Last Tuesday morning, I woke up a lifelong Iowan, a working mom, a wife, a small business owner. By dinner, I was being portrayed by national – and international – media as a “fake” Iowan.
It has taken nearly a week for the reality of my unexpected cup of coffee with Hillary Clinton to sink in. As soon as she sat down, I realized how privileged I was to have her ear that morning. The experience, from start to now, has been surreal, to say the least.
I walked into that coffee shop in LeClaire last Tuesday a Hillary supporter. I knew I would caucus for Hillary and that I’d vote for her. I left, however, a Hillary advocate. She took her seat at the table with Austin Bird, Carter Bell and me and introduced herself. She asked a little bit about each of us. When she arrived at me, I told her I work for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and told her I had a 15-month-old daughter.
“Oh, what a fun age!” She said, enthusiastically. “How much do you love being a mom?”
We spent the next few minutes talking about parenting and how much she adores being a grandma. Then she asked me about childcare. She was very genuine with her questions. They never felt forced or scripted. I’ve met a lot of politicians in my life. They all have their talking points and the issues that are important to them. They can schmooze and make me feel like the center of their world for the 20 seconds they talk to me. Then they move onto the next person and they use the same talking points about the same issues. And so on and so forth.
This was different than any of those interactions. Hillary talked to each of us about the issues we care about. We talked about our families and what is really important, like having access to quality childcare, education, and healthcare. We talked about reproductive rights and the important work Planned Parenthood does every day. We talked about the state of mental health care in Iowa and the country. We talked for over an hour about issues. All of them. She didn’t try to steer us back to her talking points. She was so knowledgeable about every issue we brought up. She was passionate about those issues. She was personable but not fake. Warm, but not condescending. She is probably one of the most accomplished women in the world, and it was like I was talking with a new friend over coffee.
I floated out of that coffee shop later that morning thinking there was nothing that could bring me down off that amazing high. But then Austin texted me, asking if the Daily Mail had called. He warned me not to speak to them. He said that they had threatened to publish some of his old Facebook posts if he refused to talk to them. He wasn’t even sure how a British tabloid was able to get to his private Facebook posts. Yet they had and he panicked.
That’s when my amazing morning with a woman whom I had looked up to my entire life got weird.
That afternoon, my dad called.
“Hannity is talking about you!” He was concerned Sean Hannity would say my name on the air. He didn’t.
However, Rush Limbaugh did say it the next day. With contempt dripping from his lips, my name fell out of Rush Limbaugh’s mouth – incorrectly, I might add: “Sara Sed- Sedlahsek, who works for PLANNED PARENTHOOD!”
According to Rush, Hannity and the rest of the right-wing clown show, I am not an “everyday Iowan”. I was a plant. I was bused in. I was a prop, a fake.
I’m not going to go into how ridiculous this is and how Rand Paul and Marco Rubio, oh, and I almost already forgot about Ted Cruz, packed their campaign kickoff events with their supporters.
I work full-time. I live in a small, rural town. My husband and I own a small business. I garden. I went to the University of Iowa. I graduated from high school in a small, rural Iowa town. My daughter has grand-friends who live across the street and she likes to go visit them and show them how much she’s grown. We like to take our dogs for walks as a family. Sometimes we have trouble making it from paycheck to paycheck. We worry about our retirement and our children’s college fund. I think about climate change and education funding. We live in a small town because we like knowing our neighbors.
If the Republican presidential candidates don’t think I’m a real Iowan, I’m really looking forward to watching them try to find someone who is.