Look, I like Bernie Sanders. He's fired up liberals and young voters with passion and principles. I've watched every debate and town hall since election season started. I understand his strong rebuke of our system. I don't agree, however, with how he seems to denounce just about every aspect of capitalism and business, and promises a whole lot of things, such as making Wall Street pay for free college. I don't think his idealism and so-called "revolution" will actually solve problems in our divided government. And righteousness is not a plan.
So I decided to get involved with Hillary's campaign. I've been hosting one of her staffers for nearly three weeks. She's a 23-year-old who deferred medical school to work as a field organizer across the country. She's whip smart, poised, and polite, and works tirelessly to get local volunteers like me to canvas and phone bank. We have fascinating discussions with the neighbors. We talk about how qualified and pragmatic Hillary is, even as we appreciate Bernie.
None of us are millionaires or billionaires. We believe progress happens in steps, not by proclaiming it should be so.
I also happen to evaluate my candidates the same way I'd evaluate any job applicant. Is this person competent? Do they share my values? What sort of relevant experience do they have? Can they work well with others? What have they accomplished? Can they own up to their mistakes?
When I hear of a free event to hear Hillary speak just 7 miles from my home, I just have to go.
March 22, 2016
I arrive at Rainier Beach High School. The line is already really long, coiling out of the parking lot onto the street. The news vans are everywhere. I'm impressed by the variety of people here in one of the most diverse areas of all of Seattle.
My husband Robert and I chat up a storm with others as we wait to be processed through metal detectors. Many of us volunteers share about our experiences calling people and knocking on doors. We've all heard the phrase "I like Bernie but...". We agree: the country needs to dump Trump and Cruz is dangerous. We talk about the Bernie supporters, all of whom are passionate and some of whom are downright nasty.
The event volunteers are working valiantly to maintain our spirits. One young lady tries to get cheers going by yelling "Hillary," "I believe that she can win!" and "I'm with her." The chants die down quickly. Now if only this had been a Seahawks game....
There's a guy dressed as Captain Hillster. I applaud his positivity and consider his outfit a step up from that dude at Trump's rally who dressed up as the xenophobic wall that will never be built.
We're in! We're there early enough to score a spot near the stage.
As others shuffle in, we continue to mingle with fine people. There are some disabled folks seated near the stage, moms, dads, kids, and a whole lot of media members towards the back. Nobody looks angry. Many of us wish we had chairs. Everyone is excited they got in; hundreds of others are relegated to the overflow section outside.
There are Hillary signs, shirts, and buttons galore. We hear the American Nurses Association has just endorsed Clinton. I'm not surprised. She's pulled down so many endorsements from organizations around the country, including the Machinists Union, a voting block for Washington, the home of Boeing. She also has an extraordinary number of supporters at the federal, state, and local level. She knows you need alliances and partners to make things happen and she's fostered many relationships. (Bernie has no Senators endorsing him and shockingly few other partner endorsements.)
A beaming lady named Kim waits next to us. She has three kids who attend this school. She tells me it was chosen because it's the most diverse school in Seattle, and in fact, the most diverse precinct in America. Who knew? Her daughter got picked to sing the national anthem for this event, the one that might feature our first woman president. So yeah, tonight's a big deal.
A booming voice over the loud speaker kicks things off. As Kim's daughter walks to the stage to sing the "Star-Spangled Banner," Kim says "Somebody else needs to tape it 'cuz I'm gonna get all teary-eyed." I love that she said "tape." With our iPhones a blazin', her daughter sings boldly and with conviction. Her mom isn't the only one who's teary-eyed.
Three people who look like a diversity ad campaign take the stage...actual millennials for Hillary! They articulate why it's important to caucus. The young Asian woman takes the microphone. She talks about how as a little girl in China, she heard Hillary Clinton's famous 1995 speech on the radio: "Women's rights are human rights and human rights are women's rights." This forever changed her view of America, a country where her family later emigrated. She talks about how her family found the healthcare situation very dire because they were denied coverage for pre-existing conditions. It was Hillary who laid the groundwork for the Affordable Care Act, and who has consistently advocated for women and children. Her voice is shaky, as are her nerves, but we can tell: she is bursting with pride to be on the stage that Clinton will soon take.
Next up are Seattle's Mayor Ed Murray and his husband. If you're not used to hearing about men and their husbands you might not live in Seattle. It's just that kind of city. Mayor Murray isn't the only elected official in Washington who's endorsed Clinton. It's both Democratic Senators Cantwell and Murray and Governor Inslee. To say that Seattle is liberal is to say that Seattleites like coffee. Mayor Murray talks about many issues including the minimum wage increase and marriage equality. He offers up his husband, "The First Gentleman" of Seattle, as someone who could help Bill Clinton, should his spouse win this election.
He then introduces Hillary as the "next President of the United States."
The roaring crowd is very kind to her and she is very kind back, working the crowd with handshakes before she takes the podium beneath the school banners. Bonus! She's wearing that long forest green coat, one that I've admired before. (Is it bad that I mentioned her outfit?) Haters would say it's pandering to the "Evergreen State"; I say it's being fashionably relevant.
The first thing she does is show gratitude to the people who got her onstage: the elected officials, her staff, and volunteers. She says she's proud of the school's accomplishments and the crowd goes nuts! The golden rule of public speaking is to know your audience and Hillary is no slouch in this department.
I watch closely in a way only a close-up view allows. I'm struck by her elegance, in part because a young fan next to me exudes, "She's beautiful." It's not just her stature and that coat, her scarf, and pumps. I'm also struck by her emotion. Her face shows passion and anguish at times, as in when she talks about the horrific terrorist attack in Brussels just hours before. I've heard her talk about terrorism before, but this night it feels decidedly urgent.
The Secret Service dudes, by the way, are unflappable. Are they even listening?
She talks about being a partner to Washington, calling Seattle a "great American city" and applauding our progressivism. I'm surprised somehow as she talks in detail about policy that can help our industries and small businesses. Unlike Bernie who seems to make everything about Wall Street, she targets her speech. She cites actual plans for doing things here.
She then lays out a framework for the rest of the evening.
The Test of 3 Things
Whoever the next President is ought to pass three tests:
1) Make a positive difference in the lives of Americans
2) Keep us safe
3) Bring the country together
1) Positive Difference
When elaborating on that first one, she surprises me with a rather poignant point. She says we all see images of people at rallies who are angry (read: Trump's angry rallies). But rather than denouncing or dismissing them, she gives their anger context. She talks about the great recession and people losing their homes and savings, of wages being stagnant for 15 years and many feeling like they're left behind. She reminds us that she wants to help the middle class, to raise incomes, to have family leave, as well as reduce the burden of student debt.
The only mention of Bernie is in a policy distinction regarding college tuition. Not once does she demonize him, even as he often makes claims that the billionaire class is buying this election for her.
She talks about the need to act immediately on climate change, and I'm struck by her pledge of solar panels across our nation. She cites the Paris Agreement that was signed by 190 nations and says that it must be enacted; otherwise it's just a piece of paper. She talks about the Republicans' implacable obstructionism. (I do so love a good vocabulary.) I get a little giddy thinking we could be using clean, renewable energy under the next president.
2) Keep Us Safe
The point about keeping us safe showcases her strength as Secretary of State, and as someone who's been by Obama's side. There's reasonable critique of some of her decisions, but compared to the Bush years of unilateralism, I'm with her. And I don't think Bernie's vote against the Iraq war makes him qualified on matters of national security. She talks about the Brussels tragedy, not to instill fear and racial profiling like the Republicans have, but to talk about smart power and engaging our allies. She is not only informed on these topics, she is downright, inarguably Presidential. My mind starts to wander to so many other countries that have already had tough women at the helm: Thatcher, Merkel, Bhutto. Why is America so behind?
There is nobody else in the race whose knowledge of the world approaches Clinton's. She seems genuinely upset that Trump would talk about wall building and enhanced torture in response to the bombings. Walls don't stop the Internet from working and that is where ISIS is recruiting and propagandizing! I'm too am upset. Cruz's idea of patrolling Muslim communities? Asinine.
3) Bring Us Together
Her third point is the one that resonates most. She talks about bringing the country together and says we really need more love and kindness. She suggests we can and should talk about politics. We don't need to put someone down to lift others up. We can engage, respectfully. Therein lies a major difference between her and others. Rather than just vilify those with different views, she talks about finding common ground, just as we must stand our ground on matters of principle. Her take on bi-partisan governing is steeped in experience.
I'm inspired. I'm surprised. I'm surprised by how inspired I am.
Oh sure, I know all politicians say they can unify the country and they usually don't. But I'm struck by how sincere this call is. Even after being targeted with incessant vitriol, she has remained resilient and poised to lead. Haters are going to hate, but she's proven time and again that she fights for others and cares about the future. She calls Trump out as a demagogue and bully who deserves a timeout. She's not aiming for snide laughs; she is sincerely shocked that a presidential candidate could be so inappropriate and so hateful.
Calls of "I love you Hillary," and "Madam President" percolate in the crowd, but she doesn't respond. She has more to say.
When the microphone stops working, she handles it like a champ. She says this would be a good opportunity to be quiet. Then off the cuff, she remarks about how she gets criticized for speaking too soft, or too loud, smiling too much, or not enough. All this judgment seems to be launched at her, in no small measure, because of her gender.
Looking around at the range of eager faces in the crowd, I reject the way she and her supporters have been simplified and demonized. I know of hundreds of staffers and volunteers who are working their hearts out, and millions (not just millionaires) have already voted for her.
As the evening winds down, and we hear Katie Perry's anthem "Roar," there's a buzz in the air of having just witnessed history. Hillary calls on us to volunteer some more, to get involved, and be engaged. To that I say, of course!
And more than ever, I hope to say Madam President.