Brace yourselves, dear readers that are almost completely female: THERE’S A MAN IN THE ROOM. Don’t worry, though! He is my dear friend Benji/Benjamin/Bdawg/B and we’ve been through some of the biggest changes in our lives together – going to college, graduating from an extremely challenging and competitive program,
moving to NYC, falling in lurrrrrve with our future spouses, strivin n grindin in that #actorlife, changing paths, finding happiness and success in new fields, getting married, moving to new homes, and now he’s HAVING A BABY (yayayayay!). We’ve grown so much alongside one another in the 15 years (holy shit we’re so old) we’ve known each other, and he one of the kindest souls I know, he’s a passionate librarian, so smart, HILARIOUS, and he can break your heart with his portrayal of a singing duck.
He’s also an activist – and after an exchange a week or so ago where we were venting about the mysogyny rearing its ugly head in the election, I asked him to write it out for me. Apparently that can be a terrifying request, but he did a BANG-UP job! Take it away, B!
After a bit of a text rant with my dear friend Tara about the current election (spoiler alert: we are both #withher and #ReadyforHillary), she typed those paralyzing words, “Write about it for the blog.”
Ok… maybe. Truthfully in that moment of the rant I felt I had so much important, obvious information to share and if I could just reach out to the Internet, the most rational minds would prevail and Hillary could wrap this thing up with 85% of the vote. But, as I started to think about what to write, how to frame my argument, I realized that everything has been said. Everyday there are countless hot takes from professionals and amateurs alike about the state of the election, about Trump and his lack of any substance, about Hillary and her natural inclination for nitty gritty policy details. I froze because I felt there was really nothing unique to say, and I will tell you now still I don’t have anything unique to say, I only have my own recent experiences to share and my rationale for getting involved. Is that worth sharing? Who knows, but with every new Trump sign I see in small town Ohio, it certainly can’t hurt to throw some more content onto the Internet.
I am volunteering for the Hillary campaign (actually for Ohio Together, but they are essentially identical) in Vermilion and Erie County, Ohio. So far, I have canvassed (knocking on doors) for a few weekends, helped my organizer with local resources and information, and am preparing to host phone banks at my house every week until the election.
The truth is those living in Ohio get to feel pretty special every four years (Tara’s note: this doesn’t happen very often, aside from when THE CAVS WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP GAAAH) during general election season. Usually it comes down to us, and sometimes you can even narrow that down to Cuyahoga County, or Cleveland (Tara’s note: YAY) vs. Hamilton County, or Cincinnati (Tara’s note: BOO). It is like hosting a classic interleague World Series (a Battle of I-71?) except this is real life. Yeah, real life, and that makes this general election season particularly scary. On one hand we have a seasoned Democrat, who’s had a lifetime as a professional in the public eye as First Lady, Senator, and Secretary of State. She is also a woman. Barack Obama said Hillary Clinton may be the most qualified potential President of all time. So why is the race so seemingly close? Her rival is a private business man with no public service experience and a questionable record as to whether he has been successful at any venture in his lifetime. Whether Trump believes what he says or not, he has opened the door for those with the vilest points of view to raise their voices in this election season by pissing on the Constitution whenever he feels like it, and the fact that we don’t know what he does or doesn’t believe makes it worse – it makes him a fraud. By now I am surely preaching to the choir, so hang with me. I now believe more than ever that getting involved in this campaign for Hillary, in this general election, is extremely important for the future of our country, for women, for immigrants, for young people, for minorities, for the LGBTQ community, and anybody who doesn’t fit the White/Straight/Rich/Christian mold of traditional power. So why does it seem like the Democratic electorate is still sleeping at the wheel?
While canvassing in Vermilion, I knocked on a door looking to speak to a 21-year-old female about getting registered and voting for Hillary. Her very surly dad met me at the door. He eventually allowed me a chance to speak with her but he stayed hovering at my shoulder, and when the three of us were on the porch, she waved me away. Might she support a different candidate? Perhaps. But she could also be an adult who feels pressured by family or those close to her to vote for her against her own interests. At a fancy dinner in Chagrin Falls (of course it was fancy, it’s Chagrin Falls) (Tara’s note: Why does such a bougie-liciously adorable Ohio town have *such* a bummer name?), my wife and I were sitting at a two top next to another couple. We weren’t “New York” close (Tara’s note: sitting ON TOP of other restaurant patrons, yet another NYC thing I don’t miss), but we were close enough that I could hear their conversation while Sasha was in the bathroom – they were discussing the election and it was clear that they were going to split their votes. She said she was voting for Hillary and told her BF that Trump is racist. He paused for a bit to collect his thoughts before feeding her a line about Trump’s business sense and then said, “He’s not really racist. He just wants to keep illegal immigrants out.” The GF didn’t answer. She didn’t say calling Mexicans rapists and murderers is in fact racist, or lumping entire swaths of Middle Eastern people into a category that shouldn’t even be allowed in the country also proves her point. She didn’t cite recent evidence from Trump’s African American themed town hall in Cleveland (which featured few actual Blacks) where he called for nationwide Stop and Frisk policies, the same policies that were deemed unconstitutional by a federal judge and made up a large portion of the successful mayoral campaign for NYC’s current mayor, Bill DiBlasio. If we can’t trust police not to shoot unarmed black citizens, we can’t trust them to equitably administer a policy like Stop and Frisk. She didn’t share these arguments, because she may have not had the information handy or she maybe was not comfortable disagreeing with her partner in the setting or at all.
I give up some of my time to campaign (and to rant on social media) for these people, those who are unable or afraid to share their opinions or their beliefs, those who need more people standing up for Democrats and Hillary in public. I posted a sign in my yard, the first in my neighborhood, a month ago.
Way too early? Sure! But I am worried about the enthusiasm gap. Trumpism has seemed to infect much of the nation, beyond the basket of deplorable and into the hearts and minds of traditional conservatives, of people who are wealthier than most but still want more, of many many straight white men and sometimes, by extension, their spouses. These people are excited about Donald Trump and don’t seem to mind that his relationship with facts is murky, at best. Ok, but the national demographics are in our favor, right? I know Democrats, progressives, longtime Hillary fans, and reluctant Millennials (who WILL do the right thing!) are out there, but they need to speak up. While Trumpsters seem to feel emboldened by crass, casual bigotry, they don’t seem to mind the lack of any real plans. Democrats may be playing the role of the aloof intellectual, waiting for this god awful process to be over, all the while assuming we will celebrate our first female President and a continuation of the progress of the Obama years, but that simply isn’t enough. My view is skewed by where I live, but the polls are also pointing to a real shrinking of Hillary’s post-convention lead. Now is not the time to sit it out.
I paid more attention than usual to the Republican Convention, because of the Cleveland storyline. A close friend and I even ventured in the day before it started to see the security state firsthand, and I followed that week by watching every night of the Democratic Convention. I found the DNC Convention to be thrilling, inspiring, and utterly moving, as it was designed, and the Democratic leaders spoke to my worldview, gave me hope for the future. After Hillary’s acceptance speech, I was on the phone with my Mother-in-law, celebrating the stories and speeches shared that week, and then she asked a very memorable question. She said, “What are you going to do to get Hillary elected?” Huh?! I am a lifelong Democrat. My career is in public libraries, one of the more beautiful, and totally socialist, institutions in America. I always vote, but I had never volunteered for a national campaign before. I took her important words to heart and vowed to do something, however small. Have I changed minds in Vermilion by canvassing? I am not sure, maybe. Have I helped the Ohio arm of the campaign verify and focus their data? Definitely. I have also been able to stand up and display that I am enthusiastic about a Hillary Clinton presidency. I don’t think she is the lesser of two evils. I think she could be a transformative leader, continue the Obama administration’s progress, and know she already is a great example to women and girls everywhere. Do I support every aspect of her past or every decision she has made? Of course not. But I like to think I can be rational about this crazy presidential election process we have. One of two parties is going to win. A protest vote doesn’t help the progressive cause, and it potentially sets it way back.
By now I am only speaking to the die-hards, but I ask you, like my MIL asked me, “what are you going to do to get Hillary elected?” Now is the time to post a sign, wear a button, get a bumper sticker, and probably most importantly, to talk to people. Share why you are voting for Hillary in this election and why it is important to you, now and for our future. Trumpism is real, not just reality TV. Those who share his worldview are out there, all around you. Don’t let them win the enthusiasm game in these very important final few weeks. Don’t sit out now.
Tara here, for one final note. We women tend to be taught that a lady should be sweet and agreeable, and not rock the boat. Happily, that way of raising girls is going where it should, straight into the trash can, but that way of thinking still prevails and not only does it keep many women silent when it comes to forming and speaking out about their political opinions, but it clouds and colors our very perception of women, including Secretary Clinton. Her mistakes are the same mistakes that have been made and all but ignored by the men that came before her and the people around them, members of both parties, but HER instances are somehow UNFORGIVABLE. His drive and hard work is her obsessive quest for power. Her husband’s actions somehow reflect on her. His booming, electrifying speech is her screeching, unsmiling nagging. Her attempt to be likable is perceived as contrived and desperate, while his slow jamming the news and playing the sax on late-night TV is charming and hilarious. It’s hard to win a place of power as a woman, especially when none have come before you and no one knows what a female president’s ‘look’ is. Her look? Fuck her look. Our next president, our first female president, is Hillary Clinton. But only if those who see through the bullshit and the bias like Benji and myself and SO MANY of you get out there and make it happen. Volunteer. Talk. VOTE.