Ending the Apathy Fallacy

Bleeding Heartland welcomes guest posts, including first-person accounts of Iowa campaigns. A millennial shares her reflections on volunteering before the Iowa caucuses as a personal rebuttal to the “over-hyped” narrative “about my generation’s apathy towards Secretary Clinton’s candidacy.” -promoted by desmoinesdem

It was a long journey from Boston to Black Hawk County, Iowa. I’d set aside the normal rhythms of my life to follow my brother, an organizer for Hillary Clinton’s campaign, to his district to get out the vote for the caucus. My family and I had spent years cheerleading for Secretary Clinton from the sidelines, as voters but never as volunteers. In the wake of a primary season that has left us anxious and frustrated, we knew that we had to become louder and bolder in our support of Secretary Clinton.

Born in Hong Kong and raised between California and the United Kingdom, I’d grown up knowing that a critical part of a president’s job is how he or she advocates for and navigates America’s place on the world stage. As a college student at Yale, I took classes on political theory and grand strategy that culminated in case studies testifying to the importance of having strong, strategically-minded leaders who can think both globally and locally. As a Fulbright Scholar in Brazil, I saw daily how essential it is to have leaders who focus on the rights of women, children, and minorities, and the social and economic programs that they need to survive and thrive. Hillary Clinton is the clear and obvious candidate who fits all of these characteristics — who is best equipped to lead the US at home and abroad.

Much has been written over the past many months about my generation’s apathy towards Secretary Clinton’s candidacy. While there have been rebuttals to this over-hyped phenomenon – including Joan Walsh’s excellent opinion piece in The Nation – I wanted to add my voice to the furor. Electing the first female president of the United States would be an historic and long-overdue achievement. But I’m less interested in the symbolism of the gesture than I am in what it represents for the women, and yes, the men, of America.

At the second door I knocked on in Iowa, a man told me that Hillary Clinton kills babies. Speaking to voters like him has only strengthened my belief in a Clinton presidency. Hillary Clinton would be the first president who truly understands the importance of legislation protecting the right to paid family leave, equal access to contraception, and equal pay. For women of all ages, finally having a president who understands the challenges of balancing family and work, and the need to protect our basic freedom to live our lives in the way we want, would be a powerful step forward.

Over the course of my three days canvassing in Iowa, I knocked on hundreds of doors and spoke to dozens of women and men. With few exceptions, every single woman I spoke to was enthusiastic about Secretary Clinton’s candidacy, and what it represented for women in this country. We connected about how impressive we find her intellectual prowess, her pragmatism, her deep experience. We celebrated how cool and collected she has remained in the face of misogynistic attacks from Republicans and fellow Democrats. Mothers told me they would be bringing their daughters to the caucus, and that they’d be leaving work early to get there on time; women in their eighties told me that they had already arranged to be driven to their caucus sites by children and neighbors; many of them thanked me for what I was doing for “Hillary” – and for them. Many of the men I spoke to, of all ages, told me they’d be there, casting their vote for Clinton, with or without their wives or female loved ones. Secretary Clinton was a compelling candidate for them both because of and distinct from her gender.

My mother and I agreed that we’d rarely felt a stronger sense of sisterhood than we did over the course of the weekend – or a greater sense of promise and expectation. Spending time in living rooms and kitchens, on doorsteps and driveways, talking to the people of Iowa was a powerful reminder that the narrative of apathy and indifference painted by the media about Clinton’s candidacy has been, in many ways, a fabrication. People have been inspired by the vision of the future that she represents: one in which the progress that Obama has achieved in healthcare is built upon, America remains strong at home and in the eyes of the world, the rights of women, children, and others are preserved and extended, and more Americans receive access to the educational opportunities they deserve debt-free. Like so many other Americans I spoke to, I am more convinced by and hopeful about policies that are plausible and actionable than I am by proposals that are impossible to pay for and unlikely to come to pass. After years of in-fighting and partisanship, we are ready for a leader who will make change, build bridges, and get things done. The fact that she’s a woman, and an extraordinary role model for young women like me, is an added benefit.

I’ll end with the story of another door in Iowa. Betty is ninety-five and lives alone. After I handed her the flyer with her caucus location on it, she told me that she’d go if someone could arrange a ride. My brother called a volunteer who lives down the street to take her to the caucus. As I left, she looked at me in the eyes and said, “I’ve been waiting my whole life for this. I want to be there to stand up for Hillary.” For all that my life has been seventy years shorter than hers, I couldn’t agree more — or have said it better myself.

  • Thank you Zoe

    Thank you for coming to Iowa to help encourage people to attend the caucus. (Thanks also to those who worked for Bernie.) People like Zoe and many others drumming up enthusiasm are one of the benefits of having the first in the nation presidential caucuses.

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