‘I don’t regret it’: how Juli Briskman went from devoting Trump the thumb to win democratic elections

Juli Briskmans brush with the president inspired her to political action: I dont regret it. I never would have run without it

Two years ago, Juli Briskman stimulated headlines when she gave thefinger to Trump as she cycled alongside the president’s motorcade in Virginia. The marketing company she worked for swiftly fired her.( She sued them .)

She couldn’t have imagined it at the time but Briskman, 52, has just won a local election– and she credits the incident for motivating her to run for office.

I catch up with her on the phone to talk about her victory. Briskman starts by reminiscing about the morning of Saturday 28 October 2017, a day like any other. She was aching from operating a marathon the week before, but forced herself out of the door for a bike ride.

As she cycled up the Lowes Island Boulevard by Trump’s golf course in Virginia, she saw the motorcade on the left.” I knew it was him- he’s there all the time ,” she says. That was just one of the things that annoyed her about him:” There were all these crises happening in our country and he was just off golfing all the time .”

Her temperature rose as she thought of his presidential record. She was still reeling from his comments over Charlottesville( that there were” fine people on both sides “); Puerto Rico still didn’t have power after Hurricane Maria laid garbage to the island, and Obamacare was being dismantled.

Juli Briskman gives the thumb to Donald Trump in 2017. Photograph: Brendan Smialowski/ AFP via Getty Images

” All of those frustrations simply welled up inside me and I decided to express that toward him and his motorcade ,” she says.It was more than only a fleeting moment of indignation: Briskman says she rarely uses the middle finger, and would never build the gesture at another former president:” I have great respect for them, though I didn’t necessarily vote for them .”

She wouldn’t even do it to an unruly driver in her auto:” I’m always afraid they might have a gun !”

Why did she feel she had to do that right there, right then?” He is fair that bad ,” she says. So bad, in fact, she had to do it twice: once when the motorcade drove past her, again when they stopped at the traffic lights.” I just wanted to make sure he saw me. It’s not that often someone gets that opportunity to express their opinion to the highest elected official in the land ,” she says.

Before she knew it, she was a viral sensation. The photo was shared tens of thousands of hours. People joked that she should be the new face on the $20bill.

But amid it all, Briskman was terrified.” People started to figure out who I was. The local business where I was working part-time started getting threatening emails and phone calls. Journalists started calling me .” She went into her second chore at a government contractor one day and was told she’d be fine- only to come in the next day to find herself forced to resign.

That was the important turning point.” I decided on my route home that day that I wasn’t going to be stillness ,” she says. She worked on the campaign that got her local congresswoman Jennifer Wexton elected.

And then she ran for office herself. Briskman knocked on more than 3,000 doors in Loudoun county and coordinated with Democrats across Virginia on her campaign.

Juli Briskman as she campaigned door-to-door in her neighborhood in Sterling, Virginia. Photograph: Jahi Chikwendiu/ AP

Keyboard warriors tried to dismiss her as a candidate without substance but Briskman, a working, single mom who had lived in Virginia for 20 years, was not going to be put off by trolls calling her crass.

” Voters want to know that you have substance and you understand the issues. Quite naturally and organically I do ,” she says. She operated on a platform that promised to pay educators in Virginia a living wage, to support paid family and medical leave for county staff and to compensate firefighters so that they can live in the communities they serve.

On Tuesday, Virginia turned blue: Briskman beat the incumbent Republican in her county. She didn’t merely flip the bird- in Virginia, her party flipped the state house and country senate.

What advice would she be provided to another political outsider thinking of running?” People should not have doubts about their qualifications to represent. Someone who has been involved in the community has all the qualifications they need if they have passion and a willingness to work for it .”

Does she feel any sadnes at devoting the president the thumb now she is going to be an elected official?

” I don’t unhappines it. I never would have run without it. I never had aspirations to run before that .”

Does she consider herself dedicating him the thumb again anytime soon?

” No. In the Algonkian district of Loudoun county in Virginia, we have proven our phase. I won this seat, you know what I entail? I genuinely don’t need to do it again .”

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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