An Uninterrupted Interview

Daisy Confoy is a student organizer and activist. Emboldened by the current political moment, she went viral in 2017 after standing up to her congressman during a town hall. These are her thoughts on that journey, what propels her, and her hopes for the future.

“I genuinely just care too much. I’ve always cared about social issues, because how could you not? When you start to read about the world, how could you not care that people live in unfortunate situations? Whether it’s not having health care, or you can’t afford food or childcare, or whatever the case may be. It’s these hoops that we make people jump through when they can barely manage to survive. It’s ridiculous.”

“There’s no distinct moment when I knew that I needed to dedicate my life to fighting for the public good. My parents just taught me to care. They have always told me to question authority. In seventh grade, my dad organized a sit-in during recess because Henry Kissinger was bombing Cambodia. He was the only kid who didn’t come in and he got in trouble, but he didn’t care because he knew that he had to do something. I’ve always respected and tried to learn from that example.”

“It started to be so obvious that I needed to do something when my congressman from New Jersey, Tom MacArthur, came out against the Affordable Care Act. I always felt like there was injustice in the world, but never was it so clear to me than when my own congressman tried to do this. This was someone who was supposed to represent us literally turning against members of my community.”

“He authored an amendment called the MacArthur Amendment that would repeal protections for people with pre-existing conditions. This list of things considered to be so-called pre-existing conditions was about to expand. At that point, everyone I know would’ve had a pre-existing condition. But MacArthur wanted to make being a victim of rape or sexual assault a pre-existing condition as the basis to deny someone care.” 

“He had arranged a town hall during a wave of protests across the country surrounding the health care debate. I went with a couple of friends, and we initially just wanted to protest. But we got there early and realized that we could get inside the town hall. This was new to us. We were just high school kids excited about the prospect of talking to our congressman. Little did we know that shit would hit the fan.”

“Everyone there was pissed. Not a single person there wasn’t. People started asking him questions about everything besides health care, so my friend brought up the issue first. His question was simple: Under your amendment, will rape be considered a pre-existing condition? MacArthur didn’t answer and my friend passed the mic and I just made sure that I stood up and asked the same question over and over again. I kind of didn’t let go of the microphone until he answered, and people started getting rowdy and demanding an answer. All this guy had to say was yes or no. It’s your amendment. Clearly, he didn’t know or didn’t want to take ownership of what he was doing.”

“It got really upsetting because all these women in the room started standing up, raising their hands saying that they were sexually assaulted. That was so powerful but also so upsetting that all of these women felt like they had to say that to a room full of hundreds of people, dozens of cameras, a congressman, and his staff to try to get him to care. He still didn’t answer.”

“Then the cops had to bring me back to my seat because apparently a seventeen-year-old girl can be really threatening to a congressman. I had no idea what was going to happen, but as soon as I sat down, people started showing me that I was on TV. And then it went viral. But it was a part of a wave of people all across the country doing the same thing. It wouldn’t have blown up if other people weren’t standing up, too. It really was a movement — a disjointed one, but it was still really cool. And eventually, John McCain would cast the vote that would save the Affordable Care Act.”

“During the town hall, I told MacArthur that my friends and I would be able to vote in 2018. And you better believe that we voted him out during the midterms. It was an uphill battle, but we did it. Young, ordinary people are feeling like they can stand up and do something now. We’re running for office. We needed something to revitalize an interest in American politics. We’ve lived in such a lull for so long.”

“I’m sick of everyone saying that young people aren’t engaged. That we don’t vote. We saw a record number of young people turning out in 2018. There’s evidence. We have the power. We just have to keep making sure that we don’t feel the need to quit. But I’m optimistic.”

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