Why #ImWithHer... Wait, Take a Moment and Listen

These lines got me thinking when they popped up on my Facebook feed this week just as Hillary Clinton was coming across the finish line as the first ever woman to win a Presidential nomination:

"STOP NOW. Stop cozying up to the banks, to the chemical companies, to the military-industrial complex, to the party machine, and to all the various financiers who make up the plutocracy now ruining this country. I know you know exactly what I'm saying, I remember you -- a lot of us remember you -- when you were raging against the Establishment machine on top of which you're now so sweetly perched. I don't want to sit on the sidelines longing for Elizabeth or Bernie. I want to hear what's true from you."

Here's my truth: I'm a fighter, a decades-in-the-trenches grassroots organizer, a writer, a mom. I'm a fierce believer that people have the power to make impact together and, in fact, I've been lucky to see people power make real change many times over at the city, state, and federal levels. And never has the organization I co-founded taken a donation from a corporation.

And yes, #ImWithHer

Because I'm with her, I've been accused of "cozying up" to all kinds of corporations I've never been any kind of cozy with, of being a "knothead who giggles into my little fist" and a "fool" simply for posting excerpts of a speech where Hillary was taking down Trump. I've been told that I support Hillary because, "I'm only parroting establishment misinformation." And that Hillary is the biggest liar in the race, even though an independent source, Politifact, finds the opposite to be true: Of all the candidates in the race, Hillary has been found to be the most truthful by a long shot.

This is all friendly fire. This is not coming from Trump supporters.

Most worrisome is that many of these people who profess to care about the dispossessed are saying that they'll stay home and not vote in the general election if their preferred candidate doesn't win--and some have even put forward that Hillary and Trump are the same.

They're not. And I'm still not quite sure how anyone could think they are.

I'm not alone in this; friends in the Bernie camp tell me that they're taking friendly fire too. That they too feel accused and unheard.

It's time to talk. It's time to share our own truths. One of the biggest problems with our nation right now is that we stop talking at the point of disagreement, and conversations degenerate into yelling matches instead. In fact, it's at the point of disagreement - if we just keep at it - that true dialogue that leads us toward solutions begins. It's uncomfortable, more difficult than yelling at each other in many ways, to do this; but it's never been more important to talk across our divides--to share our own truths-- to help heal the harm that has already happened in this election.

Because: Trump.

So here's my truth about why I, a mom who rages for justice, supports Hillary:

Decades of grassroots organizing has allowed me to watch which leaders can move a ball forward, and to see what happens when the TV cameras are no longer rolling.
 
What type of organizing? In 2006, I co-founded MomsRising to advance policy solutions relating to the fact that 82 percent of women become moms; that being a mom is a greater predictor of wage and hiring discrimination than being a woman; that one of the leading causes of poverty spells in our nation is having a baby; and to open doors to opportunity to everyone. Equal pay, childcare, paid family leave, healthcare -- too often those policy areas were just outright dismissed as something "cute" that were the result of personal failures of women to balance it all on our own.  This dismissal repeatedly happened in spite of the fact that women were just becoming half of our labor force for the first time in history.

In short, we started MomsRising because our public policies relating to women and families were then--and many still are today-- archaic at best and actively harmful to families, businesses, and our economy at worst.

We were looking for leaders who understood what was going on in our nation. At that time many elected leaders didn't (and still don't) fully understand that when so many women/moms are experiencing the exact same problems at the exact same time, we aren't having an epidemic of "mom failures;" instead we have national structural barriers to opportunity that not only hurt women and children, but also hurt our economy. So we were looking for leaders who understood that these policies - policies like paid family leave - were actually good for everyone. And for context, at that time it was even seen as a sign of weakness in some ways for leaders to take these types of family economic security policies seriously.

Structural barriers can be broken down. The doors to opportunity can be opened.  But it takes leaders with perseverance, compassion, grit, legislative savvy, and vision to open those doors.

Hillary is one of those leaders. Hillary has long understood these structural barriers--and she has stepped forward many times over. She was in the U.S. Senate when MomsRising started in 2006 and Hillary not only stood with us, she fought with us.

Hillary moved the ball forward on equal pay. She was a lead sponsor of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act, which was signed into law in 2009 -- and the lead sponsor of the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would stop retaliation for talking about pay levels, among other paycheck fairness tools. It's a mistake to forget about what a big deal her leadership has been on fair pay.

It's also a battle we're not done fighting - and is a battle that Hillary can again be a leader on. In 2016, women working full-time earned just 79 cents to every dollar that men earned, with moms and women of color experiencing even greater wage disparity. And again, these numbers don't just point to an injustice--they indicate an economy that's not operating properly. Studies show that pay parity would boost our GDP by 3 percent because women are the primary consumers in our consumer-fueled economy.

Unfair pay hurts everyone and it's a daily reality for too many women, including Felicia:

"As a young woman, I experienced blatant wage discrimination while working at a technical support center for a large retail corporation. I was hired on to work the exact same job as my brother-in-law, and after talking to him discovered that I was being paid about $4 an hour LESS than him, to do the exact same job. I went on to find out that ALL of the men at work, working the same job, with the same amount of experience, were making $4 an hour more than me - and, as it turns out, the women were making the lower wage like I was. I was outraged. I was also young and spunky--and didn't have anyone else depending on me for my wages at the times--so I took the risk of calling out my boss on the situation. He listened carefully, and said, 'Let me get back to you.' He came back about 10 minutes later and told me I'd be bumped up to the higher rate, but reminded me that we weren't supposed to share compensation information so I was not to discuss it with anyone else."

Hillary also successfully fought to move healthcare coverage forward -- and in no small part because of her early work, 9 out of 10 people in our nation now have healthcare coverage. What many people don't know is that earlier in her career, Hillary played a major role in getting the Children's Health Program (CHIP) passed which covers millions and millions of kids. Specifically, when the corporate insurance companies defeated her health care effort she championed as First Lady, she didn't give up. She worked with Republicans and Democrats to help create the Children's Health Insurance Program, which now provides health coverage to more than 8 million children, cutting the uninsured rate for American children in half. This program saves lives. 

Real lives. Lives like those of Angelica's son:

"My one-year-old has been really sick and having CHIP has meant being able to take my baby to the doctor.  Without it, there's a lot of things we wouldn't have caught in time.  He went from being in the 90 percent to 50 percent and having overall delays due to illness. My baby had to have surgery and now needs an expensive specialized formula that was covered by CHIP. It's been a really hard time for me and for all of us. The medical coverage has made it okay for me to take him to the hospital.  No child should go without medical help.  That's a fundamental human right.  That's unacceptable.  If I didn't have medical coverage like this, it may have meant death for my child."

Hillary has also long stood strongly for gun safety and against the corporate gun lobby, the NRA, which too many elected leaders fear to the point of inaction. In fact, as a U.S. Senator, Hillary co-sponsored the Gun Show Background Check Act, among other legislation that would require background checks for gun purchases; and as First Lady she strongly defended the Brady Bill and co-convened a White House Summit on School Violence after the Columbine tragedy. Hillary has broken the taboo of fighting the corporate gun lobby and she has brought forward the critically important voices of gun violence survivors to highlight the importance of gun safety in the 2016 election.

Voices like Cheryl's:

"Ten years ago I was one of the survivors who was shot at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle. An angry man forced his way into our offices by holding a gun to the back of the head of my 14-year-old niece who was meeting me at the office for a ride home. He then faced our receptionist holding a gun up to her face demanding to talk to a manager, so the receptionist came to get me. By the time she said, 'Cheryl there's a man here with a gun,' he was right in my face shouting. He was holding a gun at chest level and turning back and forth. I yelled for people to call 911 as he started shooting. I didn't even realize I'd been shot at first. It just felt like I'd been punched in the side. I turned to him and said why are you doing this? At that point he raised the gun and pointed it at my face. I dropped to the floor and thought this was it, 'I'm going to die.' My colleagues were on the floor next to me crying. I crawled to the doorway and then stood up and started running out hoping to find my niece. A SWAT team met me a block away and then I was loaded into an ambulance. I woke up a week later after a medically induced coma because they had to do so much surgery from the damage from the shooting. I was in the hospital for 6 weeks and had to go through over 20 surgeries. I was just one person that day who was shot. Luckily I survived. The impact even a single gunshot has on a person is huge. The reason I tell my story is so that people know that even if you survive the gun violence stays with you forever."

Please don't mistake my support for fawning; I want you to know that I'm clear-eyed about her faults. Is Hillary connected to the Establishment? Absolutely. She's used every tool and connection available to her - including those connections in the business world - to effective fight for women and children with her sleeves rolled up in rooms where there weren't reporters over and over again.

She's a warrior. These are important fights.

And, sure, other leaders have fought for women and children and were in those same fights too. Hillary didn't do it alone. Which brings me to the other part of my truth in terms of why #ImWithHer:

I'm not for Bernie Sanders. After all there are two sides of the coin, why I'm with her--and then also why I'm not with Bernie Sanders. I haven't ever written anything negative about Bernie Sanders. I respect so much of what he says--and all of this "friendly fire" has been counterproductive.

But right now, in this time when we are barely talking across our self imposed divides, it's essential for us all to come together around the candidate who has now won the democratic nomination for President. In this time it's no longer counterproductive to share our full truths about why we each choose our candidate preferences. In fact, it's necessary to share our full truths so we can all more deeply understand the costs and benefits of each candidate as we move toward unity.

So here's my truth on why I haven't been for Bernie: Over the past decade neither I, nor any of the colleagues who I double-checked with before writing this piece, ever saw Bernie Sanders or his staff really "go in" on many of the important legislative fights for paid family leave, fair pay, childcare, and more. To be blunt, when the s&*t hit the fan in times when everyone's Congressional staff pulled up a proverbial chair to figure out how to build support for these important legislative policies areas, the Sanders chair was largely empty. And, on the issue of gun safety, Sanders hasn't just been absent, his policy stands have been harmful.

That all adds up to be a big deal to me. 

While I applaud that Sanders has come to speak out about family economic security issues, particularly about the importance of paid family/medical leave, through this 2016 Presidential campaign and hope he continues to advance these policies; it's safe to say that he hasn't been a leading champion on these issues while serving in the U.S. Senate or in Congress over the many decades he's served.  

So what's my truth? It's a crazy election year -- crazier than normal -- and lots of misinformation is going around. Hillary isn't shady, she's been shaded by decades of right wing attack campaigns against her that are specifically intended to make people question her worthiness, and yet she's still standing strong with more popular votes, delegates, and super delegates than Sanders.

My truth is that what I've seen when the reporters weren't in the room and when no TV cameras were around is a person, Hillary, who ALWAYS fought the establishment for women, children, and families even when it wasn't politically expedient to do so. #ImWithHer because she's been with us all the way. She has our back. She really does. And now it's time for us to have her back all the way to the White House.