Meet the reformer: Aisha McClendon, who's switched from campaigning to registering
This summer VoteAmerica, which operates nationwide registration and turnout programs, hired seasoned Democratic operative Aisha McClendon as national constituencies director — focused on bolstering the nonprofit's work with churches and historically Black colleges and universities. She had previously been a regional constituency director for Mike Bloomberg's 2020 presidential campaign, after running national African American outreach for the Beto O'Rourke campaign. Before that she'd worked for a state legislator in her native Texas. Her answers have been edited for clarity and length.
What's the tweet-length description of your organization?
VoteAmerica works to ensure high turnout. We provide easy resources and tools to register to vote, sign up to vote by mail, request an absentee ballot, get election reminders, find a polling place and contact local election officials, etc.
Describe your very first civic engagement.
Registering people to vote on the campus of Dillard University, the historically Black college I attended in the 1990s.
What was your biggest professional triumph?
Spearheading the inaugural prayer service by the Black Caucus to open up the 2012 Democratic convention. It is always a struggle to get people to think outside of what they have ever done, and we had a lot of roadblocks — from buy-in from the party to getting sponsorships and finding speakers to volunteer their time. It was a huge task, and I had to call in a lot of favors, but we did it, and it was terrific. You know it's a good night when Rev. Jesse Jackson and Michael Eric Dyson crash your party!
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And your most disappointing setback?
Struggling to deal with people acting against their self-interest. People are not often empowered to get out of their own way.
How does your identity influence the way you go about your work?
Who I am is my work, who I am is my profession, what I am is my calling. I will always be a Black woman. I take the task of ensuring that Black people, especially women, are always included in the picture of what America should like.
What's the best advice you've ever been given?
It was from the late civil rights and women's rights leader Dorothy Height, when she saw me trying to move to the far edge of a group posing for a photo, almost hiding myself. She said to me: Don't stand on the end; that's how women get cut out of history.
Create a new flavor for Ben & Jerry's.
Non-dairy Blackberry Cannoli. Who knows how it would taste, but those are two of my favorite things!
What's your favorite political movie or TV show?
"The West Wing," hands down. It reminds me of one of my first jobs, working in the executive office building next door to the White House during the Clinton administration.
What's the last thing you do on your phone at night?
Honestly, scroll through Facebook.
What is your deepest, darkest secret?
I may or may not have a "W" from an old school computer keyboard!