If you’re a writer, then it’s no secret that unless you’re J. K. Rowling or Stephen King, or well on your way to becoming either, you’re probably making part of your living doing something else. For me it’s teaching college. It’s a profession I came to by default, after being laid off after many years in the corporate world. Luckily, I had already secured my Masters of Fine Arts degree, which enabled me to jump right into teaching. Nothing I’ve ever done has given me more of a sense of accomplishment and worth than seeing students benefit from what they’ve learned in my classes, and after five years, I’ve come to love it. And I’d better, because I’m sure not in it for the money.
You see, I’m an adjunct professor, who is a contractual, contingent teaching professional with same level of education as “full-time” faculty, often with the same accomplishments and experience. The quotes are my own, not to denigrate those who are permanent, but to distinguish them from the adjuncts who more often than not, work twice as much and sometimes three times as long to earn less compensation. That’s because adjuncts often have to travel to multiple campuses to teach, as most higher ed institutions will not give them more than 9 credit hours, and the usual full load of 12 would then compel them to pay our health insurance. Contingent faculty now comprise close to 70% of all teaching professionals on college campuses nation-wide, deeming us one of the most educated workforces toiling for poverty wages, with thirty-one percent of part-time faculty living near or below the federal poverty line. To add insult to injury, we’re not even considered “part-time” employees, so we’re routinely denied unemployment and disability benefits when both are deducted from our pay. This is because we’re lumped with full-time educators, who traditionally receive a year’s worth of pay on a ten-month schedule. State governments don’t seem to recognize if we don’t work, we don’t get paid.
After working within this reality for many years, I felt I needed to do something about it. But what? I could bitch on social media, complain to my friends and to my fellow professors, write comment after comment on articles on adjunct unfairness. But how would that affect a practice so ingrained and only getting worse? I realized if I wanted to bring about real change, I needed to get off my ass and work within the system, or no one would ever listen to me. So when I saw the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) local adjunct union was having an election at the main college where I teach, I entered my name in the ballot for the executive board.
And hot damn–I won. And just in time too, as our current contract was set to expire. I and my team are now in the process of negotiating our new two-year contract, and for the first time in my new-ish career, I’m actually helping to bring about real change. So what does all this have to do with my case for Hillary Clinton? Lots, because it’s taught me two things: the world is a cruel, unforgiving place. But nothing beats the power of negotiation.
This is really, really important in light of what’s going on in the Democratic Party right now. I was raised as a progressive, and I’ve always been proud to call myself a liberal, no matter how much conservatives like to make a dirty word out of it. And because I am a liberal, I’ve been a fan of Bernie Sanders for years, long before many of his supporters caught their first viral video about him. I admired his stance on almost everything–the big banks, free college tuition, the Trans Pacific Partnership, universal health care –but mainly because he speaks truth to power. It impressed me he ran one of the most successful and honest campaigns in history, shunning PAC money for the average $27 donation. What’s not to love?
Yet I didn’t vote for him in New Jersey’s June primary. I voted for Hillary.
Why? Because I thought she was the best possible candidate? No. (That’s Cory Booker, yo!) Look, I’ve had my problems with the Clintons way back to Bill’s first presidential election. (Yes, I’m old enough to have voted in that.) As a staunch disbeliever in capital punishment (New Jersey has since abolished it), I still can’t get over his flying back to Arkansas from the campaign trail to sign the death warrant for a mentally-impaired man. And the whole Monica Lewinsky affair–not the impeachment which was bullshit–still sticks in my craw. But Bill isn’t Hillary, and at times, I find the connection unfair. And even if it isn’t, she has long had her own history of social service and activism, way before she ever met Bill, in children’s rights, civil rights, and women’s rights. She’s been a First Lady not just content “stay home and bake cookies,” but also a Senator, a Secretary of State, and the first woman to win a major party’s nomination — which if you think isn’t significant, just goes to show you how far women have come to make it almost seem routine. Hillary’s smart, savvy, worldly, and quite frankly, knows her shit. But none of that’s why I voted for her. I voted for her because I knew the numbers were with her, and she ‘d win out over Bernie in the end.
Reality — check.
Now that Hillary’s got the nomination, I know what I’m going to do. I’m going to vote for her in November. Why? Because I’m a realist, because she’s capable, because I’m not caught in a cult of personality, because party platform is bigger than any one candidate, and hopefully with her comes a slate of change down-ticket. And to all you Bernie-or-Bust holdouts, who think that a vote for Hillary is a sell-out, that a vote for the Green party will somehow make a statement, that voting for Trump will bring on “the revolution” sooner, that a single vote can’t matter, that Bernie didn’t do something significant by forcing the MOST progressive platform in the DNC’s history, that one sweep of the convention floor won’t tell you how much the Democratic Party stands for inclusion, that don’t know a roll call on the convention floor is the way a convention is supposed to work, that all politics is local and real democracy ENDS at a presidential election, that shouting someone down and not allowing them a voice only creates dissonance, that government works best when both sides come together and work it out, that the DNC doesn’t get it. Really? Then what other party currently competing has a real chance to actually affect change for you? I mean–seriously?
Get over yourselves.
The United States, my friends, is a Work in Progress, not perfect, but certainly worth perfecting. Again, Hillary’s not perfect, but she’s not intractable either, and if you think electing her opponent would be better, or that sitting the whole thing out will leave you pure so you can stand on your principles, well, let Sarah say it for you.