Hard to believe we’re nearly a month out from the election. The campaign has picked up steam so much that it feels like I’m barreling down a hill with no brakes. Then, this week hit an extra gear when we got a boost from a progressive group from Pittsburgh who held an event for my campaign. My super red conservative district has been more welcoming that anyone would have guessed, but the chance to bask in the glow of pure, unadulterated liberal love was the injection of adrenaline I didn’t even know I needed.
I pride myself on being authentic on the campaign. I speak about my life experiences and introduce Sandy as my wife, and yet, there are still times when I feel myself holding back a little, afraid of pushing people too far–even democrats around here. There’s this sort of weird conservative fog that hangs in the air, repressing people who want so much to think of themselves as really progressive. Mostly, though, people whisper I’m a democrat… when I knock. I always say, I know, I have a list.
Then came the Kavanaugh hearings last week. Like many of you, I am a survivor of sexual assault. My experience is far too much like Dr. Ford’s for comfort. Thursday I was in a bad place, watching the disgusting display of indignation and anger from not only the spoiled-brat-turned-nominee, but the entire joke of a committee as well. The message to women or any victim was simply: Whatever. We don’t care. Our privilege entitles us to wield our power and shame you further. I felt physically ill.
The next day, a few members of the group who attended the Pittsburgh gathering came up to canvass with me. The morning began cloudy and cold, matching my gloomy mood. I wondered if I should even go out to talk to voters in such a state. I mustered up the strength to meet my four helpers and I am so very glad I did. The first thing we did was give each other a long, tight, affirming hug. We shared a few thoughts and shed a couple of tears, gathering strength from one another. Then, we squared our shoulders and headed out.
As we pulled into the target neighborhood, the sky cleared. The sun shone brightly and buoyed our spirits. The reception we received was amazing. Suddenly I realized that we were providing hope to many women that day. A thirty-something woman who said she was a sexual assault survivor, distraught, closed up in her house, feeling alone. She said meeting me and knowing I’m running to represent her meant there was hope for her. The woman who threw herself into my arms at the door when I said I was a candidate. The young father who worries about his wife and daughter. Neither had had never voted. He asked me for registrations and a sign for his yard. The 90 year old woman who spent her life savings searching for treatments for her terminally ill daughter, who finally travelled to Paris to find a treatment. Now she worries about her daughter’s financial and medical future. The woman who told me she was a Republican, but the party left her at Obama, and she thinks we are losing our democracy. The woman running the food bank who was told by the religious council that she’s giving away too many vouchers, and that they could not house a homeless woman because she was single. What the Hell?
I’m collecting these stories. Every person is a new lesson in humility and gratitude for me. Their stories touch me and galvanize me. They are the voices forgotten in our noisy, selfish, internet, reality TV, self-absorbed world. We walk by them every day, without a thought. I find I stop and talk to people much more now, even when I’m not in campaign mode. Five weeks from tomorrow this race will be over one way or another. Regardless of the outcome, this experience has profoundly changed my life. I’d like to think it’s making me a better person. Thanks for indulging me as I continue on this journey.