I worked with the Hillary Clinton Campaign in Iowa as an organizer for less than a week before I decided to quit. The actual reason why I left is based on a specific incident that shattered my trust in the Iowa Democratic Party, but especially in the Coordinated Campaign’s leadership. Nevertheless, recognizing the importance of this year’s presidential elections, I’m still voting for Hillary Clinton. So, before I tell you what happened and why I left, allow me to provide some context.
To be sure, I’ve never had any prior campaign experience. I went in fresh and with an unknown level of naiveté that is now apparent. Before working for Iowa Democratic Party’s Coordinated Campaign, I had an awesome job in sales with very good pay. I traveled to the Caribbean for work every six weeks and was generally content with the ways things were going for my wife and I. However–and those of you who’ve worked retail know–it got old, real quick. I got sick of dealing with lazy and incompetent baby-boomers (no offense) who are there just for the insurance and still think millennials are the worst. I got sick of dealing with customers and having to bite my tongue. I got sick of my own company’s mistakes and having to absorb the blows and apologize at the same time.
In early July, I dealt with a customer who’s based out of New York and whose contractor was working on a multi-unit remodeling project. I’d quoted and sold them tens of thousands of dollars in building supplies in the process. Unfortunately, in the chaos of purchase orders, sales, promotions, complaints, damages, and so on, I had mistakenly provided a delivery date that was just impossible for us to keep. When I updated the customer, he copied everyone and their mother on our email thread, including my company’s top brass, trying to make us deliver the product in an incredibly short timeframe.
Anyway, after talking with my bosses and owning my mistake, I proposed that I’d hand deliver the units from our production plant to the manufacturing facility that actually assembled and delivered the product to New York. Basically, I was cutting the lead time back by a week, thereby showing my customer that we were doing everything we could to make it right. So that week, I left from Charlotte, NC down to SC. Coincidentally, the day I left for SC, President Obama visited the Queen City to officially endorse Hillary Clinton. That night, while catching up on my emails, I watched their speech on CSPAN. Towards the end Hillary’s spiel, and with a joyous audience in the background, she compelled her viewers to join the campaign as “we’re hiring organizers right here in North Carolina.”
As cheesy as it sounds, I felt like she was talking to me. I mean, I’m a progressive. I’m a Latino millennial combat veteran, and I sure as hell am not willing to have Donald Trump as my next Commander-in-Chief. On the flip-side, there I was, away from my family, in SC having to do an impromptu delivery across three states in order to make an unappeasable customer happy. So I said, “Let’s see what happens.”
I proceed to go to the Hillary Clinton campaign website and applied to an organizer position. I didn’t think much of it and moved forward. A few days later, I got a call from a regional organizer in Iowa. She scheduled me for a phone interview that went really well. A few weeks passed, and while I was on a business trip, I got another call from some other regional offering me a position to work as an organizer in Marshall County, Iowa, even though I wanted to stay in NC.
Now, as a businessman, I’ve learned that success depends heavily on the ability to identify opportunities. After mulling over the pros and cons–which paid only a few hundred bucks less than what I was making–and with my wife’s support, I decided to leave my sales position, my family and my home to be part of arguably, the most important presidential election of this century. After all, I was also looking for an opportunity to get into politics, and this was it.
So, after getting back to the States, I immediately drafted a heavy-hearted resignation letter and sent it to my boss. The campaign needed me in less than two weeks. I resigned with only five business days in between. On top of that, because I wasn’t going to be employed with my company when our biannual bonuses were disbursed, I didn’t get it. Still, I drove-on and considered it a “cost of doing business” with potential future payout.
In the next couple of days, I told everyone in my family about my new, exciting job. I said goodbye to all my friends, my home, my dogs and my wife. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy; we were financially and emotionally prepared for whatever came. After all, we got married three weeks before I deployed to Iraq, and she’s also in the service. Bottomline, we weren’t strangers to long distances. We were going to make it happen, no matter what.
I got in my car and drove the two-day, 1000 mile trip to Ames, Iowa. Now mind you, I absorbed the gas, food and hotel costs to go Iowa. I had worked that into my budget, so I was prepared for that. When I got there, I called the guy who was my regional. He didn’t answer the phone. Emailed him, he didn’t respond. Now, some may able to relate, but when you’re working in a high-speed sales environment, and after grad school, I tended to rationalize every decision I made at the expense of my gut. And when I encountered the disorganization in Iowa, I just ignored my instincts and told myself to “drive on,” as we’d say in the Army.
That same morning, they paired me with the 24 year-old organizer who I was going to work with in Marshall County. Now, I’m 30, but my life experience and academic preparation far exceeds this kid’s. A few days later, I drove up to Marshalltown and met the who’s who of the county’s Democratic establishment. Another important factor is demographics. It’s no surprise that both party’s are in dire need of Latinos to muster votes. I knew that, and I also knew that it was part of the reason why I was assigned to Marshall County. In fact, one of the local state elected officials there–who’d gotten real chummy with my young, white organizer peer–was thrilled to have a Spanish-speaker come to Marshall County to help in his reelection campaign and up and down the ticket, too.
A few days later, on a Saturday, I went on my first solo canvassing mission in Marshalltown. Because I was still learning the ropes, my peer had compiled the list of homes and registered voters that I was going to visit that day. During my canvassing, I realized that there were a lot of Latino names on the list. I expected that. I continued walking down a street, guided by the map in the Mini VAN (the Democratic Party’s voter management system) that guided me into a trailer park. Shortly after knocking on the resident’s door–who weren’t home–I started walking to the following house, which was just down the street.
As I turned back towards the road, a man said to me, “Can I help you?” When I looked at him, I realized that he was armed with a machete and kept walking towards me in an aggressive manner. He asked me the same question again. Simultaneously, another man came up behind me. They were clearly targeting me. Fortunately, I kept cool, calm and collected. I proceeded to let him know that I was with the Marshall County Democrats and that I was simply collecting absentee ballots and registering voters. The man then told me that apparently there had been a series of thefts in the trailer park and these two yahoos were on some sort of community watch/vigilante mission.Thankfully, I was able to deescalate the situation and just left. It was only after I had gotten to my car when I realized that I would’ve been hacked to death by two maniacs in a trailer park in rural Iowa. I immediately though of my wife and naturally, anger followed.
Things happen, that’s life, but there was more to this incident than meets the eye. The night before, my peer texted the district’s elected official asking where it’s best to get some voters registered. The elected official replied that areas of “dominant culture” would be productive. Here, the official blatantly suggested that these areas are those where whites congregate the most. I suspect that I was deliberately given that particular area to canvass on that day because of it’s relatively high number of Latinos living there.
Ironically enough, neither of the men who threatened me were Latino. This concerning “strategy” put my life in danger. And not only was it ineffective, but offensive and a gross miscalculation that reflects a lack of understanding and common sense by part of the Marshall County Democrats and the Iowa Democratic Party’s Coordinated Campaign. After talking to my “boss,” I just decided to get the hell out of Marshall County forever. Weeks later, here I am, back home, unemployed, trying to make things happen and dreading the first of the month, when 75% of my bills are due.
I don’t think that anyone would’ve foreseen this. Not even myself. But the point of this drawn-out story is that I left because I couldn’t trust the Iowa Democrats. To be fair, after I emailed the leadership and told them what happened, they tried to “hook me up” with a position here in NC. One of the national campaign’s top directors allegedly forwarded my resume to the NC Democrats. It’s been almost a month and nothing.
What really pisses me off is that I left a good paying and secure job for this election because I acknowledge its importance. But beyond the recurrent feelings of regret, disappointment and defeat, I feel stupid. At the end of the day, I’m still voting for Hillary Clinton because I know what’s at stake. Still, I can’t help but feeling completely let down and “shafted.” Oh well, adapt and overcome.