By Eric Brakey
Truth be told, that last campaign took a lot out of me.
And when I finally had a chance to breathe, I began to realize how much the last decade took out of me.
Politics is a toxic world to live in. The whole culture works to change you, tearing at the fabric of your most sincerely held ideals until you become just another brick in the wall.
The only way to avoid that fate is to guard your heart, stand your ground, and keep your mission in focus. The Bible tells Christians, “Be in the world, not of the world.” That advice applies equally well to anyone entering the world of politics.
Despite many big accomplishments like the Ron Paul 2012 campaign and Constitutional Carry, the whole thing was running me ragged after ten years. I gave it my all every single day, but I didn’t always make time for much else. I often felt like the whole world would fall apart if I took a vacation.
I remember 9 years ago, we had just won the 2012 Maine Republican Convention for Ron Paul. Our delegation was being challenged by the Mitt Romney Campaign. We were thrust onto the center stage in the national fight for liberty.
I was only 23 years old and every decision felt way too heavy for me, but many looked to me for leadership, so I did the best I could. I led by asking others for advice, seeking collaboration, and striking when the moment seemed right. (I did my best to keep personal panic attacks to myself.)
That summer, a friend of mine went away to become a camp counselor. I will always remember because the realization hit me: gone are the days I will ever be able to just pick up and disappear for three months to be a camp counselor.
Until that moment in my life, I had only ever been responsible for myself. Even working on the Ron Paul campaign, I had always had a boss to answer to. Suddenly the Ron Paul campaign was over, but I was still there… and so were thousands of Maine people who had followed my lead to take over the Maine Republican Party at the infamous 2012 convention.
How do you walk away from that? I felt a responsibility to everyone. It simply didn’t feel like my life was my own anymore. To go back to my old life left like abandoning my duty.
Are any of us ever ready for that when it lands on us? I don’t know that we can ever be. I certainly wasn’t. Still, I ran with it the best I could. I made plenty of mistakes along the way, but somehow I ended up pretty far down that road.
But as time went on, it became an increasingly lonely road.
Political differences made me feel increasingly unwelcome and out-of-place in friend circles from high school, college, and the theatre community. To this day, I only have a few friends from those eras of my life who I can still talk to (like my best friend through high school, Aaron Gobidas).
At the same time, so many of the friends who I began this fight for liberty alongside weren’t there anymore.
Some friends I lost along the way to bitterness spawned from disagreements (as is the sad nature of politics).
Others simply dropped off to live their lives, get married, and start families. “Good for them,” I thought, before wondering when I was ever going to have time for any of that. (Thank God for David Boyer and Erin Daly, who always had my back.)
The trouble is, it’s hard to make new friends once you are in politics because it’s hard to extend trust to new people.
When people want to be your friend before you are “somebody,” it’s for who you are. Treasure those people.
Once you are perceived as “somebody,” suddenly a lot of people want to be your friend for what you are. There’s an important, subtle difference between the two.
Sometimes I wonder if I dodged a bullet last year.
If we had won the primary, I’m fairly certain we would have won the general election.
I believe I would have done at least as well representing Maine in Congress as I did in the Maine Senate, and it would have been an honor to join Congressman Thomas Massie in his fight against the swamp.
But I also know that I was burning my candle from both ends.
I’m sorry to the people of Maine that I have not been as present this year as I have in the past decade, fighting back against these state tyrannies.
I may not be taking center stage as often as I used to, but I am doing what I can from here at Young Americans for Liberty to help in Maine and across the country.
During recent years, I organized many grassroots political leadership schools across Maine.
I am encouraged to see so many who attended those trainings have become Maine liberty leaders for a new decade — both inside and outside the legislature. They give me hope for our state.
Paul LePage would always say, “If it is to be, it’s up to me.” I tried to live by that for many years, but as time wore on, I came to realize that there is a serious flaw in this line of thinking.
It should be, “If it is to be, it’s up to us.” That may not rhyme as well, but no one can do it alone.
The best leaders are those who are ready to follow. We must not allow our own egos (which are necessarily large for those who enter the political arena) to come before service to the mission.
Leaders must teach and lift up others to replace them. Personally, I consider this my greatest fault. I’m not always sure I did enough over the last decade to train new leaders, so I crammed a lot in during my last few years.
I am glad to see some of those new leaders taking that torch and running with it.
As for me, I can’t honestly say what the future holds.
For now, I am glad that I stopped delaying family for politics. I am blessed to be celebrating a one-year anniversary with my wife.
Also, I am blessed to be working every day at Young Americans for Liberty with some of the most talented and dedicated liberty champions in the nation. It’s nice to be on a team again.
To all my friends out there, thank you for your support throughout the years. I’m still fighting in my own way and I hope you are too.