a rambling meditation on four years
This is it. It’s the day we’ve spent the last 364 days dreaming and scheming and dreading and fretting about. It’s the day that we all swore we’d approach promising that we’d do all we can, put everything out there, leave it all on the field as they say in sports ball parlance.
A reminder as we head into the maelstrom: you do not have to doomscroll, or binge cable TV, or go anywhere blogs that might preemptively call the evening. This count could go on for a while, so take care of yourself, only believe the AP or sources like that, and settle in for a longer haul.
But today is also, in the internet parlance, a bit triggering for me, as it is for all of you.
I remember closing Oakland for Hillary on election night four years ago. Throughout the days beforehand, people had brought in bottles of champagne and cookies and flowers and an entire sheet cake with “Madame President” scrawled across it in choppy handwriting. I ended up handing out bottles of booze as tearful volunteers left the building that night once PA and FL were called for Trump. And because I’d been booze-free for a year and a half at that point and even though there was nothing I’d had rather have done at that point that drown my sorrows in rosé Mumm Napa, all I could do was keep a stiff upper as we closed up the HQ we’d built up, previously humming with volunteers and optimism that we’d be electing the first woman president, now filled with tear-stricken faces and a deep sense of unease after realizing that Donald J. Trump would be the next president of the United States.
The calls and texts started flooding in as soon as we realized PA and FL were gone. I was throwing out the remainder of stale cupcakes dropped off by a supporter when friends I’d cajoled weeks before to join the phone bank but told me there was “nothing to worry about” suddenly called in tears, telling me I’d been right to be worried, that they now wished they’d come by to help. I didn’t have the emotional fortitude to express what I really wanted to express, which was anger. Instead, I comforted them and let them cry while sweeping the remains of a crumbled MI call script into a dustpan.
When I got home from HFA HQ late that night, my very dear friend Kate came over and hugged me and we cried. She’d been phonebanking and getting involved, and had cheered me on as I tried to balance volunteering with a stressful job, new-ish sobriety and a whited sepulcher of a marriage. It was while hugging her that I cried for the first time, big snotty gasps of air and tears streaming down her back. I woke up the next morning to a crying hangover and Hillary’s concession speech.
I was so angry and bitter in the weeks and months afterward. Wanting to keep fighting, I participated in an HFA organizing training wherein I spoke briefly on how to interact with media, and nearly screamed at a Berkeley woman who got up and said that all we had to do was head down south and tell them that they were wrong - she said later that she’d voted for Jill Stein (Hillary won California, but still…) I stubbornly and defensively avoided the Women’s March, wanting to ask every single one of them if back in November they’d ever volunteered, or written letters, or if they’d voted third party. And I wanted to slap every single person who posted a SHOCKED “I can’t believe he would do that” post on social media after the Muslim ban, or demanded loyalty from James Comey, or carved up the EPA into useless parts. Because I’d known he would do that, so had every volunteer who’d come into our phone bank. We’d expected it, because when Trump told us who he was back in the GOP primary, we’d believed him.
I was sad and angry and scared and bitter. I’d been taught my whole life that working hard and doing good meant something. So I stayed completely away from politics and (relatively) put my head in the sand during the the 2018 midterms (I did phone bank, but not in any organizational way.)
It took volunteering at the Elizabeth Warren rally in Oakland to check my ego and remember why I love democracy and the political process. Seeing her connect with supporters and bring a crowd to tears, to speak with her 1v1 and have her clasp my hands —remember when strangers could touch your hands—and tell me how important the fight was, it took all of those things to remind me that pouting and being so weighed down by the “I told you so” chip on my shoulder wasn’t changing anything. It wasn’t persuading anything or getting anything done. In fact, it just made me that asshole wishing I was in the past.
And now, we’re here. I’ve taken yesterday and today off of work to help get all of this over the finish line. I want to know I’ve done all I could feasibly do to help determine the outcome of this election, the election we’ve been counting down to since 2016.
And the team that assembled over the last two months to put up and run the Biden virtual phonebooks is one of the kindest, funniest, dorkiest political crews I’ve ever worked with, and spending hours troubleshooting everything from unmuting Zoom to comforting a volunteer yelled at by the other side is one of the highlights of my year.
We’ve put together the plane as we’ve been flying it. And SO many of YOU, dear Missive readers, have helped us do that. From sending words of encouragement (all of you) to participating in your very first virtual phone bank (Chris) to helping us with data (Sarah) to becoming a Zoom maestro to keep our phonebooks working (Lilz!), you’ve stood up and done the work the cycle.
And outside of our volunteer organization, I’ve seen your own efforts across the country, from writing letters (Sheesh) to serving as a poll worker (Kate! And Greg!) to organizing in Ohio (Cullen!) to safely participating in targeted canvassing in at-risk neighborhoods (Alex D!) and so many other activities. You’ve all stepped up and done what you can to make sure the result of this election is one that restores, not destroys, our democracy.
Yesterday, I walked a coffee over to Austin Hunter’s place in SOMA. He’s the head of our merry band of volunteer pirates and one of the most formidable humans I know, but I wanted to make sure he was eating and well-caffeinated. We sat socially distanced on his stoop and remarked on how we couldn’t picture beyond today, that neither of us had even really contemplated what was next, but that we were proud we left everything on that field. Over the last week, we’ve had nearly a thousand people come through our virtual phone bank. It feels good to have done the thing, and made the mark.
So if you haven’t yet, VOTE. Take a deep breath. Step away from the computer. And get ready for the work ahead of us.
Be kind to yourselves, and to each other.