I met Selina Vickers, who’s running for the state house in West Virginia, about two weeks ago at the Unrig the System Summit in New Orleans, where folks across the country got together to work on getting dirty money out of politics, ending gerrymandering, things that pretty much everyone agrees on but are hard to get done. She has a tremendously powerful story, and I think its especially relevant in light of the evidence that Putin is deeply interested in sowing division and polarization among us, even aside from getting 45 elected.
This is Selina Vickers’ story and I'm going to let her tell it:
How did this all start?
"I thought I was politically active before, but I really wasn't. I always voted, I never missed a general, I only missed one primary my whole voting life. There would be certain bills I really cared about that I'd go down and lobby for, like on animal rights day I'd go down and lobby. We always had like a children and families' day down at the legislature, these special lobby days, and I'd usually go down with some friends. I'd send emails, I really thought I was politically active. I had no clue about party committees and their rules that disenfranchised voters. I know about those things now.
"One thing I always cared about even when I was younger, is I knew the system was corrupt. I knew politicians could be bought. I tried to work on it some when I was younger, but it seemed like no one cared. Even though I knew fixing the power of money in politics was the answer, nobody cared about it.
"Then in the spring of 2015 my daughter's dance teacher shared a meme on Facebook, a quote by Bernie Sanders.
“And I don't remember what the quote was, but it was something I'd said a million times in the past, and it was by “Bernie Sanders, Candidate for President of the United States” So I thought, "Who is this guy Bernie Sanders?" I started watching youtube videos of him, from the past, of him saying the same thing for 40 years. I was blown away. I could not believe there was somebody running for president who believed the things that I did. He would not take any corporate Pac money, he did not have a super PAC, this was my dream come true.
"I did not agree with Bernie on every single issue. But the fact that he ran his campaign on ending corruption, that he did not have superPACs, that was enough for me. He was my once in a lifetime candidate. I quickly went down the rabbit hole. Bernie invited me to a revolution and I showed up.
"Then this happened, this whole fiasco with the superdelegates, and I was very involved in that.
That's another story, and an important one, but more about that later.
Back to the inauguration...
"I was a big Bernie person, and I was not a fan of Hilary and I certainly was not a fan of Donald Trump. I thought they were both very very flawed, even though they had different flaws, and I knew the next four years were going to be difficult. I remember posting something that, whoever won, the movement, for people to really get involved, was going to keep moving. The next four years, whether Hilary won or Trump won, I was going to spend some time over the next four years in DC.
"We need to unrig the system, and work together on these bipartisan
common ground issues.
"I felt that the two-party system, that a lot of people gain a lot of power and make a lot of money from dividing people. I felt that we have to be working on identifying truthful information and pushing that out. I didn't know how. But somehow we had to keep pushing.
"So when Trump ended up winning, I can't say it was a complete shock, because I was worried about that happening. All my friends were like, 'Lets go to the women's march, lets go to the women's march'. But I wanted to go to the inauguration. I even asked myself, 'why do you want to go to the inauguration?'
"I just felt, it was very bizarre to me honestly, but I just felt this incredible sense that I needed to go. And then I was going to stay for the women's march. I was with some of my friends who were going to rallies and obstructionist stuff but I'm not into that.
"I brought a foamboard from West Virginia. I'm usually really good at signs - I'm kind of visual, creative, I can usually make a great sign. I was absolutely stuck the night before the inauguration. It kept coming back to me, what kept coming back to me was this interview Sara Silverman had with Bernie. Sarah said something about Trump supporters, and Bernie says
People think all the Trump supporters are some kind of idiots. They’re not!
They are in pain, and they are hurting, and we damn well better stand up for them! (around 23:30-27:00 in the video)
"It was way too long! I mean, who puts a whole paragraph on a sign? You usually have three words or five words or a picture. But I watched the video and wrote down what he said and I just put it all on that sign. And I walked around. I had no plan, I had no clue what I was going to do. I went to a few Bernie rallies with people I liked, it was nice, but it wasn't what I came for. We went to some restaurant and we watched the inauguration on TV. And I said I'm going to just walk down to the parade route. I ended up on the parade route. Obviously there were a lot of Trump supporters there, and there were a few people with protest signs.
"And I found a place where I could stand and it was a little awkward because there were a lot of Trump supporters there. And they were like, 'Hey, let me read your sign.' And then they'd read the sign, which was long, and then they would say something like, "Oh, that's really nice. Or, Wow, thank you. Or, You get it! And we'd have a conversation. I had a Bernie pin on. They'd say 'Oh, I really like Bernie too.' We'd have a conversation, I wasn't attacking them and they weren't attacking me. I'm not gonna say all these people were perfect but they weren't trash. They were people.
"One guy came up to me and said 'That is the nicest protest sign ever'. And then, several of them wanted to get their picture taken with me. When you're at a parade, you stand forever, you stand about two hours. And when you stand that long you talk. There was an African-American lady there who had worked in the Bush white house, a couple of lawyers from California, and we had this really nice conversation, we talked about things we agreed on. And I, I wrote a letter to Donald Trump. I was kind of hoping that maybe he'd get out and shake hands with the crowd, maybe there was a chance in a million that I could hand him my letter. I don't think he got out of the car at all. So after the parade, we were all milling out of the parade area, I was still holding my sign.
"And there was a street vendor guy selling Trump T-shirts. He looked a little rough. Most of these vendors were just making a buck, so I didn't think a whole lot about his political viewpoint. Usually the vendors don't care what they sell. They would be out there selling Hillary shirts if she had won. But he was different, he was a super Trump supporter. He read the top of the sign that said 'People say All Trump Supporters are Idiots,' I think that's as far as he got. And he yelled at me, just yelled, what he read on the sign.
He was holding this T-shirt, and he threw it down hard on his stand and sort of powerfully walked towards me, cussing in my face, throwing the b-word. He was in my face, cussing and yelling. And when he stopped for a breath, I said
'Read the sign, Read the sign”
"And his brain wouldn't let him read it. He was still - he'd try to read it and he'd turn to me and yell. I can't remember exactly what he yelled but there were a lot of cuss words. There were people around me ready to intervene. I knew I couldn't explain it, I couldn't explain the sign to him. I knew if he read the sign and get all the way to the bottom I knew that was what he needed.
"Once your brain decides what something says it's hard for the rest of you to catch up. And it was like the third or fourth time i told him to read the sign, that I just turned the sign around.
"We read it together out loud.
"When we got the bottom and it said 'and we damn well better stand up for them’ and we read that line, every muscle in his body like - deflated. He deflated like 8 inches. And he grabbed me up in this bear hug and hugged me. I still get emotional now thinking about it. I cried. It was very powerful for me. I think that was out there for me in DC. I needed that. I think I needed that. It gave me hope.
"Whatever that was, whatever led me to that, it was one of the best decisions I ever made to go to DC on that day. I'm really glad I had those experiences and those conversations.
"I think Donald Trump is a liar and a horrible person. But there is a big difference between Donald Trump and people who voted for Donald Trump. Some are worse than others, I'm very clear on that. But having these common areas, these conversations with people, not judging people because of what party they're with, we need to do that. It was very helpful for me to be there. It was very hopeful for me to be there on that day. As bizarre as that sounds, going to Trump's inauguration gave me hope.
Selina Vickers is a Democrat running for the WV state house of delegates in West Virginia district 32
Selina is not accepting ANY Corporate PAC or lobbyist donations.
She is running a campaign on small donations.
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