You can read this series from the beginning here.
"Let’s take this one from the top," I said.
Her name was Bethany, and she was a member of the College Democrats at the University of Maryland, and we had put her and several of her fellow College Democrats on a bus and brought them down to Washington to do YouTube testimonials about why they wanted the former Secretary to be President. I had been going over cue cards and camera placements with Bethany for the last hour, and we were both getting frustrated with each other.
"I don’t want to have to do this again, Mr. Fairchild," she said. "It’s so lame."
"You’re the voice of the Millennial generation," I said. "You need to tell your story loud and strong. The more people who know that young people like you are Ready for Hillary, the more people we’ll convince to support her."
"The entire process is so objectifying. I mean, aren’t you basically appropriating the male gaze for political purposes by putting me on camera?"
"No," I said, in the nicest possible way, because despite her obvious enthusiasm for progressive politics, Bethany had, apparently, an equal enthusiasm for crab cakes and Old Bay fries. "No, we’re not."
"Okay. If you can hand me the script, I can try again."
"Don’t read it from the script," I said. "You should speak from your heart. Why do you want Hillary Clinton to be the next president?"
"Okay," she said. "As a feminist, I was shocked to learn that women still only make fifty-five cents on the dollar for what a man makes for comparable worth. And just as shocking, we’ve had fifty-five presidents in this country, but only one of them was a woman. Electing Hillary Clinton as the next president can help to restore that balance in favor of women."
"Not bad," I said. "But can we try it again?"
"What was wrong with that one?" she asked. "I thought I nailed it."
"You showed admirable enthusiasm," I said. "But the wage gap is really seventy-seven cents. Not what you said. And there have been forty-four Presidents, not fifty-five, and they’ve all been male."
"I won’t stand here and have you mansplain to me," she said. "It’s fine the way it is. It tells my authentic story."
"But it doesn’t tell the authentic facts," I said. "We need to make sure that the messaging is consistent. And correct. Can we try again?"
"I don’t know," she said. "Can I take a couple of minutes and talk to my mom about it?"
"Oh, by all means," I said. "If you wouldn’t mind sending in the next person, please."
The next student’s name was Jackie. Except that it wasn’t. "That’s not my real name," she said.
"What’s your real name?" I asked. "We need it, for the video."
"Microaggression," she said. "Which way to the safe space?"
"We don’t have one," I said. "I mean, we did, but not anymore. They made us get rid of it."
"That’s discriminatory. You should sue."
"I appreciate your concern. Can I just get your name? Please?"
"I adopted the name ‘Jackie’ as a protest against rape culture," she said. "You should respect my self-identification with rape victims."
I knew better than to ask if she was a rape victim, and I wasn’t opposed to her adopting a pseudonym, but the campaign was clear that we needed signed releases with actual names. "I am not trying to do a microaggression against you, honestly. But if I can’t get your actual name, we can’t use your video on the website."
"My name represents an essential truth about me and what I believe, so no."
"Okay," I sighed. "If you wouldn’t mind waiting in the lounge for your bus to get here. And it would be nice if you could send in the next person."
"I don’t work for you," Jackie said. "Do it yourself."
The next student was an even bigger fan of fried food than Bethany. He was tall and wide and wearing a horrible loud turtleneck that was emblazoned with the Maryland flag. "We need you not to wear that," I said.
"This is school pride," he said. "Maryland. Turtleneck. FEAR THE TURTLE, dude."
"That’s fine," I said, "but it looks horrible on camera and you should really wear something else. Anything else. Can you, like, borrow a hoodie from someone?"
"I don’t think so," he said. "Is this fat-shaming? Because I get a lot of that."
"This is not any kind of shaming," I explained. "I just want you to look your best as a supporter of Hillary Clinton."
"Oh, yeah. Is she going to be here? Because somebody said that she was going to be here."
"No," I said, not for the first time that day. "The former Secretary is in New Hampshire today." (This was actually a lie; she was at a fundraiser in the Hamptons.)
"I don’t want to meet the former Secretary, dumbass. I want to meet Hillary Clinton."
"Okay," I said. "We’re done here."
The last student to come in was tall, African-American, and an individual who had a remarkably attractive feminine gender expression. She was wearing a tailored gray pantsuit and black patent-leather high heels. She could have walked right in to your local TV newsroom and gotten any kind of job she wanted. I set up the camera and waited for the magic to happen.
"I’m looking for a candidate with outstanding communication skills," she said. "I’m looking for a candidate with decades of experience fighting for the issues that I value most. I’m looking for a candidate who can look at voters as people with real needs and not just demographic groups."
I just kept the camera running. I was enthralled. This could be the Lena Dunham video of the 2016 campaign. Finally, someone who could really communicate about Hillary Clinton with passion.
"But more than anything else," she said, "I’m looking for a candidate who understands that black lives matter. Too many times, our people have paid the price for police racism. This has to end now."
"Great!" I said. "And if you could just say something about Hillary Clinton."
"Hillary Clinton just thinks that putting cameras on police officers will solve everything. She’s wrong. She doesn’t understand. She isn’t committed to removing the structural underpinnings of racism in this country."
"Okay, now, if maybe we could say something nice about Hillary Clinton."
"It’s not time to be nice. It’s time to take action. Black lives matter."
"Black lives matter," I repeated.
"I hate to interrupt you," I said, "because you really sound enthusiastic, and I love that, but maybe a little more pro-Hillary would be helpful here."
"BLACK LIVES MATTER," she said again, and strode out of the room where we were doing the taping. "BLACK LIVES MATTER," she said, and all the students in the waiting room started taking up the chant, and they massed in the lobby. Emma came out of the other room we were using to record the videos with a what did you do now, you idiot look on her face.
"Okay!" Emma shouted. "Okay! We get it! Black lives matter. All lives matter!"
At that last statement, all the students booed her as one.
"Look! Can we all agree to put ideology aside for one minute and do something good for the campaign?"
The students stopped chanting, and it looked like order had been restored for a moment. But the elevator bell rang, and the student coordinator for the College Democrats stepped out.
"The bus is here," she said. "Who wants Ben & Jerry’s?" And with that, all the students piled into the elevator and left forever.
"What the hell was that?" Emma asked.
"I think they decided they had made enough of a difference for one day," I said.
"Did you get anything useful?" she asked. "Because I didn’t."
"No," I said. "State-school kids. What do you expect?"
"I did my first two years at Rutgers before I transferred to Mount Holyoke," Emma said.
"Present company excepted, then," I said. I ducked right before she threw the notebook at me. It wasn’t just getting harder to make a difference, it was getting dangerous.
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