Blue Knox is a community organizer, political strategist and communications consultant based in Toronto. She spent months campaigning for Hillary Clinton during the U.S. election
Millions watched Donald Trump be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States of America, under an ominous grey D.C. sky. I watched it unfold while texting with my campaign team in a group chat to come to terms with reality and prepare ourselves for the work that remains ahead.
As Mr. Trump put his hand on the Bible and swore the oath, I immediately thought of Diana, a six-year-old girl who held my hand outside of a Hillary rally in Des Moines, Iowa in October and told me that she would one day be president. I thought of Jackie, the remarkable woman with limited mobility in West Des Moines, who led my volunteers through the campaign's final days out of her house, because she is committed to ensuring her family, friends and country have affordable health care. I thought of Justin, the high-school student I mentored who went above and beyond, giving up every evening and weekend he could to volunteer for Hillary because he wanted to better his country.
Five months ago, I flew to Iowa to volunteer as a full-time campaign fellow in Des Moines. I left home filled with hope and pride to be campaigning for the most progressive party platform in American history led by Hillary Rodham Clinton – an accomplished, exceptional woman who has dedicated her life to serving her country. I knew if the United States raised its bar for the rights of its people, Canada would do the same. I worked around the clock with an incredible field organizing team building networks of hundreds of volunteers to elect Hillary Clinton and Democrats down ticket. To say the election results were devastating would be an understatement and many of us are still recovering.
Since Nov. 8, many have joked about moving to Canada. We have boasted Canada's superiority as an apparently more "inclusive" and multicultural nation. Claims of Canadian exceptionalism fail to see the similarities between the anxieties of unemployed workers in Alberta, and those in Michigan. Of the thousands of calls made, doors knocked and volunteers befriended, Iowa felt as close to home as I could get without being north of the 49th parallel.
On the campaign, I spoke with people from every walk of life – new citizens, frustrated workers, overwhelmed students, relieved recipients of affordable health care. The issues that culminated in Donald Trump's victory I recognized from home.
This is why the divisive rhetoric of Kellie Leitch, Brad Trost, and now, Kevin O'Leary have been so disappointing. Each of these Conservative leadership candidates boasts their own protectionist agenda and promises some "restoration" of Canadian values – much of which is coded language steeped in racism and bigotry. Donald Trump and Kevin O'Leary are the embodiment of white entitlement – men who have never lived a life in service to others yet believe themselves entitled to power. What Mr. O'Leary doesn't realize is that, yes, we have seen what happened in America and, no, we will not let it happen again.
There is an entire generation of organizers like myself who will commit their skills every day for the rest of their lives to ensuring Canadians have leaders who serve their citizens and not their egos, and build every day for a more just society.
What Canadians need now is for our country to step out as a leader apart from the rest, rise above, and be prepared to lead the way – standing up for those who have been discriminated against and disenfranchised. We should be looking to leaders who are committed to serving the people of this nation through careful compromise and evidence-based problem solving. We need kindness, generosity, empathy and a vision for a brighter future for all Canadians. We need an unwavering commitment to service over oneself. If you are unprepared to offer these things, you are unfit for office.
There is so much to be done here in Canada and the time to organize is now. On Friday, we mourned the loss of a compassionate leader. Today, and every day for as long as it takes to achieve substantial progress, we will march and organize – for children's rights, for reproductive rights, for LGBTQ rights, for disability rights, for black lives, for indigenous lives, for health care, for education, for immigrants, for workers and for a more inclusive society.
I will march for my family, my friends, my neighbours, and for Diana, Justin, Jackie, and all of the amazing people in Iowa who welcomed me with open arms.