I live in New Jersey, but typically campaign in Pennsylvania because it swings. I campaigned for Al Gore, John Kerry, Barack Obama (twice) and Hillary Clinton (yes, proudly…although I did vote for Bernie). My home is about 10 minutes from Philly, and I typically pick a field office that is situated in a diverse neighborhood so that I can get beyond the whiteness of my suburban life.
This year I had lunch with my friend Jim a couple of weeks before the election. He asked me if we were going to win Pennsylvania. He is on the DNC so I should have taken him seriously. He is a guy who knows. But I didn’t. “Of course!” I promised. I guess I’m an optimist at heart.
I told Jim that I was struggling to decide where to canvass. I wanted to go door-to-door in poor, disenfranchised communities in North Philadelphia where I wanted to assure people that their voices matter and that our democracy WILL work for them. And I really believed that then.
Jim challenged me to think about whether or not a white middle class woman would have credibility in a poor black and hispanic community. The truth was that I was more comfortable in the diverse neighborhoods of Philadelphia, a place I care deeply about, than I was in the farm towns of Pennsylvania. And, I rationalized, if we can get the turnout we need in Philly, we don’t need the vote from rural PA.
What an incredible cop out. I might have made a real difference in rural PA. If I had just given it a chance.
So I chose to knock on doors in Philly and I felt pretty good about this endeavor. I was confident. I was cocky. I was out of touch.
But I knocked on about 500 doors, made a few hundred phone calls, and printed out the party platform to send to skeptics. (I was very proud of the party platform.)
On election day, I walked Spanish speakers to the polls. With my handy voter registration app in one hand and a DNC translator in the other, I would be personally responsible for giving this election to our first female president. I even told someone who was visiting Mexico that we wouldn’t build a wall while he was gone. Yikes! I was confident. I was cocky. I was out of touch.
So I was on top of the world. We visited five field offices to show the campaign staff some love. We showed off our “I Voted” stickers. The polls would close soon. And we learned that there was still a three hour line at Temple University. Hmmm. Things were starting to feel weird.
I went home and changed into some clean red, white and blue and went back to Philly with my friend Chrissy for a victory party. We were ready to be out all night! But 10 minutes and two CNN segments later, Chrissy decided that she had to get too drunk to drive. Shit. I got home and turned on Stephen Colbert. He was getting drunk, too. This was bad. Really bad.
So I watched until the bitter end. By myself. And that’s when the crying began.
Looking back, I feel good that I stopped at least five people from ditching. That was worthwhile. But I can’t shake this crazy guilt that I thought that I could be useful in bringing out the minority vote by showing disenfranchised voters that we care about their stake in our democracy when really it was my own community of white women that needed the convincing. What a stupid racist attitude I had. What. Was. I. Thinking?
That people in North Philadelphia somehow needed me to show them I cared about their vote? Or was I just too much of a coward to get out of my comfort zone and look white supremacy in the face?
Either way, I have decided that I need to learn a little humility. I don’t know if someone can learn to be humble or if is just born in you. But I need to try. And I also am ready to look white supremacy in the face. To call it out and stare it down.
We are the people and we are the majority.