Well, the time has come — I’m loading up my car and will be heading out tomorrow to help Lindsey Graham’s presidential campaign. Graham is the senior senator from South Carolina, < 1% in national polls, and I’m finishing a Ph.D. in political science applying for academic jobs. So why am I doing this, with him, and now?
The biggest reason is simple: I think the country benefits most under a Graham presidency. He’s focused on being very clear and specific about two important things for a president — national defense and our federal budget.
That alone isn’t the reason, though. I need to take care of my family, and my professional passion is really political science, not political campaigning (which I’ve never done). But I think helping the Graham campaign helps both of these immensely.
As far as helping my family, you need to consider the context. This semester wasn’t looking too good financially for me. I could have taught a class or two, but the pay would have been quite low, and would have added little to my resume. I’ve already taught a class. Add on top of that the fact that when you teach, your dissertation research slows down to a crawl. Earlier in the year I did apply for research funding, which would have allowed me to add a nice bullet point to my CV and pay the bills without teaching, but I was turned down. I have been losing some momentum this summer, and some self-confidence that I was on the right track.
Now consider what helping Graham’s campaign does for me. Practical experience in politics, time away from campus, opportunity to meet new people (and old friends and family) and learn new skills. All at a time when I was starting to spin my wheels. And again, I’ve been strongly supporting Graham’s campaign since the beginning because I think he’s got the agenda and experience we need.
So what are the disadvantages? Well, maybe I look a bit less committed to my academic future-in-waiting. Maybe the experience is more expensive than I expect. Maybe I miss out on some important experiences with my family. Alright yes, and that stings A LOT — but let’s not pretend that trade-offs are only what happen when you change course. Keeping everything the same is also sometimes a huge sacrifice — a sacrifice of everything that otherwise could be. It’s that loss that I see impacting everything I hold dear — my family, my country, my career. So, with all that, I’m trusting the judgment of myself and my wife and heading out on a new and exciting adventure.
The rest is to be continued…