I am a former campaign organizer from a major battleground state who was “working to elect democratic candidates up and down the ballot.” So it goes without saying that the election season of 2016 changed my life. Beyond the obvious major upset of the election of an orange racist, sexist, privileged, childish, insecure man, having the chance to work on a campaign was an eye opening experience.
Now I know we’ve been discussing the day after the election, but for my story you have to know a little bit about the days before to understand what the day after was like…
As an organizer my days ran for about 14-16 hours a day every single day of the week – no breaks, except for sleep which was more like a nap. We spent countless hours out in the heat (often forgoing food to save time) with clipboards, info sheets, and pens in hand asking anyone and everyone if they were up to date on their registration. You know those pushy sales people at the mall stands that try to pull you in with questions? We were like that except we’d chase you down and walk along with you until you told us to fuck off or threaten to call the cops. But unlike salespeople who try to sell products, we were trying to save the world from a Trump Presidency.
Every day in the evenings we’d sit for 4 hours to plug in ~150 calls talking to strangers, ring after ring after ring, about their support, and on the weekends we knocked on hundreds of doors to talk to folks in person. In between our work, we were yelled at, we were spat on, we were threatened, cursed, belittled, occasionally attacked and encountered other frightening situations.
What’s your work like? People asked. My answer: There is at least one point every single day when I just wanted to sit and quit and hide in a corner. But then there was also a moment in every day when I was reminded of why my work was so important. This got me fired up and ready to get up the next day and do it all over again.
All these days really became one long day in preparation for a good night's sleep on November 8th.
On the night of November 8th 2016, I was ready to be done with the election season of 2016. I was ready to put all of the negative interactions and horrendous people I had met in the months before behind me.
Until the last minutes of the polls being open, we were out knocking on every door we could reach before returning to watch results come in at our local offices. I thought I was ready; I wasn’t.
I can’t recall the exact time but I physically fainted at some point in the evening. I couldn’t breathe as I saw his face plastered on the screen with every update. It was as if I allowed myself to take a breath, the reality of his victory would become real--so I held it. The night passed in a blur, some people were screaming in their phones outside, some were silently sobbing by the wall. But mostly people were just holding onto one another.
I didn’t sleep for the next two days until exhaustion wore me down. Our team walked with a large cloud of depression wherever we went. Frankly the protests that erupted around the country immediately the next day were insulting and I didn’t care for people’s anger then. Where had everyone been in the months, the weeks, the days before when organizers were begging for an hour of their time? The power from those protests alone could have made a difference.
But this was just the beginning of the could-have, should-have, and would-have…
Many of us from the campaign chose not to talk to anyone outside of our office. I didn’t have answers, I didn’t know how to comfort others, and for the first time in my life I struggled to find the positive aspects of this situation.
It’s been nearly 70 days since November 8th and it still feels like that day hasn’t finished. It may even be another 70 days and this feeling may still stay.
I’ve since left my campaigning grounds, and I’ve been trying to find closure or some middle ground amidst all the chaos. I know I don’t want to let anger and resentment win -- ‘cause that’s the easy way. I want to believe in the idea of engagement again with my heart -- and not just say it for the sake of saying it.
I am looking forward to the next chapter of achievements for some of the major movements in our country today, movements that will evolve from Black Lives Matter and women’s social issues. These next chapters when finally the day of the election will pass and my new day will dawn.