Photo Caption: Bob Gatty interviews Leesa Danzek on the Lean to the Left podcast.
Leesa Danzek, of Surfside, SC, is a young Millennial who once was an extremely active college Republican in California but became disillusioned with the GOP and now is working with HCDP to help elect Democrats to public office in Horry County.
“With Donald Trump coming to be the head of the Republican party it was really difficult being a moderate Republican,” she says in an interview on the Lean to the Left podcast. Leesa said in college she considered herself as “fiscally conservative, socially liberal,” and as chair of the California College Republicans was considered “the darling of the Republican party.”
But the turning point for her came with the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, May 25, 2020, setting off nationwide Black Lives Matter protests against police brutality.
That may have been the spark that prompted Danzek to reconsider her political alliances, but that transformation began a year earlier when she visited the University of South Carolina as a high school student and saw the Confederate flag for the first time. That, she said, was a shocker. Today, when she sees it displayed, it tells her that people condoning that do not want anyone here who are unlike them. As a Jew, that affects her deeply.
With her sister attending Coastal Carolina University, Leesa began spending more time in South Carolina and she realized “that the culture around race and equity, gender, LGBTQ, even health, was so much the antithesis of who I am and what my beliefs, my principles were.”
“I thought these things had ended in the 1960s and I thought racism in the south wore KKK outfits and were hiding in the depths,” Danzek said. “But that wasn’t the case. I was very much wrong, and this was happening at the very same time of 2020 where we saw certain states handling the pandemic very differently along with the Black Lives Matter protests coming out of George Floyd’s murder.”
“What really broke the camel’s back for me was how the Republican party as a whole responded to the murder of George Floyd,” Danzek said, noting that the GOP’s focus was on the businesses that were being raided during the protests, not on the tragedy of Floyd’s killing and all its implications. And so, she re-registered as a no-party-preference voter in California.
Now, for Danzek, her primary concerns are issues around equity, such as racial concerns, gender, access to healthcare, and LGBTQ rights. That, she says, has pushed her “even more to the left.”
During the 2020 presidential campaign, Danzek was impressed as Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders pointed out the income inequities that exist in the U.S.
“What on earth, we have 700 billionaires and yet we have so many people living in poverty, we have people living without healthy food on their tables?” she asked.
Danzek is critical of South Carolina’s refusal to impose mask and vaccination mandates during the Covid 19 pandemic.
“My mom is a boomer and my sister is immune-compromised and I simply don’t want to be sick,” she explained, “and the way that this state completely disregarded the safety of the community to support some kind of legal notion that one has control over their own body,1`2`1 while simultaneously working on legislation that would remove the ability of women to make choices about their own body was so twisted and rooted in power dynamics rather than what’s good for the community as a whole.”
Working with HCDP
As Leesa decides where to attend grad school, she’s working as a volunteer with the HCDP Communications Committee working on digital communications. She’s also volunteering with the Grand Strand Young Democrats, helping them build membership, while working on voter education and registration.
She emphasized the importance of involving young people in the party, noting that they will have to live with the consequences of policy decisions that are made today.
HCDP, she says, needs to “take the same concept of working with young people at heart, seeing what young people want for the future of the party, for the future of the country, and to really see where our future leaders are going to take us.”
She encouraged everyone to follow the Horry County Democratic Party on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, and the Grand Strand Young Democrats on Instagram and Facebook.
“If you want to stay up to date on what we’re doing,” she said, “that’s the way.”