Sofia Greco-Byrne is a junior politics major.
The first day of my internship on Capitol Hill was President Obama’s last day in office. Up until Nov. 8, I had been banking on the idea that the days to follow would be led by a certain Madam President.
You see, I had this whole plan. In retrospect, it seems all too perfect. I took the semester off to work as an organizer in North Carolina for the Hillary Clinton campaign. I was all signed up for the “USF in DC” program for the spring semester. I thought I would simply work my butt off, sleep through December, and then arrive right in time for a historic inauguration and an internship in Hillary’s DC.
But as we all know, things didn’t go as planned. I was walking into a DC that almost no one had predicted.
By the end of my first day interning for Senator Jeanne Shaheen, signs that a Trump inauguration was about to take place were less than subtle. It was already dark when I left the Hart Senate Building, and it seemed as though a Trump nation transformation had occurred since the morning. People topped with red “Make America Great Again” caps were walking in every direction. A fellow intern and I made our way through the heightened security and gathering of stands selling Trump gear. A supporter was filming the slew of mostly irritable Capitol Hill staffers as they passed him trying to get to the Metro station.
“Suck it up Buttercup,” he yelled at me as I went by.
Due to the lack of interest in attending, tickets for the inauguration were offered to students from multiple sources, but I wanted nothing to do with it. I confined myself to my dorm room for inauguration weekend, stepping outside only once to drag myself to the Women’s March. Once again, the mood seemed to transform. This time, the red caps were replaced by pink, knitted hats, much more appropriate for the winter weather. Everywhere I looked, there were enthusiastic groups of pink. In a coffee shop filled with protest signs, my roommates and I looked around to see mother-daughter duos, young couples and groups of old friends who had clearly travelled overnight to be part of this consolation prize of a gathering.
With the inauguration weekend events over, I thought the excitement might die down. How wrong I was. For the foreseeable future, the phones of every Congressional office would be ringing non-stop. A combination of energy from the Women’s March and a general hostility toward the idea that Donald Trump was now president of the United States sparked an exponential increase in communication from constituents. I must have uttered the words, “Thanks for calling, I’d be happy to pass your message along to the senator.” a thousands times that first week.
One day, a senior staffer came out to the front-desk waiting area. She told us to brace ourselves for another surge of calls. A news source had a leaked version of the President’s next executive order. As she put it, “This one’s a doozy.” A travel ban on seven Muslim majority countries to be exact. She was right. Calls of opposition came flooding in. Our press office quickly sent out a statement to tell constituents that the senator agreed the ban was wrong on several levels. But that was little help. People were angry. Even more so, they were in awe of how much damage this president could do with one signature.
For the next four months, I watched as protests continued. The White House was undermined by stories on its ties to Russia and Speaker Ryan was forced to pull a healthcare bill he should have had the votes for. As for me, I spent my days inputting constituent letters to Senator Shaheen about everything from Betsy DeVos’ nomination to President Trump’s travel habits. Motivation came from knowing that everything I did was for a strong progressive, known for working across the aisle and getting things done. But still, I was in constant frustration. Sitting there hearing one concerned citizen after another ask what they could do to stop Trump made me realize where real change lies. The difference is made in who we elect to represent us, our state, our country.
I had a front row seat to Trump’s first 100 days. And I have to tell you, I’m very much looking forward to once again campaigning against him.
Photo Courtesy of Sofia Greco-Bryne