A PREFACE TO THE GUEST BLOG
When I was a staffer for retired state Senator Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin), on many occasions I would sub for her at ceremonies honoring Eagle Scouts where I would present a proclamation on a handsome state plaque and make a brief speech.
I’d mention to the audience that they didn’t see any TV cameras or newspaper reporters at the events. That’s because they’re only interested in the youth that are bad.
We knew, I stated reassuringly, that the overwhelming majority of our young people like the Eagle Scouts are good, decent, honest, hard-working individuals making us confident that the future of America is great.
Our guest instills that confidence. He is 26-year old Eric Brooks of Oak Creek. I consider him a hero, a courageous go-getter and role model, even at his young age. I’m sure you will, too, after reading his piece that he so graciously agreed to submit.
GUEST BLOG: Reflections on the 2020 Campaign
By Eric Brooks
I never thought I would be working in politics. I’ve always been a conservative, but going to school at a liberal arts school in Madison to become a teacher, I never imagined that I would have spent countless hours knocking on thousands of doors throughout one of the weirdest summers of our lives.
I first started volunteering on campaigns in 2018 because I wanted to help out a friend of mine, Leah Vukmir, in her bid for the United State Senate. I was terrified of knocking on doors and talking to total strangers about their politics, especially during one of the most politically polarized times we have ever faced. But I loved it—I loved every second of it. Whether I was earning someone’s support or having someone threaten to call the cops if I didn’t get off their property, I enjoyed knowing that I wasn’t just sitting on the sidelines, but that I was doing everything to make a difference.
We ended up losing that race (along with many others that night), and while the sting of defeat is harsh, it’s also a great motivator. I never regretted anything from that cycle, because win or lose I knew that I was doing something to help good people—and we need more good, hardworking people in politics.
Let’s fast forward to 2020. I had planned on volunteering for Republican candidates in Waukesha and Milwaukee County like I normally would, but my normal job during the summer was that of a summer camp director for children with special needs. Once COVID came around, my camp was shut down and I was in need of a job so I reached out to the Waukesha County GOP and they brought me on as a canvasser (and eventually canvass coordinator). Over the course of 2020, I knocked on thousands of doors for over 20 different candidates—from local judges to state legislators to congressional candidates to the President. I had conversations with hundreds of voters, from all areas of the political spectrum, and was fortunate enough to be able to learn a lot from this experience.
One of the greatest rewards of going door to door to campaign is that you are on the ground floor, listening to the real issues that are facing people in the community. You aren’t hearing from the talking heads on CNN or from what pollsters want you to believe, but rather you’re hearing from people just like you. And what I learned is this—we are not as divided as some want us to believe. While myself and my team of hardworking volunteers would occasionally be met with some choice language, a door slammed in our face, or even on one occasion a man wielding a 2×4, we were also met with a lot of kindness and concern from people of all political persuasions. We would hear from parents who were worried about childcare for their children in the absence of in-person learning. We would talk with small business owners who are terrified of losing their life’s work due to the government’s restrictions due to COVID. We would offer our thanks to people brave enough to put a Back the Badge sign in their lawns so they could show support for our law enforcement during one of the most toxic summers of anti-police rhetoric we have ever experienced. We were met with genuine thankfulness from people who, in their 30 years of living there, had never once had someone from the Republican Party personally come to talk to them. In a year where everything looked bleak, I was happy to hear messages of hope from every day Wisconsinites.
People say you have to be a little bit crazy to get involved in politics, and maybe I am just that. But it’s a lot easier to push through those long hours of knocking doors in the heat when you’re surrounded by incredible friends and dedicated supporters, and also when you’re working to help great candidates. I have met some of my best friends and best people through this work, and I am always grateful for that. While not every single one of our candidates was successful, I am proud of the fact that we were able to help a great man like Rep. Ken Skowronski fend off slanderous attack ads on his way to re-election. I’m proud of the fact that myself and fellow Young Republicans were able to make history by electing Senator Julian Bradley, the first African American Republican elected to the State Senate. And perhaps most importantly, I’m proud of the hard work that all of my friends and volunteers put in and nothing makes me happier than seeing them succeed because, after all, we need more good people in politics.
2020 was an unforgettable year for everyone, largely for negative reasons. But I will never forget this year on the campaign trail for everything it taught me.
This past December, I made the difficult decision to leave the world of education in order to start a new career at Americans For Prosperity where I will take on the role of Grassroots Engagement Director in Waukesha County. My role is to reach out to individuals within the community, listen to their stories, and empower them to get involved and make meaningful changes in our state. I look forward to working with even more dedicated and passionate citizens and hitting the campaign trail once again to fight for the values and ideas that we hold dear.
Grassroots Engagement Director for Americans For Prosperity