Grassroots politics wade through the weeds

Finding hope in this dreary election season.

Kate McCarthy

I’m writing this column on the precipice of what is undoubtedly one of the most historical and contentious elections of all time. I’m writing this on Tuesday, but as your eyes skim this column, they carry the knowledge of our newly elected president — either the first female, or the first Troll doll.

But from where I type, it’s not over yet, so I won’t get ahead of myself. Instead, as a means of quelling election-related fears, I’ll reflect on a recent trip I took to Apple Valley that affirmed my very belief in our democracy — hoorah!

Let’s be honest, I wouldn’t have spent 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Apple Valley contributing to “‘Get Out the Vote” efforts for the DFL if it hadn’t been for my organizer boyfriend. Upon stepping into the Apple Valley DFL office, I was blown away by the setup. Not necessarily the physical means, as the office was modestly accommodated, but rather the core of energy and passion coursing through this concentrated group of people.

Some of my earliest election memories are of grassroots organizing. As kids, my siblings and I were inundated with local politics as we tagged along with our activist mom back in Half Moon Bay, California. I had only a cursory understanding of what was really going on, mostly centered on fooling with the supply of candidates’ lawn signs and repeating the local ballot measures — that I’d learned only phonetically — to myself in singsong. “Measure D, Measure E, Measure D!”

But I still recall the atmosphere of warmth and cooperation. Adults smiling down at us, speaking at eye-level, making us feel a part of something urgent and bigger than ourselves.

As I looked around at the Apple Valley DFL office, I couldn’t help but get a little emotional, recognizing a familiar feeling. From campaign managers, to veteran volunteers, to the candidates themselves, it was an all-hands-on-deck effort to win progressive causes for our communities. The parking lot was flaccid, but inside the unassuming office is where politics came to life on a social level. I saw kids taking in the unique environment and babies being passed around, and I felt excited for the sense of efficacy and involvement they might grow up feeling on account of these experiences.

In such a wild election cycle that has inspired all sorts of vitriol, controversy and fatigue, it’s hard to remember why we don’t just give up on politics. They can seem so far removed from our hands and voices, so why not just abandon it? But we can’t abandon the cause, because there are people working tirelessly to uphold the spirit of activism, which is native to the very essence of American politics.

Politics are about people and how we organize ourselves, and the choice to have a say in that can begin with a car ride to Apple Valley.