ACS students volunteer on US mid-term campaigns

In November 2018, three American and Canadian Studies students visited the US to volunteer on the 2018 midterm election campaigns in California and Florida, organised by Politrip. Erin Osgood, Sophie Harris, and Sydney Brown, all second year students, tell us about their experience.

Erin Osgood

Erin Osgood with Congresswoman Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (centre), and her campaign team

In the 2018 US midterm elections, I had the pleasure of spending two weeks in Florida, volunteering on Democratic Party campaigns for Congress, Governor, and various other in-state races. With even the minor role I played as a canvasser, knocking on doors and making phone calls, it was an incredibly thought-provoking experience, as I truly saw the value of grassroots political activism and the hard work that is put into it by so many individuals, in a time when grandstanding and national scandals comprise the dominant political discourse.

Election night itself is a blur to think about. Nervously arriving at what had pre-emptively been named our ‘victory party’, my stomach was in knots. When Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (our congressional candidate and the woman we had been canvassing for the most) arrived, we didn’t know what to expect – the race seemed too close to call.

The moment when she then announced that she would become the next member of Congress for Florida’s 26th district can only be described as euphoria – we did it! And with such a close win (the results were concluded as 51% to 49%), who knows, those few extra doors we knocked could have made the difference. Even though our gubernatorial hopeful, Andrew Gillum, was unsuccessful, to have experienced politics in action and the movement that he spurred gives me hope that his work is not yet done.

Pictured:  Erin Osgood with Congresswoman Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (centre), and her campaign team

Sophie Harris

Mid-term election volunteers

This Autumn I was lucky enough to gain a place volunteering on the midterm election campaign in the United States. I spent three weeks, alongside 11 other politics enthusiasts from the UK and Ireland, volunteering for the Katie Porter for Congress campaign in congressional district 45 in Orange County, California. I could not speak more highly of my experience.

Working on the Katie Porter campaign was an amazing experience. The twelve of us volunteering together worked canvassing and phone banking five days a week, knocking an average of 500 doors a day between us and really bringing to life the age-old saying that “actions speak louder than words”. The experience I gained in the way of learning about the ins and outs of how an election campaign works in terms of finance, organisation, volunteering force etc. is invaluable. Canvassing was completely new to me but is something I grew to really enjoy – it really is the best way to drive forward the urgency to vote and to have some really interesting conversations with people about why they choose not to vote and what they are looking for in a candidate, and to try and encourage those undecided voters to vote blue.

Over the course of my three weeks in Orange County I had the opportunity to attend several rallies in the lead up to the election on November 6th. Keynote speakers at these rallies included Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Moby, Alyssa Milano and Gavin Newsom. Each of these speakers are prominent faces in the push for a more progressive America and hearing them speak has inspired me to continue to strive for positive change and reminded me to be grateful and proud of small incremental changes that would soon add up to a larger change. The most influential and inspiring person I had the chance to meet was Dolores Huerta, feminist and civil rights advocate, who shook my hand and told me I was “changing history”.

As well as gaining invaluable work experience, I was also fortunate enough to explore a lot of California on days away from the office, from Hollywood and Oceanside to Laguna Beach and Anaheim.

This experience, advertised to me through UoB, allowed me to travel completely solo for the first time, to meet inspiring young people with shared passions who I can now call friends, to see new parts of the USA, to meet incredible activists and politicians and to network in circles I may never have found myself in. I could not recommend this opportunity enough and urge anyone with a passion for politics, social change and the US to head out for the 2020 Presidential elections – I hope to see you there!

Sydney Brown

Along with 11 other volunteers, I was lucky enough to go to California for the 2018 midterm elections in support of the Katie Porter for Congress campaign. I was signposted towards Politrip by UoB and I can’t thank them enough!

The race was too close to call on Election Day and left us feeling disheartened. However, Katie Porter’s victory was announced after our return to the UK! This was a truly historic moment as it saw District 45, in Orange County, voting a Democrat into Congress for the first time. Although our role seemed small (mainly canvassing and speaking directly to voters), achieving the win in a previously Republican area made me feel as though our hard work really did have an impact and that we truly made a difference to US history.

I can’t recommend this experience enough. As an American and Canadian Studies student, this experience has helped me engage with my degree even more. I learnt so much during my 3 weeks in California and will never forget it – I had the most incredible time and would do it again in a heart beat... I can’t wait to return to the US for the 2020 Presidential election!

ACS student Sydney Brown (fifth from left) with fellow campaigners at the 2018 California mid-terms, in front of the Hollywood sign

Sydney Brown (fifth from left) with fellow campaigners, California 2018