My daily job duties at my internship included voter outreach through phone banking, organizing, and writing campaign newsletters. What was most exciting about my experience was the focus of the internship on creating change, rather than just fulfilling a task. Most jobs are just about getting something done in a strictly transactional way, but working on a campaign is about going out there and making real change. The internship also provided academic insight through humanizing the process of elections, rather than simplifying them to macro-factors and the treating of results as an inevitability. The experience of seeing each individual personality behind each element of a campaign allowed me to better understand the results of elections as products of human interaction rather than just as manifestations of larger trends or a zeitgeist.
Seeing, in a sense, how the sausage is made gave me a new perspective on the state of democracy in America. It was interesting to see that despite factors such as the Citizens United decision and the resultant high cost of elections, the crucial factor is simply dedicated ordinary people on every level of the campaign. To see the role of individuals and their passions in the shaping and execution of our democracy was inspiring and showed that despite the weakening of many institutions at home and abroad, the fundamental commitment of Americans to participatory democracy has not waned.
Something unique about the experience was meeting people who had worked on the Obama and Hillary campaigns, and hearing about their experiences getting involved professionally in elections. Meeting people that have interacted with these federal political figures made politicals on that level more immediate and representative. The internship showed me that high profile political figures are much more accessible than one might expect and their election comes from the efforts of many ordinary people that support them and genuinely believe in their mission.