Last week was an alarming one in American politics. Following the horrific massacre in San Bernardino, the leading Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump, called for a ban on Muslims entering our country.
I was feeling outraged and disheartened that such a high-profile candidate would so carelessly call for a policy of outright discrimination and intolerance. I was even more distressed that a vocal, and what seems like a growing, part of the electorate wanted to follow him down such a dark road.
And then this happened and it made feel a whole lot better.
Those are my daughters last Friday evening at a volunteer phone bank for the Bernie Sanders for President campaign. They were there not because I wanted them to be (quite the contrary), but because they chose to be. How cool is that?
They got an email invitation the night before (apparently they registered as volunteers on Bernie’s website long ago) and because it was close to home, my oldest daughter asked if she could go. I think she expected me to say no, for a couple of reasons. One, she is too young. And two, she knows I’m a strong Hillary Clinton supporter.
Bernie is my daughters’ candidate. They like that he isn’t funded by billionaires. They like his energy, his inclusiveness (contrast that to Trump!) and his ideas are the future they want to live in:
- free college and increased access
- a higher minimum wage
- corporations and the wealthy paying their fair share of taxes
- an emphasis on renewable energy to combat climate change
- equal rights and equal wages for women
Who wouldn’t like to live in that world?
While my daughters like Hillary well enough, they see her as the “toned down version of Bernie.” I’ll give them that. Her proposals are indeed more moderate and in my opinion have a far more realistic chance of passing given our divided government and contentious political climate.
They just don’t see Hillary as I do, which is not only as the most qualified candidate running, but also our chance to finally elect a woman as president. I find it fascinating — and somewhat frustrating — that the fact that she’s a woman doesn’t resonate with them. Is it good or bad they don’t see gender as an issue? We have a long way to go, dear daughters. (See the last point above, in the list of reasons you like Bernie.)
But last Friday night — just for the night — Bernie became my candidate, too.
A presidential candidate that can get my daughters this excited deserves my attention, at least for one night.
I said yes, with no hesitation.
“Really, we can go? We’re not too young?” my oldest daughter asked.
“You may be too young to vote, but you’re not too young to campaign and have your voice heard. Ask your sister if she wants to go, too.”
“Yes, I really want to go!” she answered.
“OK then, we’ll all go.”
We RSVP’d and headed down to the phone bank after school the next day. Not having done this before, they had some butterflies in their stomachs. I did, too, but it was because I have done this before.
I feared hang ups and hostility. I feared how my shy daughters would handle it and if it would put them off of ever doing this again.
After a short orientation and getting our log-in credentials for the Virtual Phone Bank, we began calling Iowa voters. Iowa, as we all know, is the first state to caucus for president, on February 1 next year. Our task was not to persuade people to vote for Bernie, but simply to ask if they’d decided yet which candidate they were supporting. If it was Bernie, we were to ask if they’d be interested in volunteering. If it was Clinton or Martin O’Malley, we were to ask if they had a second choice in the event their caucus is split.
We started calling. And as it turned out, my fears were unfounded.
My daughters were naturals. Well spoken, clear and confident. Unrattled by hang-ups. They encountered no hostile people, but I have no doubt they would have been largely unfazed by those, too. They were completely awesome and their “mom” wasn’t the only one who noticed.
The room broke out in applause.
In between calls (most of which went unanswered or straight to voice mail), they enjoyed the political banter of the volunteers. And they enjoyed the celebrations when a caller said they were supporting Bernie, which happened more often than I expected. (Yikes, is Hillary headed for an upset in Iowa?)
The atmosphere was overwhelmingly positive and their youthful enthusiasm was just the antidote we all needed at the end of a stressful and unrelenting week in political news.
It was one of my proudest mom moments. I am raising good citizens who want to be engaged in their communities and make the world a better place. Take that Mr. Trump.