Iowa Offers Lessons in Love and Politics by Erica Jordan (2/1/2016)

Pictures from my day as a Republican-ish person featuring: Marco Rubio, his wife Jeannette, and Trump supporter Sarah Palin

IMG_3882    IMG_3883Pictures from my day as a Republican-ish person featuring: Marco Rubio, his wife Jeannette, and Trump supporter Sarah Palin

Today was the first day of the 2016 Presidential contests. I spent the day volunteering with the Marco Rubio for president campaign. In the beginning of the day, I had a mild sense of anxiety about the work I would be doing. Would my contribution prove to be significant? Would I be compromising my values by campaigning for a candidate I don’t fully support? I worried about my friends from school seeing my activities at the Rubio campaign headquarters and assuming that I’d switched sides. My first hours working in the campaign volunteer headquarters served to initially confirm my fears. As I was working I looked around and to my dismay the only people of color in the room were members of my Wake the Vote cohort. In my head this only confirmed my suspicions that the Republican party was the party of wealthy, old, white, men. I felt a little jaded as I left voicemail after voicemail on the answering machines of Iowa caucus goers as I sat among a mix of college and middle age white volunteers. Why had I been assigned to a candidate whose supporters didn’t look like me or come from similar socioeconomic backgrounds? I grew tired as I left the same cheery informational message or gasped at the sudden sound of a dial tone. Then something completely unexpected happened: I became totally emotionally invested in the campaign. After a visit from Senator Rubio to the campaign headquarters, the volunteers in the room were electrified. Rubio’s charisma and charm were evident as he worked his way around the room, smiling for video with the press and for selfies with the volunteers. He took the time to shake every hand that was extended and earnestly thank volunteers for their time and effort. He gave a short speech outlining his vision for the country and emphasizing the success that he said depended on the grassroots efforts of his supporters. His wife Jeannette and children traveled with him and offered up support so genuine in its sincerity that it was touching. The fervor that Marco left in his wake as he exited was palpable. People threw themselves into the task of phone banking with a remarkable energy, and I found myself being swept up in the momentum. I enthusiastically went canvassing with the other members of the Wake the Vote cohort and became heavily invested in the idea of Marco Rubio’s success. With each door we knocked on, I became more and more convinced that my political ideology could completely reverse within the span of a couple of hours. What does it matter that I disagree with Rubio on most of his policies, I was impressed by the amount of commitment I saw in other volunteers. From a state senator who traveled from Wisconsin to phone bank to a college student taking off a semester to be fully dedicated to the campaign, I was impressed by the amount of adoration for Rubio as both a man and a candidate. I began to separate the personal from politics and became enamored after talking with Rubio and witnessing the effect he had on the campaign volunteers. By the time it came down to the actual caucus, I truly believed that Marco Rubio may have been the candidate I should have been supporting all along. Standing in the bitter cold for more than 2 hours handing out signs and stickers and creating impromptu chants seemed a small price to pay for helping get the person I now viewed as the strongest GOP candidate closer to the nomination. By the end of the night I was freezing, exhausted, and totally optimistic that Rubio was going to sweep the caucuses because of my efforts. And then something even more unexpected happened: he didn’t. Rubio came in third, and while in hindsight it was a strong finish for a candidate that has struggled for media attention in a presidential cycle that favors candidates at the extremes of the ideological spectrum, I found myself disheartened. I was impressed by the attention to minute detail that went into organizing a campaign, and I thought that my last minute efforts would have been the proverbial missing cog in a well oiled machine. I was disillusioned because after a hard day working for Marco he still didn’t “win”. I began to doubt myself again: had my time as a Republican lasted for only one day? The political process that I got to be a part of in Iowa today made me challenge all the assumptions I made about the parties and their bases and my place within this system as a Black woman, and I’m extremely glad that it did. I realized that it was not Marco Rubio himself that I was attracted to, but the very mechanics of a political campaign and the democratic process. I’m thrilled to be able to continue on this journey next week during the New Hampshire primary, even if I have to do it as a born-again Democrat who fell in love with Marco Rubio for one day.

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