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First, They Ignore You

“We project that Chloe Maxmin will get 49.2% of the vote in the general election for State Senate in ME 13 vs. Dana Dow. In our simulations using this projection, Chloe Maxmin wins 41.2% of the time.”

I smiled into the flashing screen of my phone as I read the final projection produced by our formula a week before the 2020 election. The campaign I worked on since late January 2020 with a team of others was well within the margin of error of winning. On September 16, our internal formula projected Chloe to win 25.2% of the time. Our candidate, Chloe Maxmin, had increased her cumulative chance of winning by 16%.

For me personally, coming this far was an accomplishment.

Growing up without college-educated parents the world often felt outside of my control. They approached the world with a timidity that forced me to grow up quickly. When I lacked something, I didn’t have a parent who was confident enough to call up an administrator to ask for it – that responsibility has fallen to me since middle school.

I had to make a conscious decision to want more and work for it. So, I did.

When I was young, my shoulders sometimes felt too narrow to carry such a burden. Need instilled inside of me a willingness and belief that I could generate change. The necessity of my mission to do better in life forced me to grow.

I entered college with low expectations for myself. I wanted to get a non-STEM degree and find a job at a mid-range company. I felt these goals were reasonable and accomplishable. That was my dream, my best life.

But as I began to take college classes, I realized that I was capable of much more. By the end of my sophomore year, I completed the major requirements to earn an economics degree, took on an additional data science major, and was selected to study abroad at Cambridge University.

Seeing how much I could do inspired me to keep growing, and Bluebonnet gave me the opportunity to do more than I could have imagined growing up.

Bluebonnet is in its own words “a people-powered nonprofit with a mission to democratize data.” In a world where shadowy PACs and limitless corporate donations can influence elections, it’s a chance to even the odds. It’s a chance for a small group of highly skilled high-tech artisans to punch well above their weight class against opponents up and down the ballot. It’s a chance to help put people like Chloe Maxmin in a position to change the world.

To think that I, a first-generation college student, could stand up and fight for American democracy is beyond what I could have imagined myself doing even four years ago. I am proud that I get to use the technical skills learned over matcha-fueled study sessions and countless office hours attended to work towards a better future.

Volunteering with Bluebonnet is my way of advocating for myself and on behalf of everyone like me. For people like my parents who aren’t able to advocate for themselves. For every American who stands to benefit from the policies of the candidates who inspire me to keep working. No matter how daunting the challenge, I think of the same little girl afraid to advocate for herself and how far she has come.

When encountering particularly pernicious challenges, I draw inspiration from the American labor organizer Nicholas Klein: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

I was proud to watch this progression of events occur over the course of our campaign in Maine’s 13th District. Going to bed that night, I slept happily knowing that we helped Chloe Maxmin and her campaign fight for the fundamental rights of her district.

On November 4th, 2020, we had our answer: 12,603 to 12,045. Chloe Maxmin won.

Chloe, no one is ignoring us now.

No one is laughing at us.

They tried to fight us.

We won.


About the Author

Miranda Miao is a senior at Wellesley College studying Economics and Data Science with a concentration in Financial Economics. She is passionate about using big data for social good and loves exploring machine learning techniques within a causal framework. When she is not crunching data, she enjoys horseback riding and polo.

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