By: Madeline Coffey
Greetings Wake the Vote followers. This weekend, I’ve been working with Hillary for America 2016 at the Iowa Caucuses! Today has been a hectic day filled with canvassing and training to operate the Hillary 2016 call center. As you may know, Wake the Vote is a civic engagement program in which all members of the cohort are assigned candidates, randomly, for each caucus or primary that we visit. It was only by chance, then, that I was assigned to Clinton’s campaign for our time in Des Moines.
I think I can speak for many students involved in the Wake the Vote cohort when I say that I was a little bit nervous about this experience. I was anxious that working for a candidate that isn’t necessarily my pick would be difficult and unpleasant. However, I have to report the contrary. Today in Iowa I have connected with many brilliant individuals, learned new skills, and have reached beyond my comfort level for an extremely valuable experience.
Perhaps the most important thing that I’ve learned here today is that volunteering for a candidate in this program doesn’t have to be about helping your assigned candidate to win. By this I do not mean that I didn’t push for Hillary to gain voters at the caucuses; I certainly did. But what I mean by this is that for me, it wasn’t about winning. Instead, my focus had to do with engaging voters and asking them to do what I believe is an essential part of democracy: voting.
Sometimes I feel that people get lost in the race (including myself) and forget about the incredible experience that voting can provide. Today, I focused on that experience. I began to shift my focus when I realized that, while canvassing, everyone going to the caucus was genuinely excited about the process even if they weren’t a supporter of “my” candidate. Many voters told me that they would be coming to the caucuses tonight, and almost all wanted to tell me about why they were voting for their favorite candidate. Not surprisingly, many of the voters I spoke with today actually expressed their commitment to vote for Hillary’s opponent Bernie Sanders.
I think oftentimes, as avid campaigners, we tend to think that if we call someone during a phone bank or knock on their doors that they will not respond well if they do not actually like our candidate or have any intentions of voting for them. This was certainly not the case in my experience today. Whether the person was a Hillary supporter or a Bernie fan, most were just excited to get out there and vote.
I found people’s enthusiasm about the democratic process to be ultimately fulfilling. For the first time, I experienced being a part of a campaign for the purpose of enhancing the democratic experience rather than to make sure that my candidate won. I found out that even though I might not support a candidate, there are plenty of other great things to gain by working on a campaign. Engaging in the democratic process, working in teams, and becoming an advocate of democracy rather than a candidate helped me to realize that there’s more to this process than winning. Democracy is a worthy cause, too.