We’ve all been there: supporting a political candidate with so much enthusiasm. Every statement they release, we quickly snatch from a publication and cling to their every word. We know all about their family and we fall in love with their mannerisms and their catchphrases. But how many of us have had a hand in helping them get to where they are? Maybe you’ve donated or even volunteered some hours of your time. Zoë Grimaldi ‘08, on the other hand, has truly put every fiber of her being into certain candidates. She has been behind the scenes and in the middle of action. She has fought hard for people in whom she deeply believes. Most recently, Zoë was a full time organizer for Elizabeth Warren’s 2020 presidential race.
Zoë and I were able to meet — COVID-style — over Zoom and chat about her experience with Warren as well as in organizing in general. She explained she found her way into organizing after Hillary Clinton lost what was supposed to be a landslide of an election. She started her organizing career doing work for a pro-choice advocacy group, eventually finding her way to Warren’s Washington state office for her presidential bid. Her placement in Washington specifically taught her all about vote-by-mail, the state’s standard practice. She acknowledged that, at the time, she had no idea how relevant that experience would come to be.
It is clear that Zoë does this work for the candidate and for the people in the communities in which she’s working. She told me about her work on digital organizing practices, in particular phone banks — when a group of volunteers and organizers makes calls to potential voters and advocates for their candidate. She spoke about the varying levels of access individuals have to information and technology and how these barriers prevent informed voting. Digital organizing helps combat some of these challenges and is one of the ways to connect with the most people no matter who or where they are.
“I've had conversations where someone has been so excited because they… live around a bunch of people who don't think like them. They think they're alone until you call them and say, ‘Hey, jump on this phone bank with us. Be around people who are going to support you and who believe in the same things you do.’”
One of Zoë’s favorite parts of organizing is the personal interactions and people who she has met. There is a lot of divisiveness in politics, even within one party. However, when she’s not doing work for a particular campaign, her colleagues come from all different places in democratic politics and all find common ground to make the most change. In one case, her favorite co-worker was 56-year-old former organizer for Michael Bloomberg in Massachusetts. Despite their ideological differences, they had a positive relationship; he gave her resume advice and she helped him buy gifts for his daughters.
In light of the 2016 presidential election, she said she no longer believes in being confident when it comes to an election. However, she is still as passionate as ever about her work as an organizer. For Hamlin students who are interested in this work, she encourages them to jump in head first. Don’t be held back by not knowing everything about politics — if you have a couple of things that interest you, that’s enough to get engaged.
“I don’t like telling people to give their labor for free, but find a candidate you like and volunteer. Just get into the ecosystem, see what you like, see what you don't. You don't have to be a field organizer to be a part of a campaign; there are plenty of parts of the structure that will need you. So jump into the water and see what you like.”
Profile written by Molly Kehoe '14
Posted September 14, 2020