Brooke Black grew up in Des Moines, Iowa, interested in politics, in a family that wasn’t. In 2016, she volunteered for the Hillary Clinton campaign, in Minnesota, where she was living at the time, and convinced not just her mother but also her grandparents, who had never voted before in their lives, to go out and cast ballots against Donald Trump. “They were scared of Donald Trump,” she said. “So they finally got involved, and it was really so satisfying when they did.” After Trump won, Black, who is thirty-eight and now works in sales and marketing at a corporate housing company in Des Moines, couldn’t shake the feeling that she could have done more. This year, Black told herself that she would do everything she could to make sure Trump wasn’t reëlected.
Kamala Harris had been Black’s top choice for President since the previous fall, when Harris grilled Brett Kavanaugh during his Supreme Court confirmation. In April, Black volunteered with the campaign and was soon among the most dedicated volunteers in the operation. She began hosting Harris-campaign staff in her home, setting them up in her extra bedrooms. Then she started making phone calls and knocking on doors. Since June, she estimates that, with the exception of three weeks off, she made about six hundred calls a week on Harris’s behalf, which means she made something like thirteen thousand calls in total. “I could sit at my house, watch ‘Downton Abbey,’ have a glass of wine, and make phone calls,” she told me. “It was perfect.”
On Tuesday, after Harris announced that she was suspending her campaign, Black spoke to me about what it was like to volunteer for the campaign and what she thinks now that the campaign is over. Her account has been edited and condensed.
“I am currently single. I have no kids. I have a beautiful dog, a boy named Princeton. Something else that I will say, and that I’m very proud to say, is that I’m part of the L.G.B.T.Q. community, and that’s something that also led me to support Kamala Harris. I think a lot of people started to know her when she got on the [Senate] Judiciary Committee. I said right then and there, ‘If she ever runs for President, I’m going to support her.’ I had heard of her long before that. I had known who she was. I followed her campaign for Senate. But it’s when she started doing Kavanaugh, Bill Barr, that I said, ‘I’m in for her, no matter what.’
“So then I did my research and found everything that she has done for the L.G.B.T.Q. community, what she’s done for people of color, what she’s done for people who don’t have a voice. And I thought, Yeah, that’s my candidate. So I signed up for supporter housing. And I’ve had someone at my house since, I think, April. I have two bathrooms and three bedrooms. I was set up for it. The only thing that I told them is I don’t have a TV in any other room but mine and the living room. So, if you want a TV, I’m sorry. But I have Wi-Fi. Then I quickly realized that it doesn’t matter—they were gone from 8 A.M. until nine o’clock at night.
“In June, one of the organizers came over to my house to do a canvass launch. And he’s, like, ‘Do you want to go out canvassing with us today?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, I’d love to.’ And I went out knocking on doors. Then I told him, ‘I have nothing going on in my evening time.’ They started printing me up call lists. I did that from Monday through Sunday, evening calls. I think that my lists were about thirty pages, front and back. A lot of calls. A lot of calls.
“Early on, people would pick up the phone and say, ‘Who are you with again?’ And I would say, ‘Kamala Harris.’ And they’d be, like, ‘Oh, I don’t know a lot about her,’ or ‘Oh, you’re with Kamala,’ or ‘Camela,’ and just mispronounce her name. Those calls progressed into people telling you, ‘Oh, she’s in my top three,’ ‘Oh, I really like her—I’m still deciding.’ I personally did get a lot of commit-to-caucus cards, because I also did, then, on the weekends, canvass every single weekend, Saturday and Sunday, full days. So it was a lot of time spent, and I absolutely would not change it for nothing.
“I learned a couple of things. People in Iowa—I still maintain this fact to this very day—are very, very undecided about who they’re going to support. People liked Kamala. The only reservation I heard is, ‘I don’t know if a woman can be elected. We just had that in 2016, and look what happened. Can we get a woman of color?’ It was never, ‘She’s not qualified,’ or ‘I don’t like her policies,’ or ‘I don’t identify with her.’ It was never that. The people that didn’t go with her were people that were concerned that she was a woman, and a woman of color, and not electable. And it’s very sad that that was the truth. I remember knocking on a woman’s door, in Des Moines, and she said, ‘I’m going to caucus for Pete Buttigieg.’ And I said, ‘He’s a great candidate. Is there something that’s driving you toward that vote?’ And she said, ‘I love Kamala, but I do not think that a woman can be elected.’ And I said to her, ‘If every person that said that threw their support behind Kamala, she would win this election!’
“The sad thing about it is that—and I grapple with this in my mind—there was never a time in this campaign that I thought Kamala wasn’t going to be the nominee. After she had had her high of sixteen per cent in Iowa, and she was up there in national polls and stuff, I thought, Yeah, this is great, everybody is catching on. And then you go to the three and five per cent, or whatever she was—but it never felt like that to me on the ground. I very rarely met anybody that she wasn’t in their top three. Obviously, the polls are the polls, but I kept thinking, I’m actually on the ground, doing the work. I think that she is viable in Iowa, and that she is going to surprise a lot of people.
“I always read every single article, whether it was positive toward Kamala or negative. I listened to podcasts, I watched MSNBC, I even watched Fox News to see what they’re talking about. CNN. Because I wanted to get all angles of it. But I never let it affect my mind-set. It wasn’t like, Oh, she’s falling, now what am I going to do? I never honestly got that feeling that we would not even make it to Iowa.
“Today, I’m in Omaha for work, which is actually very sad for me. I’d like to be in Des Moines today with my fellow KHive. My organizer called and he said, ‘I don’t know if I’m supposed to tell you this right now, but I’m going to tell you anyway.’ And usually when he tells me that it’s always something really exciting about the campaign going on. And he’s like, ‘No, this is not good news. Just so you don’t see it on Twitter or hear it first, I just wanted to be the first to tell you the campaign is suspended.’ It’s hard. I’m not going to lie. It’s emotional. Because in my heart of hearts, Kamala should be the next President of the United States.”