What I’ve learned from years of loving Elizabeth Warren, volunteering in Iowa, and going viral in the process.
In 2013, I was going through a rough breakup, had moved into a closet-sized bachelor apartment in my then-home of Los Angeles, and started my first full-time job in digital marketing, working for a financial technology company. It was during this time, as a 21-year-old trying to reinvent myself in an uncertain world, that my interest in politics led me to Senator Elizabeth Warren.
As I dealt with the failure of my first adult relationship, I realized I had fallen into the unfortunate trap of not having built enough enduring friendships to help weather the breakup. Without many close friends to go out or drown my sorrows with, I focused intensely on my new career, while also turning to an unusual form of escapism — the world of political affairs and progressive media. When I was tired of being upset about my own problems, I turned my attention to broader ones happening in the world. The news and politics were there for me when I felt like no one else was, offering me new things to think about and care about each day.
At the center of this 24-hour news cycle was Elizabeth Warren, who was taking the political world by storm after her landslide Senate victory against incumbent Scott Brown in Massachusetts. Despite some polls in that race showing her down by 19 points and despite big money from donors like Mike Bloomberg funding her opposition, Warren won by 236,000 votes. She was the first woman to be elected to the Senate in Massachusetts and had quickly become the woman to watch in Washington, a firey new progressive senator who already had a reputation for getting things done. This was due in part to her work creating the CFPB (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau), which she proposed in 2007 and established under the Obama Administration in 2010.
Impact of the CFPB
During this time period, I would listen to a lot of news radio in the background at work while implementing SEO and content strategies for consumer financial products. As I listened to interviews with Warren discussing her many plans, I was also seeing change happen in real-time. I was experiencing firsthand the frustration of executives within the company I worked for as CFPB regulations came into effect, which required them to make important changes to their products and limited the ways we could market them. Throughout this, I was secretly proud of the work that Warren was doing to protect consumers and champion progressive causes. I was completely taken by her intelligence, compassion, no-nonsense attitude, and ability to make an impact.
‘A Fighting Chance’
The following year, in 2014, I bought a copy of Warren’s book, A Fighting Chance, after seeing it prominently displayed in Barnes & Noble at The Grove. The book focuses on Warren’s personal story, from growing up in a working-class family in Oklahoma to becoming a Harvard Law Professor, the Chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel, the architect of the CFPB, and then a United States Senator.
I related to and admired her ability to reinvent herself and keep going after experiencing difficult times, or after periods where her life seemed to go off-course. If you’ve followed her presidential campaign, you’ve probably heard Warren’s stump speech — she was a high school debate champion who won a college scholarship but dropped out after getting married at 19. Still, she went back to school to realize her dream of becoming a teacher. And when she became pregnant and was subsequently let go from her teaching position, she later enrolled in law school, then started teaching law, all while raising two children. Regardless of what obstacles she was facing in life, she found a way to persist. As I read, watched, and listened, Warren became a personal hero of mine and a source of strength during one of the most defining periods of my life.
2020 Presidental Primary
When Warren announced her run for the presidency at the beginning of 2019, I pulled her book back off my shelf. I was cautiously excited, but watched and waited, keeping a reasonable emotional distance from the race before allowing myself to get invested.
In May 2019, as her campaign was starting to gain momentum, I decided to attend a rally in Oakland. I brought her book along in my purse and read it out loud to my boyfriend as we drove over, taking breaks between sections to get him up-to-speed on Warren’s policy plans like the Two-Cent Wealth Tax, universal child care, and cancelation of student loan debt, which are all deeply relevant to her story. I also shared her plan for breaking up big tech, which resonated with him as a software engineer in San Francisco.
When we arrived at the venue, a community college soccer field, I was shocked to find a line that extended not just down the street, but that curved and zig-zagged down multiple streets, extending for well over a mile across Oakland. We drove around for some time, trying to find the end of the line. Ultimately, we agreed that it didn’t make sense to wait to get into what was probably an over-packed venue, and headed home.
While I felt disappointed and a little defeated to miss a chance at meeting my hero, I also saw what was now clear — the country was ready and excited for Warren. It was at that moment that I felt confident committing myself to my favorite candidate and buckled in for the long, tumultuous primary season ahead.
Road to Iowa
The week before the now-infamous Iowa caucuses, I was feeling particularly helpless as I watched the primary process move toward its first test of the voters. The rhetoric surrounding some of the campaigns had been getting increasingly ugly, and the packed field of candidates was growing even larger with the addition of Mike Bloomberg, who was gaining traction in national polls.
Toward the end of 2019, I had also experienced another significant life change — a few months prior, my boyfriend had gotten in a nearly fatal car accident. As we both processed the trauma of what happened, we reevaluated our relationship and decided to end things. (He gave me permission to share this.)
For the second time in my life, I was feeling deeply alone in the world. I was untethered from a life I spent years building and lost in a sea of possibilities and choices, all of which felt paralyzingly significant in the light of 28 compared to 21.
But as my hero Elizabeth Warren faced her own challenges in the primary, I watched as she continued to fight. I saw her continue to speak with strength and compassion across the country, unveiling new plans like how she will address the corruption of the Trump administration, all while spending long nights serving at the impeachment trial. In Warren, I saw a fighter — and I knew I could be one, too.
A friend of mine from Twitter, Maddy, had been posting about flying from San Francisco to Iowa to get involved with Warren’s ground game before the caucus. Struck by an insatiable urge to do something rather than just sitting back and watching helplessly, I messaged her, asking if I could join. I found a cheap red-eye flight on Frontier and left less than 48 hours later.
Becoming a Bad Bitch for Elizabeth Warren
Iowa was my first time volunteering for a political campaign, so I followed Maddy’s lead once I arrived. We picked up voter packets from an organizing site in Altoona and she demonstrated her techniques for going door-to-door and talking to voters. We asked them questions, listened to their hopes and concerns, and shared information, all with the goal of simply planting a seed in their minds and leaving them with a good impression of Warren.
But it was in the evening, at our hotel room in Des Moines, that we stumbled upon a more unique way to canvass — where we could have a potentially greater impact on voters.
As a recently-single person, I had a Bumble account, which I sometimes found myself swiping through during random moments of boredom. Back at our hotel, as we watched the news, my aimless swiping turned into a light-bulb moment when I realized that all the local guys I was seeing were potential voters.
So I started testing this idea, swiping vigorously and indiscriminately and messaging my matches to ask about their caucus plans. Laying next to me as we shared Doordash delivery, Maddy downloaded Tinder to do the same. We spent those few days in Des Moines going door-to-door in the afternoons and swiping in the evenings, and as we shared stories of our endeavors on Twitter we started gaining attention across the nation.
Because I was using my real Bumble profile to canvass for Warren in Iowa, I changed my title to make it immediately clear what I wanted to talk to my matches about — and I became “Bad Bitch at Elizabeth Warren for President.”
That weekend, inspired by the fight for Elizabeth Warren, I allowed myself to become the confident fighter that I needed to be at that moment. For the campaign, and for myself.
As our story took on a life of its own, we had several publications reach out to us for interviews and many fellow Warren supporters on Twitter sharing that they were going to try it in their local areas as well.
When I flew to Des Moines to volunteer at the end of January, I was in the midst of emotional turmoil, struggling to process recent trauma while feeling hopeless about the state of our country. But fighting for Elizabeth Warren felt like getting some of my power back. Her slogan “Dream big, fight hard” has become a mantra for me across all aspects of my life, as I once again look to carve out a new place for myself in the world — just like Warren has had to do so many times throughout her own journey.
Regardless of what happens this Super Tuesday and beyond, I am proud to be in this fight with Warren, who has continuously inspired me for close to a decade. I believe she is a once-in-a-lifetime candidate, and as I explained to my Bumble matches, there’s no one else I would fly across the country to volunteer for.