By Brandon Gassaway
The New Journal and Guide invited Brandon Gassaway, press staffer for Hillary for Virginia, to share his experiences on the campaign trail and thoughts on the stakes of this election in a long-form opinion piece. His perspective provides insight into the campaign’s investment in Hampton Roads and commitment to turn out the vote in November.
Since the first time I watched School House Rock’s explainer video on how a bill becomes a law on the floor of my first grade classroom, I’ve been enamored with the political process. That fascination has led me to passing out campaign fliers in New Orleans, knocking on doors in Nevada, organizing volunteers in South Los Angeles, and most recently to managing communications in the halls of Congress.
My latest stop in my political journey has brought me to Hampton Roads serving as a press secretary for Hillary for America. Even though it has only been a few weeks, any experienced campaign staffer will tell you that a day on the trail is worth a year of experience. In a relatively short period of time I have gotten a glimpse of the diversity and dichotomy that defines this region. I’ve experienced the warm hospitality and the selfless courtesy that feels very familiar to someone who has spent a significant portion of their life in the South. I have also come into contact with the stark disparities that are all too common in every corner of America.
Combating theses disparities is what fuels my drive to help elect candidates who share my conviction to bring opportunity to those who go to sleep every night without hope of achieving the American dream. Candidates like Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine. My view of presidential politics is much different than any generation that came before me. The first candidate for president I voted for was an African-American man. The second will be a woman. This is a reality that my grandmother could have never imagined growing up in Jim Crow Louisiana. However, she is all too familiar with the type of campaign the opposition is running.
That perspective has shaped my view of this election. Selecting the next president of the United States is intended to be a complex and supremely consequential process. This is the person responsible for making the toughest decisions that chart not only the future of our nation but the entire world. The stakes are as high as they have ever been. Sustaining our economic recovery, keeping our country safe from evolving threats, and fostering freedom and equality are all hanging in the balance. America is rebounding from one of the worst recessions in our history and we need to continue to build on the progress of the last eight years as well as avoid reverting back to the destructive economic policies that put us there in the first place. Hillary Clinton has the experience and the plans to guide us back to economic prosperity.
In a world where we face threats at home and abroad, Hillary has proven she understands the current geopolitical climate and how to keep Americans safe. Donald Trump on the other hand has not displayed the temperament, transparency, or wherewithal to serve as commander-in-chief. Trump would be dangerous for the American people and the world in the Oval Office. He has displayed a propensity to overreact to even the smallest perceived provocations. This is not a desirable trait in someone with the entire nuclear arsenal at his fingertips.
Tim Kaine put it best when he framed this as a civil rights election. Systemic racism still reverberates throughout our society. It continues to manifest itself in inequities in our criminal justice system, economy, and classrooms. Our next president cannot ignore these issues or govern as though they don’t exist. Protests throughout the country illustrate the unrest percolating within communities of color. Donald Trump’s campaign, rooted in divisiveness and racism masquerading as law and order, has not shown any inclination toward unraveling the fundamental injustices that are still present in America. Conversely, Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine have been fighting against injustice and inequality their entire careers.
Clinton and Kaine are best equipped to lead our country forward. If we can achieve three main goals in this region I feel confident in our campaign’s ability to communicate a convincing message.
First is to engage with the community to hear what is important to them in this election and speak to those issues directly. Achieving this goal requires investing time and attention to having authentic conversations with people across Hampton Roads to learn what makes them hopeful or fearful and sharing Hillary Clinton’s proposals to address these issues. Second is bringing as many people into the political process as possible so that the voice of this community will be heard loudly and clearly. We’ll do this by reaching out to as many people as possible to make sure they are not only registered to vote – the deadline is October 17 – but know exactly what they need and where they need to go on Election Day. The right to vote is sacred and has been earned through sacrifice and perseverance. It is imperative that right is not taken for granted. Third is inspiring people from all walks of life to join us and volunteer their time in their own neighborhoods – by knocking on doors, helping register voters, and making phone calls – to carry Hillary’s message to their neighbors as we try to make history on November 8.
A lesson I learned after being uprooted and relocated following Hurricane Katrina is that nothing is promised and everything is earned. This is a mantra I’ve followed in every challenge I’ve taken on since and it is the approach this campaign has taken as we approach the final stretch until Election Day. This is already an experience that I will remember forever. A community has welcomed me in, allowed me to help tell their stories, and opened their homes all because of an idea embraced by Hillary Clinton; that we are stronger together. I have seen and experienced in Hampton Roads the America that Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine are deeply invested in and are committed to lifting up as President and Vice President. The road ahead of us is long and the job is far from complete, but as I have seen through the eyes of this community there is no excuse for staying on the sidelines during an election when so much is at stake.
Brandon Gassaway is a press secretary for Hillary for America.