We won in 2012 because we got organized, stuck together, and built a grassroots movement. That’s the only way we’ll win in 2020, too. Chip in $3 or more to join our fight.
I’ve been on the road in eastern Iowa the past two days, talking to people face-to-face at organizing events, coffees, and house parties about how we’ll make big, structural change.
And a memory kept popping up in my head about how I decided to run for office for the first time.
It was the summer of 2011. I’d just come home to Massachusetts after helping set up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Some people were talking about me running for Senate. That wasn’t on my bucket list, my shopping list, or any other list. But I knew it might be a chance to keep protecting the consumer agency and keep fighting against a system rigged to benefit the wealthy and well-connected.
So I decided to dip my toe in the water, just to find out whether I could do even the simplest sort of campaigning without falling down. If I couldn’t, then there really wasn’t anything to decide.
In mid-August, I started meeting with small groups of people in living rooms and backyards around the state. A few days into this test run, I went to a gathering in New Bedford — an old whaling town fighting to build a future for its hard-working families.
It was one of those steamy, end-of-summer mornings when your hair frizzes and your shirt sticks to your back about 60 seconds after you step outside. Different from Iowa in March, but people showed up for the same reason — to talk about how we could make Washington work for working people, not just the rich and powerful.
I spoke for about fifteen minutes about the hollowing out of America’s middle class. Then I took questions for a while. Afterwards, some people stayed to ask for a picture, and others wanted to urge me to run, to offer advice, or just to wish me luck as I figured out what to do.
As the crowd thinned out a bit, a woman in her mid-fifties walked over. She stopped a few steps away from me and said, “I walked two miles to get here.” Okay, she had my attention.
She dropped her voice a notch. “I walked because I don’t have a car that runs. I don’t have a car that runs because I don’t have a job.”
As we stood facing each other, she laid out her life in just a few sentences: She’d worked one job or another since she was seventeen, put herself through school, had two master’s degrees, and taught herself computer programming. But she’d been out of work for a year and a half. She’d applied, she’d volunteered, she’d gone everywhere, but nothing.
Then she stopped, took a step forward, and lowered her voice to a whisper, as if she didn’t want to hear what she was about to say: She didn’t know if she was ever going to get a real job again.
I held out both hands, and she took them. We stood there, not moving, just holding hands.
She looked me straight in the eye and said she was there because she was running out of hope. She’d read about me for a long time, and she was there to see me in person, to tell me that she wanted me to fight for her. She didn’t care how hard it got — she wanted to know that I was going to fight.
I looked back at her and said, “Yes, I’ll fight.”
I didn’t really think about the size of the commitment I was making or what it would cost me or my family. I simply thought, I can’t just stand here and cry. I can’t just walk out on her. She asked for a commitment, and I made it. Fight — there was nothing else to say and nothing else to do.
I’m still in the same fight. That’s why I ran for the Senate, and that’s why I’m running for president. We won in Massachusetts because we got organized, stuck together, and built a grassroots movement. That’s the only way we’ll win in 2020, too.
I’ll keep fighting for people in every corner of this country — but I can’t do it alone. Chip in $3, or whatever you can, so we can keep building something incredible together.
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