In the Young Progressive Spotlight feature, we will spotlight young campaign staffers who have been committed to working towards the success of progressive candidates in Arkansas. This week, we are featuring Forest Boles, who most recently worked as Campaign Manager for Clark Hall’s campaign in Arkansas’ Third Congressional District and is currently consulting for state legislative candidates throughout Arkansas.
1. Please give a brief history of your involvement in campaigns and why you decided to get involved in
your first campaign?
I became involved in my first campaign because of the choices on the ballot, not because I identified as an Arkansas Democrat. Jim Holt and Jim Bob Duggar were my local representatives, and I knew their
brand of politics was holding Northwest Arkansas back. So, I looked for a more reasonable alternative. I found that alternative within the Democratic Party.
Ten years on, I’ve done everything from interning to campaign managing — and I’ve worked for presidential, gubernatorial, and congressional campaigns across the nation. Yet, I’m proudest of my time serving Governor Beebe, AG McDaniel, and my many friends here in Arkansas.
2. What is your favorite part about working on a campaign? What is your least favorite part?
Best and worst parts are the hours. It’s common to work seventy hour weeks. Many staffers don’t get more than a handful of days off in an election year, and that handful includes weekends and holidays.
Needless to say, the hours tax existing relationships with friends and family. I believe this is significantly why most political staffers are young and frequently single, but these hours also foster some of the
closest relationships in one’s life.
3. What was the most exciting campaign cycle that you have been involved in and why was it so exciting?
I like a good challenge. In 2008 I ran a congressional field operation in Louisiana for an incumbent who had only been in office six months, having won a special election in the spring before having to
stand again in the fall. The district went for McCain roughly 60-40 in the Presidential; Hurricane Gustav knocked out power for weeks, forcing staff to live and work out of two hotel rooms with a generator; and we contended with a third-party candidate by the name of Michael Jackson whose only purpose was to suppress minority votes in order to help the Republican win.
Though we lost, it was exciting to work on a nationally targeted race with a large staff of young professionals who worked hard and played hard, in a natural disaster environment, with New Orleans just down the road, and experience first-hand how crazy Louisiana politics can be. I also enjoyed working alongside James Carville’s sister. She looks and talks just like James. Scary.
4. What kind of advice would you give to young people who are interested in getting involved on
- If you’re just starting out, work for a rising star or an established leader. If you’re looking to make a name for yourself –albeit very likely a bad one– work for the challenger.
- Know that the one who wins is usually the one with the most money. So if you’re good at raising money, you’ll always have work.
- Protect your reputation. We Democrats love to eat our own, so it’s professionally important to have friends in high places and have most of the talk about one be positive. It’s also good to know when to check the ego. If it’s your first campaign, don’t expect to be writing big policy speeches or draft the campaign plan. You’re going to be the person driving, making calls, assembling yard signs, and fixing copier jams. With that said, don’t go unnoticed. Impress the person at the top. Have he or she remember your name, and don’t let anyone think you’re a peon. Minions stay minions.
- Ultimately, if you’re looking for a career in politics, become a consultant. That’s where the security and creative autonomy are.
5. What do you think it will take to get more young people involved in politics, both in volunteering/working
and in voting?
The message to seniors is the protection of entitlement programs. The message to middle-aged adults is jobs, education, and health care. There is no good message to young voters.
My generation is apathetic to the long term, so politicians should stop talking about solvency and start talking about now. We either don’t think the social safety net and arctic ice cap will be around in thirty years or we don’t care. Let’s hear about protecting student loans, incentivizing the hiring of college grads, the liberalization of social policies, etc. These issues will more greatly energize a younger and more Democratic electorate.
Also, politics needs to be attractive in its most basic sense. We are an electorate of consumers; hence we like to be entertained. There’s nothing entertaining about volunteering, working, or running for the
quorum court. The candidate who can make campaigns exciting and fun will be the candidate who turns out younger adults.
6. Why is political involvement important to you?
In addition to regulating much of daily life and deciding whether we are at war, the government takes a sizeable portion of our earnings. If you’re too lazy to vote, then you need to be quiet and accept it.