It was an unseasonably cool morning for September in central Virginia; starting in the 50s, and never rising above the low seventies, it was perfect canvassing weather- another day of hitting doors and talking to voters. Our campaign has shifted into GOTV mode almost exclusively; thanks to the around 1300 unique donations we’ve had to help us power our campaign, we can focus now on going out to where people live. Meeting them. Talking to them. LISTENING to them.
I was up before the sun rose; partially because of the scrawny rooster my wife insists on keeping around (which the kids helpfully named “Roadrunner”). But mostly because I had a canvass to prepare for; not our largest overall by a long shot, but the largest dedicated to Greene County so far.
I met a group of our canvassers, just under a dozen in total, at the Pik’n’Pac just outside the Quinque Post Office off of US 33 in Greene County, and we poured over our walking maps. The Twin Lakes area of Greene County isn’t easy territory to hit; the “friendly” houses are few and far between- and “far between” describes ALL the houses. Long driveways and big yards, it’s not easy territory to walk.
But this is what we have to do if we want to take our country back to a better place. There are no shortcuts. It’s hard work and sacrifice, particularly from the people who put themselves on the pointy end of the stick- like our canvassers did. They took time out of an early fall/late summer Saturday with beautiful weather to go and tell folks to vote for me… which is still so surreal. We certainly pushed the whole ticket, but these people volunteered their time to go out because of me. Because I asked them too. It’s an honor beyond almost any I’ve ever received.
We had a productive day, though; a lot of good conversations were had, no matter what the territory looked like. When we split up, I again made sure our volunteers had the “easier” targets, and I hit the ones in between.
But the most interesting house of the day wasn’t one of the in-between ones; it was one of the ones our volunteers hit. I had been lagging behind them, having had a conversation with a voter that lasted about five minutes, and as I was moving to catch up, noticed a house that had been tagged for our volunteers to hit.
Standing behind the storm door was a lady in her forties, white t-shirt and blue jeans, with what looked like two beautiful white labs- I didn’t know there was such a thing as a white lab- and she waved at me. I glanced at the time on my smartphone and decided, what the heck. I’d go say hi to her.
So with a fairly fat head, I marched up the driveway of this house so I could introduce myself, feeling pretty good about how the morning had gone and the progress we’d made. I felt invincible. At two houses previously, I’d been greeted with a now-familiar chorus of “You must be a Republican or you wouldn’t be here,” and had nailed making connections on issues like gerrymandering (“I’m never going to vote for another politician who won’t stand up against that!”). So I approached this situation with a pretty fat head, figuring I could handle anything that came my way.
“Hi,” I said, “my name is Kellen Squire; I’m an emerg-”
“Yep,” she cut me off, abruptly, “your volunteer told me a few minutes ago. And I want you to answer the question she couldn’t- why are you running as a Democrat?”
Real smooth, dumb***, I thought to myself. Never thought she might want to lambast the crap out of you, did you? But in the district I’m running in, I’ve had to field this question time and again, and so it doesn’t bother me. Besides, as I’ve said over and over- no Democrats run in my district. Nobody is out here challenging the preconceived notions that people have about Democrats. Twice on Saturday alone, I was greeted with a now familiar ditty- “Oh- if you’re here at our door, you must be a Republican.” This is why we need to challenge every race, at every level that we can, until this is no longer a refrain anywhere.
But I digress- I was asked why I’m running as a Democrat. I pointed to my slogan on the palm cards we hand out, and answered her honestly, telling her that besides the plethora of issues that wouldn’t let me run as anything else, it was because if I wanted to keep “PEOPLE BEFORE PARTY” as my slogan, instead of pledging fealty to one man… I simply didn’t have a choice.
While the vast majority of people (Republicans included!) usually seem to agree with this sentiment… it didn’t go over as well as I had expected this time. Spirited conversation ensued. The words “Donald Trump is a genius” were spoken. We disagreed on a number of things (that proclamation included), but we also agreed on plenty. She talked about how the middle class had been decimated, which I agreed with, and she even said the phrase “privatize the gains and socialize the losses”! There was so much to work with there.
But it was that “D” word in front of my name. It was a non-starter. “I like you a lot,” she told me, “I would vote for you. But you’re running as a Democrat, and that means you support Nancy Pelosi. So I can’t.”
This is also a refrain I’ve heard before, but it seemed to be sort-of a throwaway line all those other times. One of those things both you and the person saying it to you know isn’t strictly true, but you nod and move on because of the social contract on such things. But this lady seemed to be dead serious. As if Nancy Pelosi was gone tomorrow- or if, at least, I’d rail against Nancy- I could earn this person’s vote.
This would have been a perfect opportunity to throw Congresswoman Pelosi under the bus. She’s in San Francisco, after all, and as this person proved, a pretty good straw (wo)man to use in this part of the country. And, yeah, being a Democrat in San Francisco is a world apart from being one in Quinque, Virginia. Burning $30 million in Georgia, when 1/1000th of that would pay for all of my mail and enable me to REALLY spend all my time on GOTV and on doors, lost seats since 2009, etc, etc, so forth and so on.
Instead, I let that slide off my back. Because this lady wasn’t really angry at Nancy, per se; it’s just that regardless of reality, the Republicans made Nancy Pelosi their evil doer du jour. Since nobody had bothered to try and show this lady that Democrats could be something other than the nasty stereotype that the Republicans have built up, well… I can’t blame her for how she feels, or wanting to take it out on me. I’m the first person who showed up at her door ever, from either party, she told me- so I didn’t let her understandable frustration get to me.
This is indicative of the hard work we have to undertake- we ALL have to undertake- to bring our country back from the brink. We’ve lost our trust credibility with the American people, and we have to work our butts off to show them that’s precisely what we intend to give them back. That, especially in the age of Trump, we will stand up for them unapologetically, and FIGHT. No Solomon politicians who “cut the baby in half”, no saying one thing and doing another- just fighting for them. Standing up for THEM. Regardless.
This voter and I did end up having an outstanding chat; but when we parted ways, she reaffirmed she couldn’t vote for me because of Nancy Pelosi. However, she did tell me she wasn’t going to vote for my opponent, either, and was liable to skip the whole process altogether. Cynically, I know, I should count that as a win, because someone whose voter record indicated they’re a Republican “supervoter” won’t show up to vote for anyone on the Republican ticket… but I just can’t.
It’s just a stark reminder that, regardless of how far we’ve come- and we’ve come a LONG way, turning an unwinnable race into a competitive enough one to have the Virginia GOP terrified as, once again, the Chairman of the Virginia GOP went out of his way to snipe at us specifically- there’s still such a long way to go.
And the people who are going to power that success? You. Everyone reading this. Because we don’t have the Koch Brothers pouring billions into elections… we have the thousands of grassroots supporters who are building our candidates $10, $20, and $27 at a time. Who are making the difference between the party and the pavement. Who are enabling them to do the hard work, make the sacrifices, that come with running for office.
That’s why I need your help, today. We’ve paid all our bills on committed expenses for salary, website, phones, etc. Every single dollar we raise now goes to mail. Goes to palm cards. Goes to putting volunteers on doors. Goes to getting our people-powered message out there. And that is exactly what the GOP is terrified of- our message getting out there.
Step up and donate, today– now is the time. Step up today and volunteer, no matter where you live- phone banking can be done anywhere! Be on the tip of the spear in our fight back against Trumpism. It won’t be overnight. It won’t be easy. It’s going to require blood, sweat, tears, and toil.
But it WILL get done.
Kellen Squire is an emergency department nurse in Charlottesville, Virginia, running for the Virginia House of Delegates in the 58th District this fall. Donate to, volunteer for, or get the word out about our people-powered campaign, today!