Feb 16, 2016

Grassroots at a Political Ground Zero by Cragg Hines

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Very recently one of our longtime and dedicated donors, Cragg Hines of Arlington, made a trip to Iowa to participate in the campaigning that built up to the Iowa caucuses.  He has had the honor of seeing politics from the macro level  and at the micro level, and gives his perspective of his trip to Iowa, getting involved for a candidate he personally believes in, and how rewarding the experience has been to him.  Below is his perspective –

For 35 years I did macro-politics, writing about elections and governance across the country and around the world — almost every state and dozens of nations in North and South America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. For the last decade, I’ve done micro-politics, close to the ground — mostly in Virginia, especially in Arlington, as a precinct captain, and neighboring jurisdictions, but occasionally beyond.

Now both macro and micro have now taken me to Iowa. Each experience was, in its way, genuinely thrilling, but especially my week of grassroots campaigning recently in about a dozen precincts north of downtown Des Moines, organizing for Hillary Clinton, the most qualified presidential candidate of at least my adult life. I phoned, I drove door-knocking canvassers, including some other out-of-state volunteers, I entered data. I did the same things I’ve done in dozens of campaigns by now in Virginia. It was cold, minus-5 degrees F one Saturday morning according to blinking temperature signs across Des Moines, but that was nothing new for me – or any reporter or campaigner – who has worked the Iowa caucuses.

I believe I was first in Iowa for politics in 1979, travelling as a Washington Bureau correspondent of the Houston Chronicle with George H.W. Bush as he prepared his first campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. Even though I would never have voted for him, I was impressed by the young people he brought to his then-moderate, pro-choice side. Thirty-seven years later, I was again impressed by the young people, from Iowa and from around the country, who were drawn to volunteer for Hillary – and, admittedly unimaginably to me, other candidates.

Several of the young Hillary staffers, working for very small salaries, were from Northern Virginia – including Bryan La Madrid, my field organizer, and Noah Kim, fresh off the critical campaign that elected Jeremy McPike to the Virginia Senate. I also was glad to see volunteers around Des Moines from the Human Rights Campaign, which has endorsed Hillary.

After the 1980 presidential cycle, I was back in Iowa – and in New Hampshire and South Carolina and loads of other states — every four years. I loved watching the national will work its way through caucuses and primaries – and volunteers by the thousands being drawn to candidates in whom they put their faith, hope and aspirations.

But nothing was as personally meaningful to me as getting involved, at the most granular level, in a political landscape I knew so well from my earlier, professional life. I couldn’t recommend personal involvement in a national campaign any more strongly.