Roger Ailes killed my buzz

Allow me to indulge, for a moment, over the origins of my political career. You may know that back in 2004, I was an unpaid intern on the Kerry Edwards campaign. I had a fabulous boss, and one of her assignments (and hence, one of mine) was to be the communications staff that advanced the convention for the rest of the comms department. So I spent about two of the longest weeks of my life in Boston in 2004 for that convention where John Kerry memorably said: "Reporting for duty." 

Oh, no one wants to talk about that? Let me try again. I worked at the convention where Barack Obama gave his first national convention speech and everyone swooned and we all wished he was our nominee. 

My political career started at a time that was bleak for Dems. Do you remember those years? 9/11, Bush, Iraq War... Those were my college years. And John Kerry was not the most inspiring candidate for young people. Even though that whole "reporting for duty," Vietnam, swift-boating thing did not resonate with me, I was still happy to be part of the campaign because god damnit, those Bush years were bad. And while I was depressed, I didn't want the country to be governed by fear and anger. That never leads to a brighter tomorrow, does it?

And THAT -- trigger alert for Bernie supporters -- is why I have trouble with the Bernie supporters who are still losing their minds. I really tried to dig deep in Philadelphia and find any sympathy left at the bottom of my hardened, cold heart. It is great that they found a candidate who inspired them, and I can relate to how heart-breaking it is when the one you love loses. I've been through it. I know they too will survive. I've also been through the Bush years and I worked on a campaign that no one even acknowledges. So that's why I feel like having a presidential candidate you love is a luxury, not a right. 

Another fun fact about my convention 2004 experience is that I had no fun. I was invited to no parties. I didn't even know parties at conventions were a thing. I worked in the "war room," toiling away in a corner of a bunker in the arena. I ran VHS tapes to media trailers at midnight. I learned what a satellite media tour was. I stuffed folders, stapled press releases, and put credentials on lanyards. A delegate yelled at me because his daughter, an intern, was yelled at by some other Kerry staffer. I cried. There was little sleep and no fun. I actually recall being pretty put off when I found out there were people in Boston having fun. 

So that also informed my approach to the 2016 convention, where I decided I'd go, primarily, for fun. I'd do a few client events, but mostly to network, and see old friends and former campaign colleagues. I'd go to the CNN Grill and the Politico Hub and whatever else I could go to, and eat their food and drink their drinks and have little skin in the game. It's the karmic payoff for all the election nights where I was the most-sober, last woman standing, fighting with some reporter at midnight and having no fun. 

Thanks for saving the seats, Sarah! 

Thanks for saving the seats, Sarah! 

And I'm happy to report that it worked! I came in with low expectations for actually getting into the arena, but thanks to someone (who probably wants to remain nameless because in no way were they supposed to give me a credential) I got a credential to see Hillary's acceptance speech on Thursday night.

And it was great. I was happy that *most* of the Bernie people had calmed down by Thursday. It was a wonderful to be in the arena for such a historic moment. I wasn't a Hillary person in 2008, but I've definitely come around to the idea that we need more women in power - on corporate boards, leading institutions, in elected office at every level, etc. - and it affects the way I work and the work I do every day. I see sexism, subtle and overt, more now than I did at the beginning of my career, and I care about naming it and fighting it. I believe, and the evidence backs me up, that having women in power, means our democracy works better. So I felt great when I left the arena late on Thursday night.

Boss Lady.

Boss Lady.

Then on Friday afternoon, I was on the SEPTA train, headed to a board retreat for Emerge PA in the suburbs of Philadelphia, and I clicked on a story in New York magazine that was blowing up in my Twitter feed. If you haven't read it yet, stop reading this, click here, and come back to me when you're done.

The fun was over. That story made me sick. Calling it harassment lets Roger Ailes of too easily. He was a predator, and it sounds like he put himself in a position of power to build an organization that would allow him to have endless access to prey. And that organization happens to profoundly shape how a sizable number of Americans think - think about Hillary Clinton, think about what women reporters are supposed to look and sound like, and think about policy that affects women. 

Stories of men in power assaulting and harassing women bubble up all the time. (Usually white) men in power, surprisingly often, think that sexism and discrimination is a thing of the past. And I'm not even going to link to the insane crap Donald Trump has said this cycle because that would require another blog post. 

My point is, I didn't go to Philadelphia looking to work myself up into a lather, but Roger Ailes took care of that for me. This country is not post-racial, its not post-gender. I do feel like we've made some progress since 2004, and I'm optimistic about Hillary's chances in November, but seeing Trump win the nomination is as disturbing as it is disheartening. The total meltdown of fragile white males that we're watching this election season is a really good reminder about what got me in to politics in the first place. We're still divided, but I know we can do better. Onward!

Abigail Gardner

Scottie Public Affairs