US Politics

An Eerie Election in Erie

Image: PBS

In August, I took a brief hiatus from graduate school to accept a job as a political organizer with the Pennsylvania Democratic Party. Although I had initially been a Bernie Sanders supporter in the Democratic primary because of his progressive vision for America, once that ship had sailed, and it was Hillary Clinton versus Donald Trump in the general election I knew what I had to do to ensure that when the dust settled I was on the right side of history. I headed hours away from the comforts of my life in Washington, DC to Erie, Pennsylvania in support of Secretary Hillary Clinton and Democratic ideals. I also went with the aim of helping elect other down-ballot Democratic contenders in elections, bearing Obama’s presidency in mind and being intellectually honest in the fact that a democratic leader means nothing without the right supporting cast around them to assist in bringing their vision to fruition.

I arrived in Erie the day after Democratic vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine had visited to speak to the Erie residents. This visit came weeks after Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump had made a trek of his own to the top of Pennsylvania to check in on Erie voters and let them know that their votes mattered tremendously. Based on conversations held with locals upon my arrival to Erie, two things immediately became certain. First, residents were more energized by Trump’s visit than they were by Kaine’s because it is a long-standing tradition for presidential hopefuls to stop through Erie. Second, based on the first reality acknowledged, my team and I would have an uphill battle to fight if history was to be made, so we fought.

We traveled to local colleges and schools. We went to community centers and sporting events. Still, a truth remained— many of the millennials we were regularly in contact with realized how toxic a Trump presidency could potentially be for themselves and other groups that make up America, but they also could not come to grips with how Bernie was treated during the primaries.

In a world where Hillary Clinton’s trustworthiness was already on the ballot, the Democratic Party’s actions to undermine Bernie Sanders’ success in the primary coupled with Clinton’s proximity to Debbie Wasserman Schulz immediately following the whole ordeal gave rise to a perception that proved to be almost impossible to shake. For adults in Erie who have had Democratic leadership for the majority of recent memory without much improvement to the lives of everyday people, they were unenthusiastic about the prospect of a Democratic president being able to bring local change that Democratic mayors and senators of the past had failed to deliver. In the world of politics where perception is the reality, these perceptions effectively issued a death-knell to the idea of a Trump-Kaine victory. Donald Trump honed in the perception issues and played to them, constantly decrying how Bernie Sanders had been treated badly and asking what the electorate had to lose by voting for change. With this acknowledgment of wrongdoing at the top of the Democratic Party and the challenge he made to voters to try something different, Trump was able to catalyze a revolution within our loyalist voter base that showed on Nov. 8th when Trump became the first republican to win the state of Pennsylvania in twenty-eight years. A Republican populist with no political experience beating out a well-credentialed Democratic stateswoman taught us all a lesson in transformative politics and shattered all poll predictions.

On the back end of what can only be described as a political revolution, I am left not knowing how to feel. In the earliest days of president-elect Trump, there have been reports of members of the LGBTQ community committing suicide rather than facing an America where their very existence may potentially be challenged every day. There are further reports on social media of intolerant messages being placed on structures, women getting groped and Muslim-Americans being harassed. There have been protests in major cities all across the country, and I would argue that they have been speaking to a very real fear. Cabinet picks are typically one of the earliest indicators of how an administration will be run. Just recently, President-elect Trump has identified Steve Bannon, a man who has no respect for the plurality of this country, as one of his closest advisers. If this pick is to be a gauge of how the Trump administration will govern, Americans are rightfully scared. Given the fact that this nation’s success in now inherently tied to the success of the Trump presidency, I genuinely wish him well. My only hope is that his administration hears the cries made by many Americans, acknowledges them as legitimate concerns, and takes steps to move forward and be a president for all Americans.

3 comments

  1. Thank you for your thoughtful commentary. I admire your work on behalf of Secretary Clinton, I too traveled to PA on several occasions to campaign for her. That you gave so much of your life to making positive change and reached out in the best way you know how is what is beautiful. Ultimately you had a lot to overcome that was not your making. We should never tire of making those ultimate sacrifices.

    For 30 years the GOP had been “making her personality” an issue – it was crude and INACCURATE. But they never stopped, never missed a beat. Her crime was being extraordinarily smart and successfully waging a campaign for her Husband that put the lies to the Myth Of Reagan and the GOP hated her for it.

    It is important to clarify that it was white conservative women withdrawing their support from HIllary combined with the dirty tricks of rogue FBI agents in NYC that tilted the win out of her reach. She was Comey-fied.

    Millennial’s were failed primarily by the leadership of Bernie’s campaign. They were not familiar with rules and registration requirements for Closed or open primaries. That was a failing of the Sanders top management. It has very little to do with Wasserman -Schultz and if she emailed snide remarks, well it is a tough game, and emails were not meant to be HACKED by Russian intelligence. That was the far greater issue.

    Ironically there seems to be no recognition that Bernie Sanders astonishingly incorrect name calling of former Secretary Clinton ultimately became the very words adopted by Trump himself. Ultimately Bernies specious words carried Trump to victory for Trump is simply not that bright nor creative.

    I have traveled abroad for 20 years and experienced many of the positive changes she was responsible for 1st hand. The truth is many of the soundbites that were used to alienate millennials were gross distortions if not craven soundbites absent of facts.

    Bernie’s soundbite “Selling Fracking” was but one ruinous smear devoid of truth. What you were told was 180* from reality. NG was a transitional fuel for countries burning Coke petroleum and coal with air so filthy an aircraft couldn’t see the runway from 500′. NG was for cleaner air – once the savings and economy improved the US/UE would help transition to renewables. They could put in a NG boiler for generating electricity, but they sure couldn’t build a whole grid to support renewables – not even the US has that. But no, Bernie & Fracking. Pissed off millenials didnt want to hear it – and HILLARY TRIED to tell you! Nothing is as simple as it sounds and that is just how it is when you have an entire planet to clean up.

    For the record as SOS she had already organized the New Climate and Clean Air Coalition uniting the EPA, various Environmental Ministers, UN Environment Program addressing the increase in methane, black carbon and hydrofluorocarbons.

    Secretary Clinton led with Worldwide Feminism and added the Intersectionality of Climate Change and Clean Energy to her Foreign Policy. In Jan 2009 Secretary Clinton created the First US Special Envoy for Climate Change in the State Department, appointing Todd Stern.

    Libya and Hawkish warfare? Few knew that she was 100% against US participation in Arab Springs: Tunisia, Morocco, Syria, Bahrain, Egypt, Oman, Libya. Months in advance she had traveled to some of those countries to urge leaders to spend money on employment for young adults, real schools immediately. She warned them “the sands are shifting beneath your feet with young people having so little opportunity.” She clearly saw that these Revolutions had zero leaders to step into vacuums, maintain order and build a more responsive society. Of Springs, Syria was the wildcard that resulted in bloodshed yet no Americans were hurt. She feared for Libya knowing much about Quadafi. She was not a Hawk she was trying to prevent much much worse happening to the youth given the power of that Military.

    Your report that LGBTQ youth were committing suicide is devastatingly sad.
    As a member of that Community I also felt utter despair. All the worse knowing that HRC had with her words “Gay Rights are Human Rights…” had prevented Liberian President from signing draconian homophobic proposals into law – barely 3 mos later. Also knowing that HRC had given worldwide State Department LGBTQ members of her staff FULL FAMILY BENEFITS. Travel, Medical with appropriate changes made to passports to acknowledge gender & civil union status. 10mos later the US federal gov followed suit.

    Campaigns are practically fought in soundbites. That played to Sanders strengths since only a smattering of information was consulted and selectively used. It was horrific to watch as his distortions became Trumps cudgels. One of the most remarkable, brilliant, talented candidates in American History
    Was undone by a intemperate gropper misogynist racist like Trump.

    It sure wasn’t due to “dirty tricks” from the DNC that dispirited Millenials. I have to respectfully disagree. I think we all learned from this campaign – details matter. Forever we will abide by MIchelle Obama’s words “When they go Low, we go High.”

    Thank you Ty I wish we had met on the road. You are an inspiration for your commitment to making change is this world. The earth is in good hands.

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    1. We are incredibly humbled by your response and, as the founder and Ty’s co-editor-in-chief, Harrison, I want you to know that I sent him that when I got notification and his first response was, in separate texts, “wow” “She should be a writer” “It was all very well versed.” We are so glad that our article had significance to our readers, and want you to know that if you are interested in becoming a writer. We would love for you to apply, or even just submit one article!

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  2. IF voters dont care enough to read the lengthy “policy pages” of a candidate or immerse themselves in the issues our society suffers. Believe me answers to our problems are not simple as they look and voting for a single issue candidate like Sanders is the deathblow.
    Hillary had the mind to take on every bit of it. #VoteWonk

    This is simply 1/100th of what she knows. Really, her heartache was not so much for the her losing the vote as much as it was for how little American voters knew of the peril facing us globally – and immediately segues into our country….
    Think France is now voting hard right – Putin lengthens his reach, and China is digging coal. Hills knew this would have ramifications for us all over here.
    Think TyrantO’saurus Rex. You know that ended.

    Liked by 1 person

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