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Electoral Courage 

The first time I ever felt anything about the American political system was November 7, 2000. I was ten, and it was utter pessimism. I was mad that George W. Bush had won the election and how he had won. To make matters worse, our kitten had climbed into our basement ceiling. Three hours and several busted tiles later, we found him. Regaining confidence in the system, though, proved more difficult.

As a political organizer in college, I worked for a party I didn't really believe in. In fact, I was as cynical as ever about American politics. My mother grew up watching her mother struggle. I grew up watching my mother struggle. Facing more than $50,000 in student loans and the financial plight of becoming a journalist, I foresaw the same plight for myself.

After Ferguson, I stopped describing myself as a Democrat. When it became clear that Hillary Clinton, who supported tough-on-crime policies and the war in Iraq, would walk to the Democratic nomination, I stopped describing myself as a "liberal." The part of me that saw politics as a way to improve people's lives was gone.

Then, last May, Bernie Sanders announced his candidacy. My heart was with him, but I reckoned an anti-war, pro-labor, pro-social justice candidate could never capture the American imagination. Soon after that, my mother—a lifelong reliable Democrat—asked me who I was voting for. I didn't know if I was going to vote in the primary at all.

"Who are you going to vote for?" I said, knowing the answer.

"I think I'm going to vote for Bernie," she responded.

"Really?" I was taken aback.

"Yeah," she replied. "He has really good ideas, and people are hurting. It's getting old."

That was the day I started supporting Bernie.

This campaign has been a rollercoaster ride. I fumed while covering Clinton's victory party in South Carolina, but I repeatedly refreshed my browser as the Michigan results arrived. I lashed out at Clinton-backing friends for expecting him and his supporters—me, my mom—to just give up.

I don't pretend to know what will happen when Sanders ends his campaign. Maybe his boosters will push the Democrats left. Maybe they'll help a third-party candidate become viable.

But last Thursday, I called my mom. "I'm sad that Bernie lost," she said. I asked her what she thought of a woman finally becoming a major party's nominee.

"Hillary is making history," she said. "When I was a little girl, I would never dream of a woman ever becoming president."

The gravity of a woman becoming a major party nominee isn't lost on me. I'm glad another barrier has been broken; considering only two women of color have ever been elected to the Senate, we obviously have more work to do. But I'm also glad that accepting the current state of affairs doesn't seem so permanent anymore. I have Bernie Sanders to thank for that.


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