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My Mom Ran for Office — and Won

How her campaign challenged my perspective on politics

Madeline Howard
Nov 14, 2018 · 3 min read
Photo: Bill Cleaver

t’s safe to say my faith in American politics vanished after Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 presidential election. Like many, I had invested my heart and soul in her campaign—and, even more, in the idea of a woman finally leading our country.

For weeks the pain I felt after her loss was unbearable. I couldn’t believe I had to endure a man like Donald Trump as president for the next four years. I decided I was naive to think that America had parted ways with its history of unbridled oppression. In short, I was jaded.

I lost my enthusiasm for political affairs and instead took on the belief that the government — and sometimes the world — was ultimately against me. Afraid of being disappointed by caring too much, I decided maybe it was best not to care at all.

The election had the exact opposite effect on my mother, a lawyer for more than 20 years. Instead of feeling defeated by the results, she was inspired.

She decided to run for state representative.

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Photo: Bill Cleaver

Her opponent was a conservative incumbent, and a Democrat hadn’t represented our district for the past 64 years.

Because the odds were stacked against her, my mom did everything in her power to get to know her potential constituents. She listened to people’s needs, and as a result, a community of volunteers rallied around her in support.

I stood on the sidelines offering words of encouragement, but I was still skeptical—even as her following grew. I watched my mom work tirelessly and sometimes thanklessly to better a country that just kept on letting me down.

All I saw were children being locked in cages at the border. And Parkland High School enduring a devastating mass shooting. And Brett Kavanaugh being confirmed to the Supreme Court despite accusations of rape.

Witnessing one appalling event after another left me with very little hope that things would ever change. I wanted to want to help my mom campaign, but I avoided offering her assistance. When she asked, I did easy things like post on social media or check that my friends were registered to vote, but I steered clear of the door-to-door knocking she did every day, rain or shine. Deep down, I knew I didn’t want to put all my efforts into a candidate only to be devastated once again. Especially because this candidate was my own parent.

I realized I’d been sulking about the state of our political system for far too long.

But on November 6, I had a change of heart.

My mom won.

Watching her acceptance speech, I realized I’d been sulking about the state of our political system for far too long. All this time I could have been doing so much more to help my mom, a person who—unlike me—hadn’t given up on carving out a better future for the world. She worked her ass off and won her election, but it’s no thanks to any of my lackluster efforts.

I now know that I wasn’t naive to be disappointed by the 2016 presidential election results, but to think the solution was to give up hope, to avoid trying.

So thank you, Mom. Thank you for trying when I didn’t have the courage to do the same. If it’s worth anything, you’ve certainly restored my hope. And when you run for president, I’ll be sure to do more than post about it on Facebook.

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