Introvert to Activism
by Kate Revaux
I began following Bernie Sanders a little before 2009 simply because I loved Vermont. I had friends there and they loved him too, but I kept following him because of what he was saying, and how he was saying it. Everyone, of course, has their own figure they look up to, I am simply telling a story about mine, and where it has led me.
I’m inherently an introvert. I knew I’d be terrified making phone calls and knocking on doors but when Bernie announced I said I would push myself out of my shell to help in any way I could. My intention was to be a “super volunteer”, but I had the good fortune of being hired as a Field Organizer instead in August 2015. It was the most challenging and rewarding experience, and changed how I saw and carried myself.
I had been, until that point, politically aware but not active. The campaign was an all-consuming experience, and sort of like being unplugged from the Matrix. It’s hard to go back to the way it was before, when you finally realize there is so much to be done, and not enough people actively working to do it.
At the same time, I was also serving as a delegate and managed to become elected as a member of the State Central Committee for my district. After the primary I worked for MoveOn.org during the general election, and continued issue organizing in my own community for various things. I’ve tried to stay active to bring attention to issues that are important, to try to motivate and support people into taking action.
While it was Bernie that got me involved in this process, and into the Democratic Party, actually, I’m still involved because of the people I met along the way, the stories that I was told by folks who were struggling, and those who had hope for something better and different than what they had been seeing from the Democratic Party. We shared the reasons for being there. I was born and raised here in Iowa, so I was talking to friends and family, and the people I see every day in my community. It’s these people that inspire, who carry these efforts forward, and hold me accountable to work for something more. I know I can and should still be doing more.
For people who came into our campaign office between any of their 3-4 jobs to grab a walk list or make some calls for a while, and saw so much potential for what Democrats could be that they joined their county central committee to keep at it – only to be met with resistance, and an unwillingness from others to listen to new voices, or participate in events or the necessary, and often arduous, work of organizing and being organized. It’s more than just going to meetings.
I do this for people like Jodi Clemens, who is running for office, for the first time, to beat “Buttercup” Bobby Kauffmann, for Courtney Rowe, who is challenging Rod Blum, and Jamie Allen who, as a newly naturalized citizen to the United States, is running to beat Sizzler graduate Mark Chelgren;
I do this for my brother, who doesn’t agree with me politically, but has served two tours in Iraq since 9/11 and I believe we need to do better for our veterans.
I do this for both of my parents who have passed away (my mom 11 years ago, and my dad just this April) from cancers that maybe could have been caught sooner, were our healthcare system one driven with the purpose of helping people, not gaining profits.
And yes, I’m involved in this Party still because of the people, young and old, who were Democrats but who aren’t anymore, or who don’t want to align with a party. Because though we may not like the way something is being presented to us and while there are people who are passionate but not polished in their critiques of the Democratic Party, their message is not without the foundation of truth.
It’s imperative to recognize that acknowledging and having open discussions about weakness is actually an invaluable strength. We as a Party have a lot of work to do to regain the trust of voters, and to inspire involvement for people, young people, to participate in all of this. So far, we aren’t doing a great job of it.
For this Party to survive, those who have maintained power and position for so long need to foster an environment where new people with new ideas are welcomed, encouraged to run for leadership roles, and to run for office. They also need to support them, not shut them out. They need to be mindful that when we challenge our Democratic candidates and elected officials, it’s not in an effort to “destroy the Party” but to, in fact, make it better. Look around. Expectations and the world are changing. It may not be necessary to talk about a Revolution, but it is certainly important to recognize and make way for the necessary and inevitable Evolution. If this doesn’t happen, those folks who are so motivated now to do the necessary work are going to be doing it for someone else or not at all. We simply cannot afford the losses.
We, the newly engaged, also need to recognize that being pissed off at the Party isn’t enough to change it, you have to be in it. You have to show up to caucus, and vote, and rally, and run for positions within the Party, including elected office. Not everyone can do everything so we all have to actively do something. Folks will have to come up for air in this battle. It’s easy to burn out when there is so much power and money in politics working against all of us. We also have to be willing to acknowledge that despite our differences, there is a lot to learn from those who have been involved in this long before we ever considered it.
Together we can and must inspire, and support, a new generation of Democrats. We don’t need (corporate) money to do it, we need people. Many hands make light work. All hands on deck.