September 23, 2016Seeing the Old Dominion (Virginia that is) – 46 Days
How I Became a Den Mother for Hillary – 56 Days
I read something recently which suggested that it’s easier to do things 100% than less than 100%. The argument is that if you are 100% committed to being a writer, say, then you write every day. It’s a priority, not something you fit in around other things.
When I came to the United States to help defeat Donald Trump and help elect Hillary Clinton I came with the idea of writing about it. There were two things I would give 100% to – the campaign and the writing.
I have been writing but not sharing. Time to change that.
With 56 days until Election Day, I am committing today to giving 100% to sharing this story beginning today.
First, let me get you caught up, briefly.
I have settled it to helping the organiser in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia.
I chose Virginia before Hillary Clinton chose Tim Kaine as her Vice Presidential running mate (he’s a senator and former governor from here).
When I booked my ticket Virginia promised to be a battleground state. It was historically solidly Republican – it’s a Southern state, a one-time state of the Confederacy, it has an enormous military presence between the Pentagon and the naval base in Norfolk. But the suburbs of Washington DC have been growing exponentially – filling with immigrants and transplanted northern and western liberals.
From 1952 to 2004 the Republicans won Virginia in every Presidential election except 1964 when they went with Johnson over Goldwater. (Johnson won all but six states: Goldwater’s home of Arizona and the five states of the Deep South: Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina).
Barack Obama won Virginia in 2008 and 2012. Hillary Clinton needs to hold on to it. I used to live in Washington DC and have friends in this area so it seemed a good place to land.
And it has been, while also not being perfect.
The day I arrived I met with a state-wide organiser in a meeting arranged through a friend. He encouraged me to think about taking on a full-time paid organising job in Hampton Roads (the metropolitan area of Southeast Virginia encompassing Virginia Beach, Norfolk and Newport News). To that end he suggested I spend time with one of the best organisers in Northern Virginia and see what I thought.
So I met with Emma and folded into her team. She’s a bright, ambitious young woman, unusually worldly for Americans her age – she has European family and spends a lot time there. This election, and a coming stint teaching English in China, is her gap-year between an undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and beginning law school at New York University (NYU). After that she’ll get on with changing the world beginning with fixing America’s gun problem. She’s originally from Newtown, Connecticut – best known for the suburb of Sandy Hook and the massacre of school children they suffered in 2012.
I had genuinely been thinking of taking a paid position but quickly ruled it out. I no longer have the energy or passion for this game to give it 15 hour days for what would have then be 80+ days. The money it would have brought into my ever diminishing coffers would have been good but not enough to push me to Yes.
Plus, Emma had other ideas for me. She had done advance for Hillary Clinton; I had done advance for both the Clintons back in the day. As an American-Australian I have an outsider-insider’s view of this country – which she does a little bit too. She had recently secured the use of a house in Old Town for the remainder of the campaign. Democratic supporters had put it on the market but had decided to pull it back until November and let us make use of it until then. She needed someone to help with the house.
Emma believes in fate. She believes my arrival was meant to be – she wanted me as the den-mother for the house and to learn all the roles of her team so I can be a pinch-hitter, stepping in wherever I’m needed when I’m needed. As den mother I’d live in the house – which solved a big problem for me.
Tyler, the state-wide organiser, tried once more to tempt me into a full-time organising role – this time in Brunswick County, home to some 13,000 tough-going battlers nearly evenly split between blacks and whites on the North Carolina border. I admit it was more tempting than Hampton Roads but not tempting enough.
I want to have time to write and see friends who live around here and get to Washington Nationals baseball games – none of which would be possible if I were driving around a poor rural county for the next couple of months.
So I’m here, in Alexandria, and so I shall remain but for some forays to visit other parts of the state and maybe even areas a bit further afield like Pennsylvania and North Carolina – states that are battlegrounds.
I’ll leave it there for now, tomorrow I’ll tell you a bit about Alexandria and the work we are doing here.