by Kellen Squire
Every day, there’s a new crisis, not just on the horizon; but here. Right now. Every day, it seems like we wake up in the morning and see a news alert, or a new tweet, and instantly cringe; instantly pale about the newest revelation.
Travel bans. Sessions. Devos. Michael Flynn. Obama’s “wiretap”. Nunes’ “unmasking”. Conflicts of interest. Revolving door from “the swamp” into the White House. Voter information. Inciting violence against journalists. Trumpcare. Russia.
It’s a lot to handle; which, of course, is one reason that those scandals are coming so fast and furious… because eventually, the hope is, they’ll become all background noise. They’re counting on Resistance fatigue to kick in (also known as Trump Fatigue Syndrome), and let them get down to the business of really wrecking our country; with as little respect as they have for the Democratic traditions our country was founded on, saying the consequences will be dire is an understatement.
As a candidate running for the state legislature here in Virginia, I feel it probably more acutely than most. We’ll post a diary here in the blogosphere about universal pre-K, or we’ll do a Facebook Live event about healthcare in our rural district, or we’ll get an offer for a profile from a regional paper. And then… the next crisis hits. The next scandal drops. And all the oxygen leaves the room, threatening to snuff out the fire our fight, and plunge our Commonwealth into darkness again.
But we persevere. We soldier on. No matter how tough it is- and let’s be clear, it’s incredibly tough. We all knew this fight to stand up for our country would be tough, but you can’t comprehend the magnitude of it until you experience it. Like taking a running jump into a swimming pool, only to discover mid-air you’re actually jumping into the Grand Canyon.
The fatigue is bone-aching, like how I feel after a week’s worth of twelve-hour shifts in the ER- only every day.
You question yourself; why you’re doing this. Me, I had one of those moments a couple weeks ago, after being told by someone who lives in my district and supported my mentor, the last candidate to run for this seat, that, yeah- they agreed with me on every issue. Yeah, they agreed that my opponent, a Trump family-friend in the Trump Winery district, in charge of the entire Republican re-election effort here in Virginia (he’s already donated over $70,000 to other Republican campaigns here in Virginia), was not a nice person, and absolutely needed to go. But clearly I was an opportunist; that’s the only reason people run for office. For what’s in it for them; all politicians were like that. And then they followed with the coup-de-grace: it doesn’t matter, anyway, because Both Sides Are Bad (TM).
Since I’m an ER Nurse, these sorts-of things usually slide right off my skin like teflon. I get called and treated way worse in the course of a normal shift almost every day; I have to deal with more incredulous statements than “both sides are bad,” too. Not only that, but as bad as things are now, we’ve had more perilous times in our Republic’s history- and those folks, from the Revolutionary War to the Civil Rights Movement, all persevered against unimaginable odds, especially compared to what I’m doing here.
But something about this incident really stuck with me. Maybe because it was someone who was supposed to be “on my side.” Maybe because it was someone who happily supported my mentor when she ran in the Tea Party wave. Maybe it just found a chink in my armor, and hung on for a second. Whatever the reason, it bothered me enough to stop me in my tracks.
I don’t have any political ambition. I never wanted to do any of this. But people like my opponent can’t go unchallenged for almost a decade. In the ER, I see the real hurt of the people from my district. I see how nobody is fighting for them, which only makes all the years my opponent has gone unchallenged all the more galling. I watch as he votes for transvaginal ultrasounds and “Days of Tears”. Refuses to expand Medicaid for hundreds of thousands of working Virginians, just to spite Obama. Demands more people go to jail; that we be reflexively “tough on crime” instead of “smart on crime”. How he never met a private prison he didn’t like, or a felony larceny rate that isn’t low enough, even though we have the lowest in the country. How “voter fraud” is the preeminent problem in our Commonwealth. How it’s fine if we remove mountaintops in the Blue Ridge, or use eminent domain to seize folks’ family farms to make way for a fracking pipeline. How he had no problem being atop Trump’s leadership team, or having his name associated with the phrase “Trump values are Virginia values”.
Was it the wrong choice to run? I mean, nobody else wanted to do it in my district. An opponent with the ear of the President, and in charge of the entire Republican election effort here in Virginia, and nobody else wanted to dare stand up?
I don’t blame them. But with the next scandal dropping already, with the amount of “Canadian Air Support” we’ve been getting, with the weight of my opponent’s powerful friends (including someone who’s never afraid to punch down, even all the way from the White House), I thought, y’know… maybe I should have let it go.
Maybe, in the age of Trump, if we can’t even come together to save our Republic, maybe it’s past saving. Maybe I should have let this go, and just embraced the fact I’m going to have to tell my kids, sorry, guys; you’re going to be the first generation in American history to have a lower standard of living than I did. And I should instead be spending the rest of the time we have left as a coherent Republic with them, instead of missing all this time with them making phone calls (and being hung up on), talking to voters (and being insulted), knocking on doors (and having them slammed in your face).
Nurses are good at internalizing this sort-of thing, though; too good, truth be told. That’s one of the reasons so many of us burn out. But I finished that day’s canvassing, calls, and other work, and then just sat… pondering everything, in a sort-of funk.
Then my phone buzzed; I’d gotten a text from one of our campaign’s volunteers.
“My daughter told me her my little pony would vote for you. Unprovoked. True story. One persuadable voter down.”
After I stopped laughing, I noticed I had a great big grin on my face that wouldn’t go away. I texted her back:
“I won’t let you down, Twilight Sparkle, don’t you worry!”
That time will come for all of you, too. It will be one scandal too many; you’ll talk to a Trump supporter who sneers “So what if he admitted he had help from the GRU? I mean, someone had to save us from Clinton’s emails.” You’ll see a Fox News clip about how any questioning of the President is near-treason, and certainly unpatriotic, with no irony whatsoever about 2009-2017. You’ll talk to a voter who tells you “Yeah, well, both sides are bad, so why even vote?”
And you’re going to wonder- is it worth it? Is this worth all this hard work, blood, sweat, tears, and toil? Maybe I should just give up. There’s just so many people to fight for. So many people relying on me to stand up for them.
Don’t give up. Our country is still worth fighting for; it always has been, and it always will be. And we’re here for you; it’s one of the things I’ve come to love so much about this community here on the progressive blogs. We’re truly all here for each other. We are about as diverse a group as you can find, but we’re standing up to fight for our country, together. We’ve got each other’s backs- and it’s exactly that strength and diversity that we’re going to use to win.
And not just win; we’re not just going to stand up and show our fellow countrymen and women that we’re the ones who’re going to fight for them. No, we’re going to take the toxic and vitriolic brand of politics that Trumpism represents, and we’re gonna nuke it from orbit. We’re going to push it back into the dark corners from where it came from, and we’re going to stay eternally vigilant to make sure it never, ever threatens our Republic, our democratic traditions, or our children’s future, ever again.
And never forget your own “My Little Pony voter” out there for you, that keeps you grounded, and reminds you of exactly why we’re in this fight together.
Kellen Squire is an emergency department nurse from Barboursville, VA, running for the Virginia House of Delegates in the 58th District this fall. Donate, volunteer, or get the word out about our people-powered campaign, TODAY!