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Their 2016 Election Grief Went Viral. Here’s What They’re Doing to Make Sure 2020 Isn’t a Repeat

“I am working really hard,” she says. She’s been phone banking, text banking, postcarding, and working to persuade friends. “Even though I feel anxious and stressed and all of that, if I don’t act then I’ll sort of swallow that all and will just feel completely paralyzed,” she says. “And so instead what I do is, I act. And then on November 4 or whenever, I’ll be able to look at myself in the mirror and know that I actually tried to do something.”

Passmore has had some practice—she did campaign for the Democrats in the 2016 election (though not as much then as she has been in 2020), and she is involved in community building through her church and her job. Her barrier to entry for volunteering was pretty low, and she has taken on a lot.

But Nabrynski, like many people, just isn’t comfortable with calling strangers. “It’s really hard for me,” she says. “I get hysterical.” She’s challenged herself to do some phone banking, but she’s mostly had to find other ways to make a difference in the election. “I don’t make a ton of money with my job, but I’ve been donating a ton to Black Lives Matter, trans organizations, and Jaime Harrison and Marquita Bradshaw,” she says, naming Democratic candidates running for Senate in South Carolina and her state, Tennessee. She’s not wealthy, but she’s happy to budget for this, she says. “I just feel good about myself donating, knowing that my energy can go toward very specific battles rather than just freaking out if Trump wins again.”

Eittreim, now 21 and a college student in Chicago, has doubled down on her commitment to doing what she can for the people she cares about. “My action has been more on a personal level,” she says. She’s been spending time reaching out to friends and family members—especially the ones who think their votes don’t matter—and helping them get informed about what’s on their ballots. It helps her deal with the fact that she’s “terrified about what the next four years under Donald Trump could hold.” She witnessed the uprisings not far from her hometown in Minnesota after George Floyd was killed. “We’re going to see a lot more of that if Trump wins,” she predicts.

Eittreim isn’t a fan of Donald Trump or Joe Biden. But she’s still working to influence the people around her to vote, and to vote for candidates up and down their ballots who will protect civil rights and reproductive rights, specifically. “I’m really excited to vote for other things beyond just the president because I think it’s really important to take your local government into consideration because those are going to affect you directly.”

She has spent a lot of time on social media, sharing the fact that without Planned Parenthood’s discounts, she wouldn’t be able to afford birth control. “The demographic I fit into, social media is where we get a lot of our news,” she points out. “So it’s really important that it’s accurate and that we’re educating each other.”

Passmore and Nabrynski have full-time jobs, and Eittreim is a full-time student. None of them are wealthy philanthropists or celebrities, nor do they have a professional background in politics. All three describe themselves as “anxious.” What they have in common is that they’ve all found the thing that motivates them—and a support system that allows them to take some action in spite of their once immobilizing despair.

Since the last election, Passmore welcomed her first grandchild—a little girl named Isa—and the change has pushed her to work even harder. “The idea that after all these years, this is what I’m giving her,” she says, referring to the state of the country under the Trump administration, “gives me a stomachache.”

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