To get us started, can you tell us a little about yourself and how you made it to be one of Elite Daily’s political correspondents?
I graduated from Columbia University in 2014, where I served as editor-in-chief of two campus news sites (double the snark, double the Ivy League pretension exhaustion). After graduation, I became an editorial fellow at the Huffington Post in the College and Education sections with the incredible editors Tyler Kingkade and Rebecca Klein.
When that ended, I got contacted by Elite Daily. They were looking for someone young who could cover politics, and in a very nice stroke of luck, an old friend who knew someone here mentioned my name. I went through the whole interviewing/edit test/etc. process and started at Elite in September 2015.
This election season has definitely been a trying one, to say the least! You’ve been very vocal about Mr Trump’s shortcomings. Where do you see the GOP going from here?
Gosh, I wish I could tell you. For the foreseeable future, it appears as if the GOP will have their hands full both following and correcting for Trump’s often reckless impulses. It seems as if there’s a certain amount of resigned shrugging going on within the public leadership of the party.
Your recent post on the refugee crisis in Italy for Glamour was eye-opening and heartbreaking. How do you see this situation playing out as we move towards 2017 and what could governments be doing to improve the circumstances of those in need?
I was very humbled to be able to tell parts of that story in Glamour and Vox. As a Greek-Italian-American, I’ve felt really driven to keep up the coverage and conversation around the refugee and migrant crises in the Mediterranean. Unfortunately, however, the world doesn’t have the best attention span and humanity is lacking.
So I’m gonna give a long answer here.
My sister and I were able to interview the mayor of Reggio Calabria as well as other local officials, volunteers and the Coast Guard. They are doing everything they can in this small region, but they are very aware that they need more help. When we asked if they needed help from the national Italian government, the European Union and the UN, they answered as if it were a stupid question — of course they need help.
A major issue is infrastructure at the port. Volunteers created the current layout for migrant and refugee arrivals at the port, which includes medical and psychological help as well as snacks, drinks and care for babies. This is done from the goodness of their hearts (and bank accounts), but they would much prefer if the national government (or EU or UN) could help take on this burden, especially as it seems the flow of migrants will not be slowing down.
Another issue I haven’t written about (yet) is unaccompanied minors. When children arrive at the port without a guardian, the region of Calabria — the church, namely — takes responsibility for them. This includes housing, care-taking and education. But Calabria doesn’t have endless space and money to help these children. They will continue doing everything they can, but they know they can’t do everything forever.
And then there’s the rescuing of migrants and refugees from the sea in the first place. This is being done by the Italian Coast Guard and a host of volunteer rescue ships, but why isn’t the UN or EU helping more? People are dying. More should be done to stop that.
All of this would take money and international cooperation, which is difficult to come by. As you continue down the root of the issues, you need more welcoming arms from European countries to let these people in and help them not get stranded in Italy and Greece. Further down, you need to solve the issues that cause these migrations — hunger, poverty, conflict and discrimination — which is no easy task.
I wish I could say I had hope, but given the wave of xenophobia we’ve seen since last September, from Hungary closing Budapest’s train station to refugees to Brexit to Trump to Greece’s Golden Dawn and France’s Marine Le Pen to the backlash Angela Merkel’s more open refugee policy received, I’m not very hopeful that the situation will improve. What does give me hope is the goodness of the people on the ground (and water) from Calabria to Lesbos, but those resources aren’t endless.
What’s the one thing you wish millennials would know about politics?
It’s accessible! I know it sounds weird and procedural and is full of old white dudes, but it’s not an impenetrable monolith. You actually can get involved.
And you can pretty easily learn about it. Yes, that takes a bit of work on your part, but if you want to be informed, you can be informed. The internet is an incredible thing! Even just regularly checking r/politics will keep you up to date, at least. If you want to understand something better, Google it.
I know a lot from classes and talking to experts and so on, but I also know a lot just from reading as much as possible. The internet!!
As a woman in the political space, what would you say your biggest hurdle has been so far?
Being taken seriously, mostly. I’ve got a great combination of being a woman and young and kinda short, so especially in a spin room type situation I can get overlooked (literally) and dismissed. My biggest story (in terms of carrying a news cycle) this election year was a quote I got from Rudy Giuliani, and that took half an hour of me chasing him down and shouting to be heard.
Of course, a lot of that also gets into imposter syndrome territory, and I often have to remind myself that I earned being in the room and talking to the person. I tend to overdress for in-person situations because I’m worried someone will tell me I’m a kid who doesn’t belong there.
I also really wanted to dye my hair blue or purple or something but didn’t do it throughout the election because, again, I didn’t want someone to take me less seriously because of how I look. Maybe next year.
What advice would you give to a millennial woman who is looking to break into politics, whether that be running for office (local or national), working for a politician or even as a reporter in this area?
In a survey of people with similar qualifications, 35 percent of men said they were qualified to run for office. 22 percent of women said the same. The only difference was self-confidence.
It’s been said a hundred times before: Carry yourself with the confidence of a mediocre white man.
How do you see the political landscape changing as the millennial generation grow into the leaders of this country over the next few decades?
I would like to think that the outcome of this election will spur our generation to get involved in politics. And, like, really involved. Volunteering, working for PACs, running for office, all of that.
We could be the biggest voting bloc if we bothered to show up, and our points of view are very different from the reigning Baby Boomers. If we want the country to reflect our values, we need to do something about it. I hope that this election showed that that means real involvement.
Finally, what’s been your proudest or most memorable career moment to date?
Wesley Lowery taught me how to play blackjack at a Cleveland casino during the RNC — and I didn’t lose all the money.
Thanks so much to Alexandra for taking time out of her busy schedule to chat to OSB!
Latest posts by Holly Whitman (see all)
- An Interview With Alexandra Svokos of Elite Daily - December 2, 2016
- The Obamas’ Last Holiday Period in the White House - November 30, 2016
- The Great Marmite Crisis of 2016: When a Condiment Made Britain Regret Brexit - November 23, 2016