Isabella Gonzalez Potter
McCarthy Fellow in Sacramento
Privett Global Scholar alumna
It’s been a memorable summer thus far as a McCarthy Fellow in Sacramento participant. I’ve witnessed the passing and failing of bills on the floor, heated debates among members fueled by whatever life experience had led them to that infamous seat on the floor representing millions of California constituents, yet everything came down to the simple push of a button. Would it be Aye or Nay? As someone whose political coursework was limited to a few classes in the Latin American Studies department to fulfill my minor, I often felt out of place in the beginning. However, I have come to realize that some of the most powerful political experience cannot be gained within the confines of a college classroom – it happens in the real world, which is powerful for someone who felt at an early age that the political system was not meant for them.
Growing up with a single mother, in the borderlands of the Southwest, politics felt out of reach. Out of reach in the sense that we had no control over them although they seemed to have a direct effect on every aspect of our existence. There is something about Election Day which gives you a sense of control, even if it is for a singular moment. The power to mark your party, your candidate, your vote for the future leader of the United States of America. But who really who has this power? If you are undocumented or have a past that involved time in prison you don’t have power. If media declared the presumptive Democratic nominee before full statistics had been reported from polling stations do we have power?
I explicitly remember when I was 18 years old, a new transplant to San Francisco as a freshman in college, being able to participate in my first election. There is something overwhelmingly powerful to mark the box of who you feel is best suited to be the next leader of our country. It makes you reminisce about the tremendous journey your family has taken to get you that far. For me personally, it is a story of immigration, sacrifice, but more than anything pride. Four years later, the time to vote for the next leader of the U.S. has come again. In an election that has already been extremely controversial, complicated and riddled with perspectives from media, the time to offer one’s own perspective has never been more poignant. As a McCarthy Fellow in Sacramento participant, my environment has added an extra element to that equation, especially in the Capitol building where politics is a way of life.
On the June 7 election night for the Presidential Primary in California, us McCarthy Fellows had an opportunity to attend various events throughout Sacramento. Perhaps the most memorable part of the evening was attending newly elected Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg’s campaign party and meeting Betty Yee, California State Controller. Aside from the excitement of taco and ice cream trucks, the even more overwhelming feeling was being surrounded by people who were so eager to be part of a system that was bigger than themselves. From chatting with legislators, chiefs of staff, directors, aides or citizens the events showed that we all play a critical part in the process. For those of us who are lucky enough to be able to vote and voice our opinion, I feel that it is a civic duty we all need to engage in.
If the last month working inside the Capitol building has taught me anything it is this – know your story and what it means – where you come from, where you are going and where you want to end up. Every person you meet along the way will play a part in the story whether the role be big or small, whether you are expecting it or it comes as a surprise, be open to it. I am learning that politics is interwoven stories of people, places, and times. In order to be a part of it you need to know your own history, as well as a collective history to encompass all people. I think it is simply too easy to get stuck in dominant narratives, Trump versus Hillary for example. Yes, they are the two main contenders in the Presidential race, but the race is about more than that. It is about questioning our beliefs and our way of thinking so that we can most effectively move into the future. Our simple vote is perhaps the most effective way to show what we want from our America.