As a consultant for campaigns in Texas and across the country, I have conceded elections on live TV. Republicans have held press conferences to denounce my hiring, and their lawyers have second-guessed my decisions under oath in a deposition. But none of these trials has struck me quite as strangely as reading about myself getting fired by a campaign.
I have read the news of the firings of countless colleagues over the years, and whether my reaction was Schaedenfreude or sympathy, one thought was always there: Thank God that poor bastard wasn’t me. Then I was that poor bastard, and this time it made the papers, including The Texas Tribune.
Getting fired from a political campaign at this point in my career is unlike anything I’ve experienced before. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been fired before. But when the manager at Gordy’s Pizza Parlor cut me from the schedule, it didn’t make the papers and didn’t teach me a thing about all the people I work with.
The most surprising thing about my firing from the Farouk Shami campaign making the newspapers is how many reporters have responded with sincere concern for my well-being and how many of my colleagues called wanting to know what really happened, a curious reversal of professional roles. “I’m not calling to write about anything,” said one reporter whom I’ve worked with for more than 10 years. “I just wanted to see how you were doing.” Still another, via text: “WTF?” Perhaps the understanding implied in their reactions should not surprise me. How many journalists have lost their jobs because of the capriciousness of the market, and who better to understand someone who lost his own job due to the capriciousness of a billionaire?
Reporters vastly outnumber the handful of fellow political consultants who have reached out to me, though I notice the few who did have enjoyed their own moments of ignominy in the papers. There are a million reasons that some of my friends and colleagues have not called, not least of which that they don’t have a “Jason Stanford” Google alert blowing up their iPhones. More likely, they have the good graces not to celebrate the fact that I am no longer helping a candidate they do not support. Or, like me in ungracious moments I hope never to repeat, they silently celebrate this tiny failure.
To be sure, having your firing reported in the news is a swift kick in the ego. To get fired by a flailing campaign is at worst inglorious rebuke, and at best like getting fired by a bottom-dwelling football team. It might not have been Mark Mangino’s fault that the Kansas Jayhawks went 1-7 in the Big 12 North, but it sure wasn’t in spite of him.
By now I realize that most of the people paying attention to the banal news of my firing know enough of campaigns — and this one in particular — to understand that getting the axe after about three weeks is like getting the blame for a fender-bender when you’re in the passenger seat. In my case, having been on the job for only three weeks, no one has voiced any concerns that I committed the campaign equivalent of vehicular homicide, at least not to my face.
I was not the only one to get the axe, but I might have been the only one to feel so relieved. Losing a good-paying gig with a statewide campaign came as a painful shock to those who traveled halfway across the continent to help get the campaign on track. For those who left babies in the care of others and spouses on the East Coast to lead this endeavor, a severance check did not salve the insult. Those bruises, however undeserved, are real and will take some time to heal.
Getting fired from a political campaign bears a similarity to losing re-election. For an incumbent, an election loss is exactly like getting fired, and by millions of Texans. And if my initial feelings after getting fired were bitterness and humiliation, my thoughts are now with those who I have had to fire over the years and what they must remember of it. But as Ann Richards once goofed, her arms outstretched like some Dairy Queen Evita, “Don’t cry for me, Waxahachie.” I really do wish the guy all the luck in the world, not least because he’ll need it.
Jason Stanford owns Stanford Research, an Austin-based Democratic consulting and opposition research firm.