, I would most likely begin as a Targeted Victory employee while I underwent their thorough online vetting and background checks. After which I would, presumably, be let go.
4. The building was about to be torn down when Romney For President scooped it up for cheap, which explains the following:
• The cubicles have been there since the Reagan administration.
• The place is literally falling apart. Mildew colors the walls and carpets and the roof leaks when it rains.
"We keep it classy at the Romney headquarters," my interviewers facetiously said.
Two days later they called me back. "Congratulations," they said, "You got the job."
Tuesday - April 3
The nondescript gray horizontal surface I'm meant to use as a desk is situated in the middle of the second floor at a corner of a nondescript cubicle located just next to the media room, just across the hall from the big room where they hold the fundraiser meetings. Generally, a large number of Asians are in attendance at these (Chinese, not Indians). Take from this what you will. I only mention. Fundraisers have been going on all day, with scores of chatty, sharply-dressed folks coming and going every couple of hours. While I'm mostly concerned with how much free grub will be left-over at the conclusion of each meeting, nevertheless, when the meetings let out, I try my best to listen in.
Here comes a nice snippet now. One tall, pant-suited woman just confidently declared, "Obama thinks Massachusetts is safe Democratic territory, but it's not. Seventy percent of the state voted for Mitt!"
Of course, she's forgetting one critical fact, which is that by the time Romney left Massachusetts, he had practically crippled the state, leaving everyone with a taste in their mouths akin to the one you awaken with the morning after a long night of binge drinking. If you'll recall, when Romney was governor, Massachusetts ranked 47th in job creation. People around here tend to remember things like that.
Or maybe I'm the only one among us who remembers such things, since I am easily the oldest person working here. Across from me sits the son of the Political Director, referred to in the office as Little B_. He is sixteen years old, maybe. His job is to monitor social media, follow Twitter feeds and make note of any interesting activity. He has foolishly brought in an Etch-a-Sketch and displays it on his desk. Not surprisingly, he's already taken some heat for doing so.
The air conditioning is unpredictable. Like Romney, it first subjects us to an arctic freon blast, then overcompensates, exhausting us with hot air. It's clearly not environmentally friendly. We all spend the day taking our coats on and off. I go from freezing to sweating and by mid-afternoon my sweat is freezing. I make a mental note to bring a sweatshirt and to dress in breathable fabrics. Layers will be my key to survival in this hostile environment.
Wednesday - April 4
Romney won three states last night and yet the mood in the office is somber, perhaps because everyone is only just now realizing they might be stuck here until November.
Or maybe that's just me.
Thursday - April 5
One of the social vigilantes here is growing indignant. For the last couple of hours he's been tirelessly working to delete comments from a Satan worshipper who keeps spamming our YouTube videos with offensive comments. Now, it seems he's reached the end of his rope.
"I bet Satan invented YouTube comments," he says, and means it. Little B_ chimes in, "You can always tell how horrible our society is by looking at what's trending on Twitter."
Another staffer agrees, "Freedom of speech is a hard line to draw but sometimes you have to draw it somewhere."
When it comes to ethnic jokes, the atmosphere here is a lot like it was back when I worked at the National Lampoon. Except back then we were being ironic or, at least, intentionally idiotic. Here, who knows? I just overheard someone say the following (out loud, even):
"I like all kinds of women. I like black women, hispanic women. Angry black women. Sounds like a movie title: Angry Black Women. I like Halle Berry."
Granted, the average age of the Romney staffer is something like 23, fresh from the frat house.
Friday - April 6
Today somebody sent us a uterus. As in, through the U.S. mail. I'm not sure to what species of critter the uterus belongs, but nevertheless, this impresses me. No matter how you slice it, consider how much planning goes into a thing like this. First, you got to find a uterus. That's hard enough. Even if it's just from your cat or whatever, you still have to get it out of the cat, which can't be easy. Maybe there's an online source for uteri? Anyway, then you've got to figure out where you're going to put the uterus in order to mail it to us. Presumably a jar is your most convenient option. Then you want to get some formaldehyde in there so the uterus doesn't rot on its way to Commercial Street. I don't know where you get that. Home Depot, maybe? Or maybe you just use a pickle jar and hope the juice does the job. I don't have much experience with uterine preservation, so you'll have to forgive me. Then you got to put the jar in a box, put some bubble wrap around it, stick a label on the outside, and head for the post office. Then, when you get to the post office and they ask you if the package contains anything liquid, fragile, perishable or potentially hazardous, you have to engage in the following conversation:
"To which question?"
"All of them. Well, maybe not the last one. I'm not so sure."
"Um. Okay, so...Liquid?"
"Would you mind telling me what's in the box, please?"
"A cat uterus. In a glass jar. Filled with formaldehyde."
"Okay... and would you mind telling me why you're sending a uterus in a glass jar?"
"It's a political statement."
"It's going to Romney's headquarters in Boston. See there? Romney For President, 585 Commercial Street..."
"Enough said. We'll send this right along...Next!!"
Stay tuned for the next titillating installment of Steve Brykman's 'I'm with Mitt: Adventures in Amercia!' Coming soon!