I am a volunteer for Carolyn Long, who is running for the House seat in Washington’s 3rd Congressional District. This is my first experience volunteering for a political campaign, and I have decided to document the experience in a set of blog posts to commemorate my contribution to the Year of the Woman. I cannot say enough positive things about Carolyn; she’s brilliant and articulate, charismatic and charming, etc. and so forth, but this story doesn’t actually start with her. It starts a little further back… with Trump.
Unlike most of my colleagues in the Portland metropolitan area, I wasn’t surprised when Trump won. After growing up in northern Idaho, I knew that vast swathes of our country completely abhorred what they viewed as pretentious elitism in educated populations. While they might show some pride in a first generation college student among their family members, such a relative would inevitably be a black sheep, met with skepticism and off-handed jabs at family gatherings, and likely considered “a little uppity” behind closed doors. I knew that rural Americans value their religious moral high ground far more than actual empathy, and that they can be easily manipulated by any politician who claims to share their vitriol for newfangled ideas and their love for masculine displays of superiority typically manifesting in loud orgies of trucks, firearms, and cheap beer.
In 2011, after finishing my degree, with three children and 10 years into a tumultuous marriage, I made the difficult decision to leave rural America behind and move to the Portland, Oregon area. The move coincided with my divorce and required the relocation of three school-aged children as well as the harrowing task of convincing their father to move alongside us. But I’d had enough. As a female civil engineer four years out of college, I had experienced enough sexual-harassment and exaggerated gender bias to fuel my desire to flee at any cost.
It had been five years since I’d left when the 2016 election rocked the delicate balance of my universe, but still I was not surprised. I warily watched the news intermittently throughout that fateful day at work, and in my last meeting of the day I sat with my manager at the time in the corporate Café and shared with him my fear. He voted for Trump, but admitted he’d been out of the country for most of the campaign and did not really follow the news or politics. Still, at the end of our meeting he told me not to worry, because Hillary would win. I shook my head. He didn’t know.
I have read that social media has caused this problem, that it has allowed us to create personal bubbles with sounding boards that simply parrot back to us our ideas and opinions. I wonder what is worse – connecting only with people who agree with you across the Internet, or never connecting with them at all and relying solely on your church or your PTA or family members all residing within a 25 mile radius of their place of birth. We have always existed in bubbles, but I think perhaps the Internet did cause this to some degree.
Change occurs slowly. On January 1, 1863, Lincoln passed the Emancipation Proclamation, outlawing slavery, and in 1870 the Fifteenth Amendment granted black men the right to vote, but this did not become a protected right in practice until the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. It took another half century after black men’s suffrage before women of any color were granted this right, and another half a century before they were treated as separate individuals from their husbands with the ability to obtain individual credit or take issue with sexual assault by one’s own husband.
Throughout history, the veracity of a society’s objections to progress are directly commensurate with the pace of that progress, and I would argue that the pace of that progress is driven by the speed with which a society can access information, good or bad. The printing press brought increased access to reading materials and with it a religious revolution accompanied by the backlash and severe religious persecution. In the Victorian age, steam travel both by rail and by water enabled an entirely new class of citizen the opportunity to travel beyond the small community of their birth, and it is no coincidence that this increased enlightenment and broader perspective was met by a cultural wave striving to fight the resultant moral corruption of the new generation. The radio and telephone ushered in the roaring 20s only to be countered by the organized temperance movement and a new era of fervent evangelism. Televised news brought us the cultural revolution of the 1960s, followed by the conservative backlash that brought us the 1980s.
The Internet introduced an almost instantaneous traveling speed for information, and the amount of progress we have seen since its inception is staggering. But we must remember that one person’s progress equates to another’s painful change, and record progress must therefore cause unseen pain to those who oppose it. We are moving forward, but today we are feeling the necessary backlash, necessary because the motivation spurred by opposition is what is required to prevent progress from wasting into apathetic stagnation.
I was complacent before Trump. It had been easy to win fight after fight. Forward progress felt like a downhill stroll and it certainly didn’t need my help. The horror of my worst fears coming true on election night shook me to my core. A man who believes that women are truly worth less than men, that they are simply objects to be graded and judged and thrown out when they are past their prime, a man who represents the antipathy of everything that is good and compassionate and honest – this man is now President, and people I know, people I work with every day, pass on the freeway, or wave to in my neighborhood, looked at this man and what he stands for and with their vote declared that they agree with him. I look at my daughter, all hope and fire and unfettered determination, and I fear I do not know how to possibly prepare her for this new world.
And so I woke up. I allowed myself a week to grieve as so many women across the country did, and then I began to plan. My action began with the women’s March, but as a full-time working mother of three children and now two stepchildren I knew my precious time would be squandered on mere rallies and protests. The current representative in my district is Jaime Herrera Beutler, a Republican who has proven herself willing over the past year and a half to toe the party line and march to Trump’s drum. If we are going to keep pushing progress forward, everyone across the country must do their part, and I knew that my part needs to include working to make this one red House seat in Washington State’s 3rd Congressional District blue again.
The entire country is depending on us. Let’s get to work and FLIP THE 3RD!
To learn more about Carolyn Long, visit ElectLong.com or follow her campaign on Facebook at Elect Carolyn Long. This blog is not affiliated with the campaign and is my own independent creation; all opinions expressed throughout are solely my own.