Student Campaigners Reflect On a Defining Experience
Published: Tuesday, November 6, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, November 6, 2012 02:11
As campaigns draw to a close and millions of voters head to the polls today, many Georgetown students have a reason to be particularly invested in the results.
During a time when most students are focused on midterms, Alyssa Peterson (COL ’14) has dedicated 10-15 hours per week volunteering for Barack Obama, on top of a campaign internship and weekends spent canvassing.
“It’s kind of a do-or-die situation, and I know if I don’t do my all, I’m going to wake up on Election Day and feel regret if he doesn’t win,” she said.
Jonathan Espinoza (COL ’16) , a member of the College Republicans who spent an average of 64 hours a week recently campaigning for Mitt Romney, agreed with the sentiment.
“I feel very strongly about a lot of Romney’s ideas, and I think we need someone who knows what he’s doing in the White House,” Espinoza said.
Espinoza and Peterson are two of many students on campus who have dedicated time, effort and money this election season to helping the candidate of their choice take the White House.
According to Georgetown University College Democrats President Joe Vandegriff (COL ’14), students who limit their involvement in politics to voting are missing an opportunity to have a greater impact on the country.
“If you are a strong Democrat or a strong Republican, you clearly have a view on the way politics should be run in this country,” he said. “If you don’t volunteer, then you don’t have the right to complain, as you had a chance to impact those viewpoints and you chose not to.”
Students have traveled as far as Boston, Mass., to canvass, dedicating significant amounts of time to campaign for their candidate. But those involved say the experience is worth the time and effort they put in.
“I’ve learned an enormous amount from this campaign: what it means to be working on a campaign, what it means to have a campaign and, really, the amount of personal effort that goes into these campaigns,” College Democrats Speakers Co-Director Audrey Denis (SFS ’15) said. “It just shows me how much of a campaign relies on real people, individuals, the grassroots — real people spending their own time. It made me realize that every vote in these battleground states is a hard fought, hard won vote.”
Some have even experienced unique opportunities to impact the campaigns. College Republicans member Tim Rosenberger’s (COL ’16) voice was briefly used as the recording for the Romney campaign’s automated calls in Pennsylvania.
“At one point, the voice recording for calls in Pennsylvania was somehow erased, and I got to record the new one,” Rosenberger said. “So for a little while, at least, I was the robo-voice for Romney in Pennsylvania.”
College Republicans and College Democrats have both encouraged their members to participate in various events such as phone banking, canvassing and voter registration.
According to College Republicans Chair Maggie Cleary (COL ’14), a member of the group leads a trip to a phone bank once a week, and members participate in canvassing every weekend, especially in the swing state of Virginia.
College Democrats Events Leader Jayme Amann (SFS ’15) added that members of College Democrats have attended canvassing trips every weekend since September.
“We’ve been on the ground in all the key swing states around the D.C. area,” she said. “And in this last push before Election Day, we’re leading four trips over the weekend to try to do as much as possible.”
Vandegriff said the impact of the election results could be greater for students than they realize.
“Policies about the economy, education, climate change, Medicare, Medicaid, retirement, etc. We’re the people who will feel the effects of these problems, so we have the most at stake.”
“There are policies that the older generation, people who are no longer going to be with us in a couple years, are putting in place, and they’re hurting us [students],” he said. “Those are policies that worked during their generation, [but] those policies will not necessarily work for our generation.”
But balancing campaign work with academics can be a challenge for some, and Denis said numbers at College Democrats’ campaign events have dropped since midterm season began in full swing — a situation she found frustrating.
“Honestly, I have been a little disappointed with the superficial relationship Georgetown students have with political activism,” she said. “A lot of people are willing to put a T-shirt or a sticker on, but it’s a big battle to get some of them to pick up a phone or to knock on a door — but that is the way voters are won.”
But Amann said that College Democrats tries to help students strike that balance.
“We try to give our members as many options as possible,” Amann said. “We’ve noticed that our numbers have been dropping as compared to other schools, and we really want to get more of our members out to these events.”
Amann also stressed the importance of voting above all else.
“You have to be knowledgeable about who you are voting for … but I always tell people: ‘I don’t care who you vote for, I just care that you vote.’”