And it was a lot harder than I expected.
New Hampshire’s racial makeup is 59.9% different from the United States racial makeup (so, they have a lot of white people). The median household income of New Hampshire is $12,000 more than the national median household income. And only 33% of the states population says that religion is “very important.”
Welcome to New Hampshire.
I thought Iowa was a bit weird (Iowa’s racial makeup is 51.4% different from the United States racial makeup and 53% of the states population says that religion is “very important”) but after volunteering for the Cruz campaign this past weekend and spending some time in what felt like -10 degree weather, New Hampshire takes the win.
As I sit here, thirty hours after getting back to Winston Salem, I still have not processed the weekend. Iowa was enthralling – the unique caucuses captured my attention, running around as a Bernie fanatic making new liberal friends excited me, and going to Clinton’s victory party gave me an insiders look into the Democratic party and the beginning of the battle between the two candidates. But, New Hampshire was interesting, not necessarily enthralling – watching voters ask Kasich hard questions at a town hall, Donald Trump’s rally with a side of racial profiling, and telephoning supposed Cruz supporters who had some not so nice things to say on the other end.
Why didn’t I find New Hampshire “necessary enthralling”? As this Wake the Vote class sets out to do, I was put in uncomfortable situations trying to understand the policies, ideologies and beliefs of candidates I disagree with. If I look back on Iowa, I got to run around as a Democrat, I got to do what was most comfortable for me. While in New Hampshire, I learned some specific differences between Republicans and Democrats that may have not been tangible before.
All of this is to say that my feelings about going from Democrat to Republican are problematic in itself. I learned this past week that I feel the need to put these candidates in a box as either Democrat or Republican, extremely conservative, or crazy liberal. As much as voters complain about our politicians and their inability to work across party lines, voters who complain might find working across the aisle extremely difficult. I say this because I, this past week, struggled to work across the extreme aisle (extreme because I wasn’t working for moderate Republicans like Kasich or Bush etc, but was working for Cruz, and listening to Trump).
Recent studies have shown that what drives the youth away from political engagement is the division between Democrats and Republicans; the belief that politicians cannot work across the aisle. While sitting in the Cruz office, I decided to make a list of reasons why I disagreed with Cruz’s platform; I wanted to be rationale about my disagreements and why this experience was uncomfortable for me. I listed what group of people Cruz was attempting to reach or please with each reason why. The group of people is limited: white, Christians, and privileged. To put it simply, I want our government to reach out to and represent the entire population, not just one area. This is the beginning of me learning how to work across party lines: being rational about the reasons I disagree with their policies and beliefs and starting to think outside of the box on how to be politically engaged with all beliefs in this country.