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Barrys for Biden

Allison Barry ’15 & Lauren Barry ’17
Placed in battleground, two sisters find Biden campaign success and rediscover their familial bond.
by Allison ’15 and Lauren ’17 Barry
Allison and Lauren Barry celebrate after Pennsylvania and the election were called in favor of Joe Biden.
Allison and Lauren Barry celebrate after Pennsylvania and the election were called in favor of Joe Biden.

Raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, we, two sisters born a year and a half apart, and living now on opposite coasts – the younger in Massachusetts and the older in California – took jobs (virtually) as field organizers for the Biden-Harris campaign. Navigating work in two of the most contentious counties in Pennsylvania – Erie and Allegheny – our jobs in the 2020 presidential campaign rebuilt the “Blue Wall” and our relationship as we fought to turn PA back to blue.

Our common goal of flipping Pennsylvania dissolved our physical distance and brought us closer as sisters; we came together for something much larger than ourselves and our family.

During a time of pandemic disconnect in a nation that at times appears to be drowning in distress, we took a chance and jumped in the waters of the electoral process to see what hope we could find in democracy. What emerged was hope for two sisters whose childhood bond came to life as we worked together, thousands of miles apart, towards political and social change. Each from our bedrooms-turned-offices, we launched large-scale virtual organizing for the first time in history, kickstarting dramatic campaign innovations. Who would win this election came down to an unprecedented battle of which campaign could out-work, out-call, and out-contact voters – all remotely. Which campaign could adapt better to utilizing virtual communication in recreating the connections the whole nation so dearly misses during the physical distancing required to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Our physical distance from Pennsylvania, under pre-pandemic norms, could have limited our effectiveness; yet, amazingly, technology and the campaign’s infrastructure allowed us to reach into Erie and Allegheny County communities without us ever physically stepping foot there, and still we had a powerful political impact.

We built relationships through laptops and landlines. We called hundreds of people each day in an attempt to create meaningful connections–conversations organizers once had in person canvassing neighborhoods and knocking on voters’ doors. We contacted more people with more phone calls, text messages, and Zoom meetings in a matter of 4 months than we had in the 43 years of our combined lives. (and that is saying a lot for two Gen Z’ers who have communicated with cell phones since middle school…) Our outreach was remarkable, but what continued on past November 3 was the growth of our sisterhood bond.

As COVID-19 desolated the country, the physical and emotional distance between us stretched even further. Five years ago we experienced the wear and tear of living separately when Allison moved cross-country for college. We spoke less, communicated on a surface-level, and allowed the miles between us to wear down our familial bond. When we were both away at college, it became clear that scheduled facetime calls and plans to visit were necessary to maintain our relationship while being apart. However when COVID-19 struck, Lauren remained in her Massachusetts apartment while Allison remained at home in California, and making plans to visit was no longer a possibility. 3,000 miles apart, again. Exciting news in quarantine was sparse and the disconnection we experienced five years prior began to creep in once more.

However, as we approached this year’s election, memories of the loss we all shared in 2016 resurfaced as we again bonded– this time on a deeper level– over our fervent political beliefs and hopes we have for a united democracy. As Allison put this to action and began organizing with the Biden campaign, fascination and admiration stemmed from Lauren as she realized she too wanted to join the discussion and fight for the Biden Harris ticket. Bonds birthed by dress-up and high school carpool matured, as we learned what it meant to be coworkers and sisters. Texts about volunteer experiences in our counties flew fast and frequently between us. Emails of congratulations and competition of who could hit call goals first transformed old sibling rivalry to coworker’s encouragement. FaceTime brought comfort in all times, from Lauren’s first days of training to the stress and anxiety of election night.

And with each text, call, email, or staff meeting, our dedication to flipping Pennsylvania back to blue brought us closer together more than COVID-19 could ever could ever separate us.

Lauren came home early for the holiday season this year on November 6th: just a matter of hours before receiving news of a blue Pennsylvania and the election called as a Biden win. We were fortunate enough to be together–after what felt like years apart–in that victorious moment and celebration of the work we did together, while physically separated. Biden won, Pennsylvania is back to blue, and we sisters are back together.


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