I was recently asked to speak to a group of second and third-year law students studying the intersection of law and love. Yes, you read that right: law and love. Odd bedfellows! Until you dip below the surface. Here’s what I told them.
I came to law school in 2008 straight off Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign, where I worked as a field organizer and volunteer coordinator. The campaign was exhilarating, in part because I was surrounded by bright, friendly, sleeves-rolled-up people who truly believed in the country’s promise. As it happened, most of them were lawyers. Their way of analyzing the world’s problems struck me as incisive and nuanced. They were all resolute in their desire to lift up the country. And they were working hard. All of us were.
My hours at the height of the campaign were maybe 6 am to midnight, seven days a week, with no breaks; approximately 2,000 volunteers had my cell phone number and it rang almost around the clock; I drove back and forth over the Sierra pass to Nevada, where I slept on a different couch at a different volunteer’s house in a different county every weekend; I flew to Chicago, where I slept in a basement because that’s where there was room; I opened a field office in Northern California and ate cold day-old pizza on the floor, calling voters until my voice gave out. The work was physically draining; at one point I was drinking double espressos each morning to get going and taking Xanax each night to fall asleep. I had to put my arm in a brace to protect my shoulder — it was painfully kinked from holding the phone so much.
Still, the joy! The exuberance! I’d do it all again. The heart-swelling, pumped-up satisfaction of kinship, of possibility, of solidarity was unlike anything I’ve felt before or since. I was, truly, in love. Not romantically, but actually, spatially. The desert porches on which we stood, talking to undecided voters; the strangers’ cars in which we drove through snowy city streets; the school gymnasiums in which we explained and role played the intricacies of the caucus process to first-time voters; the living room in which we huddled together, close enough to touch, holding our breath and then howling and jumping in exaltation at the end of the Iowa caucus — each of those spaces was, literally, a field of love.