With Liberty and Justice for All: Thoughts from a Campaign Pro on Independence Day ‘19

Jul 2 · 3 min read
Clearwater Beach, 2008. Sand structure at right is my abandoned attempt at a sand castle.

This photo pops up in my Facebook memories each Fourth of July. The scene is central Florida’s Clearwater Beach on Independence Day 2008. I had moved to the Tampa area just a few days prior for my first job in politics: Barack Obama’s campaign for the presidency.

I was 21 years old.

At the time, I had befriended exactly one co-worker: a man from Chicago, Dan, who had spent the previous year traveling the country on the campaign’s behalf.

As each other’s only friend in Florida, Dan and I decided to spend the Fourth of July holiday together at the beach. He picked me up at my newfound Tampa housing, his car full of Obama for America campaign lit, yard signs, and the remnants of meals eaten in traffic. This is not a trait exclusive to Dan — the vast majority of campaigners in the thick of an election year present as though they live full-time in their vehicles.

We returned to Tampa after dark, across the Clearwater Memorial Causeway. As we drove the four-lane bridge, I heard a symphony of booms overhead: fireworks.

We pulled over to take in the scene: reflections of the explosions above sparkled in the ocean below. It felt as though we were on the precipice of something grand.

That was one of the last days off either of us had until November 4.

I revisit the memories of that campaign often. And I admit I’ve lost much of the idealism I once had. In its place is a recognition of the power we collectively hold, a knowledge of what happens when we fail to wield it.

I believe now that Dan, I, our colleagues and volunteers were given the gift of 2008 — a visceral experience of hope and profound change — to sustain us during the Trump Administration. It reminds us of what is possible.


During the spring of 2018, a full decade after my first campaign, I began to read news reports about young children detained at the U.S. — Mexico border.

I don’t have to tell you how that felt, how it still feels.

As a native of southern California, I feel an intimate connection to the Latino community. I am proud to say that I’m a Spanish speaker, even prouder that much of my Spanish was learned in Mexico and Central America.

In a way, I feel I know the thousands of children incarcerated at the border, and I feel I know their families. When I see photos of those tired, terrified, freezing children under metallic blankets, I’m reminded of the niños with whom I had the opportunity to share basic English. In return, they giggled uproariously as they taught me important subtleties of their language: the difference between words like “pera” (pear) and “perra” (female dog), for example.

Nicaraguan children play together after class, 2018.

My experiences as a foreigner in Latin America, and as a young campaigner in Florida, inspired me to make a radical life change in 2018. I vowed to use my skills to help flip control of one House seat for the Democrats. With an incredible team and an astonishing candidate, we were successful.

There is indeed hope amidst the horrors of the Trump Administration. It can be found in campaign offices across the nation.


For all who are distressed by the atrocities perpetrated in our names at the border, who on Independence Day reflect on the truth of the words “liberty and justice for all,” I encourage you to find your way to a local campaign field office. I encourage you to run for something and build a movement of your own.

Because that’s where the hope is — in collective action toward a common goal.

When I’m feeling sentimental, I revisit my favorite Obama campaign commercials on YouTube. (This is extremely nerdy behavior, though I sincerely doubt I’m the only one).

Here’s the final thing I know: as long as all of us are together, as long as we are all committed, then there is nothing we can’t do. ​

Andra Belknap

Written by

Writer, intermittent political professional, Spanish enthusiast, rambunctious feminist. https://www.andrabelknap.com/

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