Dr Karen Kelsky loves Oregon — almost as much as she loves mail-in voting.
“It’s just so easy!” she says with a laugh. “I don’t know what else to say about it. You sit at the kitchen table. You take all the time you need. You do your research, and having it right there in front of you makes it so nice.”
Founder and CEO of The Professor Is In, a consultancy assisting academics with their career development, the 56-year-old businesswoman and mother considers herself a progressive voter who is highly engaged with the Democratic process.
She has lived in Oregon for a total of 15 years and used to work a a professor in the midwest for a brief period before returning to the west coast.
“It was so conservative and so depressing on so many levels,” she says about her time living outside of Oregon. Fortunately for the lifelong Democrat, she has since found similar-minded voters in her community.
For three years after President Donald Trump was elected, she and her friends in Eugene participated in a weekly event titled “Resist Trump Tuesday,” in which they would stand at a busy intersection every day for three years holding signs and protesting the administration.
“I have grown more progressive the older I’ve gotten,” she explains. “I’m 56 years old and I’ve gotten more left-wing as time has gone by.”
Dr Kelsky supported Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign in 2016 before eventually “enthusiastically” casting a ballot for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when she secured the party’s nomination against Trump.
As the Trump presidency went on, Dr Kelsky became further involved in what she calls “anti-racist politics,” prioritizing things like racial justice and environmental racism while considering a candidate in the 2020 Democratic primaries.
“I loved Elizabeth Warren,” she says. “As a former college professor, she spoke my language and I loved her energy.”
“I’m queer, so that makes a difference as well,” she adds, “and my kids are biracial … so I think about these things.”
Although she wasn’t initially excited about former Vice President Joe Biden, she says she has since come around.
“Now, I think he’s great,” she says. “I mean, I still wish it weren’t a battle between two geriatric white men — I’m still infuriated that it is. But I was excited when he chose Kamala Harris as his running mate. I love Harris, I think she’s done a great job as his running mate.”
But what really is inspiring Dr Kelsky to vote for Biden this year is how she says he listened to the progressive wing of the Democratic Party and adopted aggressive policies to combat the major crises of the moment, while the president has poorly handled everything from race relations to the coronavirus pandemic in her pandemic.
Biden “has moved leftward,” Dr Kelsky says. “I think he’s risen to the challenges of the present moment, in a way I didn’t expect. I think he’s become more forceful, more pointed. He’s a little bit more in the trenches. I think he’s stopped playing nice, which was what I was afraid of ... so I like him right now.”
And with just a few days left until the election ends, this Democratic voter is calling on Americans across the country to do what she loves most: vote, whether it by mail or in person.
“For Democrats, we have to not just win — we have to win in a landslide of epic proportions, to remove enough questions about the election so Trump’s side and QAnon can’t throw us into a coup, a literal right-wing coup,” she says. “I would not call what we have even now a free and fair election because of gerrymandering, voter suppression, Trump’s attacks on the post office and attacks from Russia … but it will get worse if we don’t win.”
With Trump as president, Dr Kelsky says she believes the US is “well on the path to fascism,” adding: “This is no longer a time for gentlemanly proprieties. This is a crisis moment. I very much agree with the idea that if we don’t win this we may never have another free election in America.”