For two days I’ve been asking myself what I could have done differently. What voters should I have been more persistent with, and how I could have more effectively communicated why Ted Cruz was the best man for the White House despite all of the talent, diversity and experience the crowded GOP field had to offer.
My winter break was spent in abandoned dormitories in a rural town (village?) that easily could have served as the setting of a horror film about a group of ridiculously good looking naive young adults being stalked by a depraved serial killer. The day usually started between 7:00 and 8:00 in the morning, and we would door knock until the sun went down; usually around 4:00 in the evening. Then we would go to headquarters to make calls until 9PM. The days were long, cold and at times, trying. On my second day there, I slipped trotting on icy steps and cracked the beautiful iPhone 6S Plus that had survived my drunken shenanigans time after time, only to break on the campaign trail in a doorway of people that didn’t even turn out to be home.
One day when two other girls and I were door-knocking together, I had gotten out of the car and approached a man working outside.
“Are you for Bernie?”
He dismissed me, and I walked back to the car. As we were about to drive off, he stopped us. The girl in the driver’s seat rolled down her window. He asked us why we weren’t for Bernie, and before giving either of us a chance to fully respond, assured us that we were being brainwashed and misled. One girl chimed in, noting that as someone studying political science that it was insulting to suggest her views were the result of ignorance. He cut her off. “You study it? I live it.” I forgot what he said his occupation was, but I do remember how aggressive he was and how uncomfortable we were.
“We’re gonna go.”
My roommate was maliciously berated by a man for driving over an alleged lawn– alleged, because of the thick layer of ice and snow preventing literally anyone but him from being able to identify it. And no matter how much she apologized, he continued to insult her and demean her as she stood awkwardly in the cold, unsure of what to do. And it’s worth noting that she was from Missouri; her sorries were sincere and her demeanor was bubbly.
And then there was phone banking.
“You know what I got for the next time you call here? I got a whistle. And I’m not even gonna talk, I’m just going to blow in it so hard that your ears bleed and you end up in the hospital.” As ridiculous as they can be, voters in high stakes primary states deserve some credit. Strangers knock on their doors until the sun sets and call their homes long after that, asking for personal information and trying to sell them on a politician. But you’d think they’d have figured out by now that the calling process is random.
I had a much longer, more pleasant conversation with an older woman and while I sadly don’t remember the content of that conversation as clearly as that of the man threatening to burst my ear drums, I remember how genuinely happy she seemed to be talking to me about Ted Cruz, and how excited she was that a person my age was not only politically involved, but looked for more in a candidate than promises of free college. I remember her telling me about her art, and about her husband.
In Vermont trying to get Ted on the ballot, we stayed in a hostel to save money for the campaign. We spent the day in parking lots, farmers markets, city squares, malls, and last but not least, outside of the UVM arena before a hockey game. Every twenty minutes or so I’d lose all feeling in my feet and hands, and would go inside to warm up. While inside, I still canvassed, and as soon as I could move my fingers and toes, I was back outside.
I took weeks off of work, and spent all of the money I got for Christmas feeding myself up there. And I would do it all again without a second thought. Every day spent in bone-chilling cold, dealing with psychotic voters and their even more psychotic dogs was still a day well spent. A bad day on the Cruz campaign was still better than a great day anywhere else, because it made a difference. And for every unpleasant, cynical person I interacted were even more patient, welcoming voters that thanked me for what I was doing. And above all, for the Cruz staff and volunteers that I met along the way.
I was offered the chance to go full time on more than one occasion, and I regret not taking them all the time. Realistically, I couldn’t afford it. But realistically, this country can’t afford Trump anymore than it can afford Clinton. And I know I’m only one person, but I don’t know if I’ll ever forgive myself knowing I could have done more.
Ted and Heidi will never have to ask themselves that question. No candidate was perfect, but Ted had a vision for this country and its path forward unmatched in clarity or strategy. And I’m mourning- not for myself, or even for Ted, but for what this country missed out on. No matter what tasteless rumor or misnomers his adversaries would shout, Ted was a champion of the American taxpayer, a steadfast defender of the Constitution and a man of his word.
This was never just an election. This is an election following some of the most polarizing, incompetent leadership in modern history, a catastrophic national debt, and an economy still in shambles. And as much as I keep telling myself that the country will recover from the disastrous election of either Donald Trump or HRC to the leader of the free world, I’m afraid. But I know that Ted will never stop fighting, and neither will I.