Kara Kline: A Force for Change and Proving #OneVoteMatters

The 2008 and 2016 elections have spurred a new generation of political activists to come forward and take an active role in our future, albet for very different reasons. Kara Kline, a junior at George Mason University and President of the George Mason Democrats, is member of this new era in politics.

It all started for Kara in 2010. In the Charlottesville area, where Kara lived until coming to George Mason University, President Obama’s election might as well have been the end of the world. “It seemed like such a horrible thing to me based on what everyone around me was saying. Looking back, all the kids in my class were just repeating what they heard at home. But to 11 year old me, this made it seem like ‘Democrat’ was a bad word, and being Republican was a good thing.”  In the 8th grade, many girls in her grade decided to protest abortion by taping their mouths shut, silencing themselves the way they saw abortions silencing the lives of babies. To Kara’s surprise, when she went home and told her mom about the protest and her desire to participate, her mom wasn’t nearly as enthusiastic as she was.

Her mom went on to explain the landmark Supreme Court case, Roe v. Wade, and a woman’s right to control her body and make her own choices. Most importantly, she also encouraged Kara to participate if she still wanted to, now that she was walking into the situation with the full range of information and rights at play. From that moment forward, Kara resolved herself to be different from her peers, and many other Americans. She was determined to develop her own opinions, do her own research and stay true to herself and her opinions -- even if they’re not popular.

Courtesy of Kara Kline

In an area extremely lacking in political diversity, Kara was often met with resistance when she would chose to stand up and let her voice be heard. At points she was terrified to call herself by that taboo and illicit word: democrat. In her AP Government class, she would find herself lying about her answers on questions out of fear of ending up sitting on the liberal side of the classroom when they were grouped by political ideology. Only three people in her class were grouped as liberal.

Related: Voting is Your Responsibility

These experiences carried Kara through high school and into college, prompting her to come to Mason and study Government and International Politics in the beating heart of the American political scene. Here, she’s been afforded unique opportunities to intern on Capitol Hill, while still being able to work with politicians across Virginia, as well as be educated by professors who have experience working in the federal government or holding elected office. When coming to Mason, one of the most diverse universities in the country, she ended up finding more than just the ideal geographic location to be a Government major, she also found a community where she could finally feel free to express her opinions freely, without fear of repercussions or alienation from her peers. According to Kara, after the 2016 presidential election, “I decided enough was enough. I realized sitting back and being passive wasn’t an option anymore. I needed to take action and do something to help my party.” It was at this point that she worked on her first campaign for former congressman Tom Perriello’s campaign for governor with the GMU Democrats.

Courtesy of Kara Kline

Kara wasn’t an extremely active member of GMU Dems before this campaign, but working as the chair for the Perriello campaign caucus within the organization inspired her to take initiative in every part that she could. While organizing phonebanks, canvasses and many other visibility events on campus, Kara found a dedicated group of volunteers that were extremely passionate about the campaign and were able to make over 4,500 voter contacts during the primary election campaigns.

Kara also cites Perriello as the politician that has influenced her the most, and it began long before his run for governor. When Perriello was elected to Congress as a Democrat in her district, VA-05, it was an extremely big deal. Kara said that she “was always inspired by how he fought to pass the Affordable Care Act, even though he knew it wouldn’t be popular with voters in the 5th and it could ultimately cost him his seat after only serving one term.” Although his gubernatorial bid was ultimately unsuccessful, due to the extreme amount of support he threw behind Ralph Northam, -- and every other democrat running for the House of Delegates -- the Democratic Party won the Governor’s race and flipped 15 seats in the House. Personally, Kara says she “found my passion for campaign work through that race, and I’m so thankful that I was given that opportunity by GMU Dems.”

Courtesy of Kara Kline

Unlike many politics-centric clubs at the college level, GMU Dems don’t sit around passively and discuss politics, they go out in the field on canvassing trips nearly every week and take an active role in the political process. This provides the unique opportunity for real-world experience in the field for those interested in politics as a career and the opportunity for anyone to truly educate and immerse yourself in politics.

You don’t have to be an expert on all of Washington’s hot-button issues or an experienced canvasser -- or even a member -- to join GMU Democrats as they interact with voters across the Commonwealth. Many students who have never knocked on a door or made a phone call in this context find themselves compelled to join the team on the canvassing trips that they make nearly every day of the week, they’re all more than happy to train you and will welcome you with open arms. It’s this kind of community and family that develops in GMU Democrats that has stuck with Kara throughout all of her years working with them. “It’s incredible being able to be a part of an organization like GMU Dems, just knowing the impact that we can have,” Kara added, “It makes me so happy every day to see so many young people come out to our events to help us elect Democrats.”

Courtesy of Kara Kline

When trying to pinpoint her favorite experience with GMU Dems, it was hard to settle on just one moment, but she couldn’t beat the feeling of Election Day in 2017. After spending the weeks leading up to the election calling voters and knocking on doors nonstop, -- and many sleepless nights --the feeling she found that day during the campus watch party while being surrounded by her friends that had worked alongside her was indescribable. As Kara and the rest of the GMU Dems watched the election results roll in, “we realized that Ralph Northam had won, and we saw how many House of Delegates seats we had picked up. In that moment, all of the work we had done all year had been worth it. It was the best feeling ever, especially in the wake of the previous years election.”

Related: Why the 2017 Election Results are Monumental

Although Kara has set her sight on law school for the future, she hasn’t written off the possibility of running for local office one day. However, right now she is completely focused on doing everything in her power as president of GMU Dems — and beyond — to help elect Democrats in Virginia, “there is so much work to be done, and I won’t stop until I’ve done everything I can for my party.”