I grew up reading about the Kennedy Era, the Civil Rights Movement, and the 2000 election. Okay, to be frank, I didn’t have many friends in middle school so a lot of my time during recess was spent reading. As a kid, I was under the impression by the time I would become an adult, the world would have progressed so much that we would be able to deal with our problems as a society without needing to protest and our political systems would advance learning about past mistakes and evolve to become more representative of its people.
Boy, was I wrong.
Fast forward to now, I’ve become a community organizer and a serial campaigner. I’ve been a part of four campaigns, half of which have been in the United States. I campaigned for Hillary Clinton—which means I had a class-A mental breakdown just like everyone else on the day that shall not be named which lead to the development of a still thriving skincare obsession. I vowed to stay out of campaigning after this fateful day, only to join a federal leadership race a week later. I hate to say it: there is no other high like a campaign high, even if you lose. In the end, you will say it’s your last campaign and before you know it, you’re flying halfway across the world for another one. Which leads me to these past midterm elections.
I’d been mulling over flying back to the United States for “Get Out the Vote” efforts since 2016. From then, we knew this would be a pivotal election. I’m currently based in Copenhagen getting my masters so it seemed a bit out of reach. But, after an off-handed comment from a former Clinton colleague about flying over to NYC to help out, (and a surprisingly cheap flight thanks to Momondo) I booked a flight that day.
I campaigned for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. You know, the one who’s been on international papers and defeated the longtime Democratic incumbent Joe Crowley? Yeah, her.
Guess what? People were (and are!) really excited about Alexandria. I was and I’m still pretty excited about her. Which made campaigning a lot easier than I anticipated. Volunteers were easier to recruit, people are more likely to gravitate towards you on the street, and when you talk to people about the candidate, you feel like you’re not making a hard pitch. Access to health care? Free tuition? Actually, not that hard to sell.
Why? People are sick of politics as usual. I’m sick of politics as usual. I can go on a long tirade with anyone about how politics as usual has been entrenching the lines creating polarizations in not just America, but other democracies. However, I’m going to say this: this election left me feeling like while it seems as though everything has gone to complete shit, there are groups of fresh, competent, and resilient people willing to fight.
Also, Alexandria is pretty damn awesome. She is not your typical politician. Though campaigning doesn’t always get me feeling recharged (cough 2016 cough), it has taught me some of the most valuable lessons that I’ve needed to know as a political scientist and as a citizen.
Campaigning has both validated and destroyed many senses of what I understood about people and politics.
Campaigning has both validated and destroyed many senses of what I understood about people and politics. It’s validated the fact that people are generally good (minus the occasional death threats). But it has destroyed so much of what I knew about politics. Politics is and will always happen on the ground. No matter how far politicians try to disconnect themselves from the interests of all their constituents, there will come a time where people can’t take it anymore.
As someone who has studied politics in varying degrees for the while, I have to say it is easy in politics to disconnect yourself from what’s actually happening. So many spheres occur simultaneously that is hard to keep track. Whenever I talk to people and they ask me “I really don’t know where to start with politics” to be honest, sometimes I don’t either. But, after campaigning, I learned the most effective way to start is through your community. Go to a town hall meeting, volunteer at a community cause that you’re passionate about or even run for public office. Maybe one day, I will run. But for now, I’m just waiting to grab my next clipboard.