By Kellen Squire (note by Lowell: polls like this morning’s by CNU, which have Dems up 11 points for House of Delegates, show why it’s crucial to push even in “red” districts like Kellen’s!)
Election day is now less than a month away here in central Virginia, and our ground game here in the 58th District is in full gear. This past weekend, we added almost 500 doors to our metrics, not to mention phone calls, postcards, emails, and all the other interaction methods that go along with a political campaign. Added to the grassroots strength of over 2,000 individual donors, it’s a hallmark of a type of people-powered campaign that’s never been seen in our area before.
We’ve had a lot of fantastic conversations along the way, and continue to. Hot topics this weekend were Trump’s spat with North Korea (of which I found no fans), and birth control- which was a really dumb thing to pick a fight on, as there is simply nothing controversial about birth control whatsoever. Literally 89% of the country has no problems with birth control, and 75% of all American women have used birth control at some point in their life.
I’ve met exactly one person since I started campaigning who insisted that birth control was abortion, and when I started to talk to them about cervical mucus, endometrial linings, and uterine flushing, suddenly they weren’t interested in talking any longer! (Protip- don’t argue with a nurse if you’re squeamish). Unless you wanted to wage war on working class women and families, there’s absolutely no reason to pick a fight…
Hmm, wait a minute…
But it wasn’t any of those issues that gave me grief this weekend. Instead, there were two interactions that did.
The first one caught me by surprise. It was at the door of what our voter database called an independent voter- probably voted in the primaries of both parties, something that made him flag neither Republican or Democrat. The kind of folks who’ve stopped showing up to vote- and why we need to be unapologetic about the progressive values we’re fighting for.
“Hi,” I said when the door opened, “my name is Kellen Squire; I’m an emergency department nurse in Charlottesville, and I’m running for the Virginia House of Delegates in our district this fall.”
“If you’re a Democrat, I’m not voting for you,” he said without preamble, “because Hillary Clinton is a ****ing felon for deleting those emails, and you enabled her, you voted her in, so you’re just as ****ing bad as she is!”
I was at a loss for words for a moment; I wasn’t sure quite how to respond. I thought about it for a second and then found my voice.
“Well, sir,” I said evenly, “Secretary Clinton wasn’t my first choice- I pretty vociferously supported Senator Sanders in the primary, and actually voted for John Kasich in the primary here in Virginia in a desperate attempt to stop Donald Trump, since by then I had conceded Secretary Clinton had the edge in the primary. But I think the furor over her emails was blown wholly out of proportion, and by any metric you care to measure, is absolutely nothing in comparison to what the Trump administration does every single day. To be fair, though, the bar the Trump administration has set on corruption and competence is so low that whale (excrement) looks like shooting stars compared to it.”
Hah! Yeah, right. I wish I’d been able to say all that, but I no more than got “Secretary Clinton” out of my mouth when a finger jabbed in my direction angrily. “She’s a CRIM-IN-ALLL!” he said, shrilly, “and I will never, ever vote for a Democrat again because of it! You’re all ****ing criminals! You’re wasting your time! Leave! Have a nice day!”
And with that disconcerting close, he shut the door firmly in my face.
There was so much to unpackage about this interaction, but probably the biggest was how he felt okay with judging everything about me based on a single label. Nothing real about me mattered; not who I was, not what I’ve done on this Earth for the last thirty-two years, not what I wanted to fight for, not my motivations. To him, I was seemingly less than human simply because of the word “Democrat”.
But I’ve had to deal with this in the emergency department plenty of times – usually, the person is mad or upset for a completely different reason, and you’re just an easy punching bag to take it out on. In the ER, we take care of everyone, and we don’t differentiate in the level of care we give – so, easy target. Makes them feel better about themselves. Doesn’t excuse their behavior in the slightest, of course, but at least puts it in perspective, and helps make it feel less personal… a skill ER folks have to develop, lest they burn out fast.
I barely had time to digest that interaction before I came to the next one- an African-American gentleman, who opened the door skeptically, and when I started my spiel, interrupted me mid-sentence.
“Can’t vote,” he said, simply. “Felon.” Virginia is one of the few states that enact lifetime bans on voting rights after committing a felony, no matter if you’ve paid your debt to society. And the threshold for felonies on a number of issues, particularly with larceny, is the lowest in the country- an issue that my opponent has, literally, single-handedly been keeping Virginia from making progress on. Even Ken Cuccinelli and Ed Gillespie consider my opponent’s position “extreme” and “destructive”, which is a pretty startling metric.
“You know, sir,” I said, “Governor McAuliffe has been restoring the rights of felons who’ve completed their sentences. I think there’s even a website you can go to.”
“Nah,” he said. “They go to a lot of work to keep you from voting and they don’t do anything they say they’re gonna anyhow if you did.” We chatted amicably for another minute, and he wished me well- but reaffirmed he wasn’t going to vote on November 7th. And I think that second interaction answers the question of whether or not we can win in Trump country.
Yes- we have to.
There are so many people who’re counting on us to do just that. So many who’ve lost faith in our system, who need someone to step up and show them that we’re not giving up on our democracy and our country.
And there’ll be people along the way who think the worst; who will ignore all evidence to keep thinking the worst, because they’re invested in a narrative. They have to be are more interested in labels than anything else, because otherwise they might have to admit they were wrong- and they’d rather destroy everything than be wrong.
Yeah. It sucks- and it’s hard, thankless work. We hit over 500 doors a day on our biggest canvassing days, and in rural territory like ours, if you want to get that done you either need an army of volunteers… or have to hit the beat an awful lot yourself. Which is just more time away from your friends. Your career. Your family.
But there are too many people counting on us to let it drag us down- and the very best way to prove ’em wrong is to brush off their bull, and let your actions speak for you. Let your deeds make fools out of ’em. There’s 400,000 working Virginians going without insurance coverage right now because my opponent wants to play games with their healthcare. There are lives being destroyed because he wants to keep draconian sentencing laws, and has the power to kill and fix in committee he wants to. There are kids growing up in the 58th District will face a good chance of being climate refugees if we don’t do something about global warming. They’re all counting on me to make a positive impact in their lives.
And it’ll even make the lives of those who doubt you better, too. We don’t embark on these journeys for the attaboys- we do it to make the lives of our constituents better.
We’ve got a chance to do exactly that, right here in the Trump Winery district, on November 7th- but we need your help to do it. We’ve paid for all our committed expenses, and every single dollar we raise now goes into field operations- our GOTV, paving the way not just for our win this November, but every campaign that comes after us, because we have the most robust volunteer network in central Virginia right now.
Join us. Donate- our campaign has been built $10, $27, and $58 dollars at time. Volunteer- we’ve had dozens join us in canvassing, writing postcards, and making phone calls, from as far away as Europe (with Democrats Abroad) to right here in our district, with district resident Mr. Khizr Khan going beyond just endorsing us and helping us get out the vote!
We can get this done, and we will!
Let’s bring progress together!
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!