More than just “Civic Engagement”

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Working for the Cruz campaign was both surprisingly inspiring and nerve wrenchingly bewildering. As a person who spends most of her time on the complete other side of the political spectrum, walking into a room full of strong-willed courageous conservatives had me on edge and completely out of my comfort zone. But inside the volunteer headquarters the atmosphere was mostly inviting, lively, and warm. There were people from all over the country (mostly Texas) and people of all ages filling the tables phone banking and repping the Cruz name. I felt bad almost, because I had wanted so badly to be able to go in there and come out saying, “yes those people are crazy”, and yet I actually came out thinking, “wow those people are actually just like me, just doing something they really believe in.”

I had spent so much time reading political articles and feeding off the media buzz, that I too had fallen victim to the “political war”. I had forgotten that at the core of every campaign are just normal human beings.

The man I sat next to while I was phone banking was probably one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met. He sat very proudly, with his signed copy of Cruz’s biography and an award he had received for “most calls logged”. And I found myself being extremely surprised that he wasn’t this raging radical I often associate with Cruz’s campaign. Plus, there were just so many cute moms in cute mom jeans that I really couldn’t have disliked any of them.

IMG_1055.jpgI have to admit it was somewhat painful and even ethically conflicting, for me to pick up a phone and literally convince and turn voters to go out and caucus for Cruz. But it was also kind of fun, stepping into the role on the other side. In fact I spent a good five minuets convincing a voter why and how Cruz was going to be able to defeat both Sanders and Clinton in a general election (which spoiler alert: not going to happen). But I am a little proud that I could so confidently speak about Cruz’s platform and also kind of worried…but DEFINITELY nothing beats listening to your college Dems president in FULL FORCE bashing Obama and flipping voters to vote for Cruz (shout out to sebastian).

In some ways, I feel guilty that I had to put up this false façade for these volunteers, but a lot of it came from a strange sense of obligation to not let the other workers in that room down. It was like I could tell how many hours these people had put into this campaign and how much they truly believe that Cruz and his platform is what America needs, that it made me want to do a good job for them. I can only wonder if they would have been so nice to me if they had known where my true loyalties lay…

One thing I will note though is that after spending so much of my time reading articles and journals, watching speeches and debating, and being surrounded by a bunch of polisci students, I almost forgot what all this chaos was for. But being on the ground today has shown me that this work is important for reasons beyond the term “civic engagement”. It’s truly about elevating individual voices and people coming together. Every person inside that room calling was making an individual difference. And going to the IMG_1131.jpgBernie victory party, standing in the stands cheering and yelling as the votes were coming in only reiterated that sentiment even more. Highlight of my life is starting an “I believe that we can win” chant in a room of hundreds of people. Five months ago nobody thought that the Sanders campaign could make it this far let alone come within four delegates and a straight 50/50 tie up against Hillary. Every person in that auditorium was there because of an individual investment they made for someone they believed in. Every person mattered in this caucus. It’s the reason that so many first time caucus goers were willing to line up in the cold for hours just to make sure their hand got counted. It feels cheesy to say it, but I’m extremely humbled by the movement and energy here. It’s very surreal and I am more than grateful for this opportunity.All in all, I’ve learned that I am a much better actress than I thought, and I really know how to sell a platform I don’t actually believe in. But most of all, what I took away was that at the end of the day, behind all the political clout, media buzz, and chaos, there are real human beings working hard hours to do something they believe in. which is like pretty freaking cool.

-Eugenia Huang

 

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