by Kellen Squire
Listen- I know it’s early. A little under six months until the Presidential primaries are underway; a full year until the Democratic National Committee convenes in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Even though I’ve been working tirelessly to flip the Virginia state legislature this fall- our entire House and Senate are up for election this year- I’ve got a pool of favorites I’m mulling over for 2020. Buttigieg, Harris, Sanders, and Warren all impress me an awful lot in different ways.
But I’ve got a secret to tell you. It doesn’t matter which one of them wins, because, regardless, I’ll work my ass off to get them elected*.
If Corey Booker sprints across the finish line, I’ll spend the entire fall of 2020 knocking doors for him.
If Joe Biden rides his 1979 Harley-Davidson Electra Glide to the nominating floor as the winner, I’ll wear a groove into my ear from phonebanking for him.
If Amy Klobuchar manages to do something nobody from Minnesota has ever done before, I’ll be on the ground, eating Maid Rites and rounding up volunteers, in Marshalltown, Iowa.
I don’t care. Sure, I might be annoyed. I might grit my teeth. Grumble under my breath. But I’m not going to slack off one iota.
There’s too much riding on that November to do anything less.
This isn’t new to me; it’s what I did in 2016. After supporting Senator Sanders in the primary, when it became clear that Secretary Clinton was going to win, I conceded defeat and offered what support I could to help her win. I knew that Donald Trump getting elected was a sincere possibility, and what that would entail.
Understand that, as an emergency department nurse, my colleagues and I in emergency services are the ones on the front lines, trying to keep our tattered social safety net in one piece. We bear witness to every single failure of our government to act. But we don’t see “policy failures“. We see human beings. Our fellow Americans. And the price they pay, sometimes with their very lives, when we can’t catch them before they hit rock-bottom.
And I got flak for it. Oh, did I ever. Now, to be fair, I understand that both now and then, all of the “flak” stemmed from a vast minority. Fractions of a percentage- albeit a very vocal one. It still doesn’t make it easier. For me, I had Bernie folks who couldn’t forgive me for not taking my ball and going home in 2016. There were Clinton folks who couldn’t forget I’d ever deigned to support someone else. And it didn’t even stop after election day, dogging me through to my run for the Virginia House of Delegates in 2017 for having the audacity to, well… exist, I guess, apart from the world of purity they’d constructed around themselves.
Me, I always marveled at people who clearly have so little skin in the game that they have no problem sipping coffee as the world burns around them, fighting with and jeering at folks who’re on their own side. Maybe I’m being overly critical on this point; emergency services workers are notorious for being cynical and disaffected from seeing, day in and day out, how many people are in dire need help. When you commit to fighting a rear-guard action to save as many people as you can, knowing inevitably someone will slip through your fingers even if you do everything you possibly can to help them, it colors the world around you.
But I don’t think I am. This morning gave me another clear example of that:
….and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run. Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 14, 2019
We’re really going to spend time and energy fighting one another when we have a President who’s just a couple news cycles away from openly using racial pejoratives in official White House communiques? This while the GOP ostensibly approves wholeheartedly, because the key attribute of being a Republican these days is kneeling at the altar of Donald Trump.
I’m definitely not saying we shouldn’t hold ourselves to a higher standard, or push our candidates to be the best they can be; never. I’m vociferously in favor of that. If you got a problem with anyone, be it with Nancy Pelosi or the local progressive running for dogcatcher, please, by all means- let’s hear it. Had people not done that for me in 2017- pointing out holes in my plans, where I was too clever by half, or where my strategy was deficient- I wouldn’t be the candidate I am today.
But it’s gotta be in the pursuit of positive change. Enacting positive change isn’t usually fun and games, an unstoppable parade rainbows and unicorns. It’s damn hard work- but incredibly essential. Because the Republicans are experts at racing to the bottom. Their entire party is built on situational ethics and moral relativism in the pursuit of winning at all costs. If tomorrow, Donald Trump walked into the Rose Garden and announced that we needed to nationalize the means of production to protect the proletariat from the bourgeoisie, Kevin McCarthy would be on Fox News five minutes later gloating about how that’s been the Republicans’ idea the entire time. We cannot beat the Republicans in that arena- and we shouldn’t try.
But there are productive ways of pushing ourselves to be better… and non-productive ways of doing that. And we gotta- we just gotta– find better ways to do it.
Because this is it, my friends. This next election cycle is for all the marbles. Too many among us don’t realize that. I’ve chatted with too many people, from grassroots activists to big donors, party apparatchiks to casual voters, who think all of this- the past three or four years- is just an aberration. A big mistake. That if we close our eyes and wish really hard, things will go back to “normal”.
I’ve got news for them. “Normal” is gone. It’s never coming back. And if we don’t move Heaven and Earth, we have no chance of even salvaging a semblance of what “normal” OUGHT to be. Of shaping the direction we need to move to be ready for the momentous challenges on the horizon. To save our country from the authoritarianism that’s not just threatening to overtake it- it’s here, right now, waiting in the wings for us to just give up and let it in.
It’s why I’m spending this year working relentlessly to flip the Virginia state legislature. And next year, will work for whoever our nominee happens to be. I might sigh, or grumble, or always be thinking of improving us on the step beyond- but I’ll still do everything I can to get it done.
Our country is still worth fighting for. It always has been.
It always will be.
Kellen Squire is an emergency department nurse from Barboursville, VA, and former candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates. I’m not running for anything in 2019, but there are plenty of good folks here in Virginia who are! Here’s a link to our House of Delegates candidates, State Senate candidates, and local candidates up for election this year. Help us keep the Blue Wave moving onward!
* Except Tulsi Gabbard.