Earlier this month I took 10 days leave from Plum and travelled to Miami, Florida to work on a Presidential campaign. The programme I’m involved with is called 45ForThe45th – 45 young people for the 45th Presidential elections. The programme’s initiative surrounds the issue of youth engagement in politics, or rather, unfortunately, the lack of it here in the UK. Our aim was to travel to the United States and observe how young people are getting involved in politics there, and hopefully bring back some ideas and plans to the UK. The group of us will be writing a legacy report on our experiences and working with MPs to try and tackle the issue of increasing involvement of young people in politics.
On arriving in Miami we immediately hit the ground running and started campaigning. We learnt about, and got involved with, canvassing neighbourhoods – going door to door and ‘Getting out the Vote’ (GOTV) – phone banking, helping organise how people were going to get to and from polling locations, and generally trying to mobilise voters. The clear aim was to assemble voters rather than to try and influence the way people vote, which in hindsight (and yes it is a wonderful thing) perhaps is not the only route to follow in my opinion!
We also got involved in some of the rallies held in Florida. We worked at the rally for President Obama, acting as crowd marshals, and then we got to listen to him speak. It was such a memorable experience and one I never thought I would get to be a part of. He was witty and engaging and if I’m honest the whole thing was pretty surreal.
A few days later, to our complete surprise, it was announced that Hillary Clinton would be coming back to Miami and speaking again. I had completely shrugged off the hope of seeing her speak as she was in Miami earlier in the week before we arrived, but at about 11pm we made the decision to get up early to go to her rally. Even though she only spoke for about 7 minutes (it was raining so much she was getting soaked on the covered stage) it was incredible. I’ve admired Hillary Clinton for such a long time, and it was really special to see her speak, plus we were right at the front, metres away!
A few days later the celeb appearances continued when pop legend Cher paid a visit to the volunteer HQ in Miami. She spoke to all of us and then shook everyone’s hand and had photos with everyone, which was really lovely.
In my opinion, Hillary Clinton ran a brilliant campaign. I thought that her PR and marketing was fantastic. It was full of positive, inspiring messages. It was a brilliant experience all round, and definitely full of perspective. The American political system is obviously very different to the British system, but the sense of camaraderie and passion was what struck me most. People had travelled from all around the country and the world, uprooting their lives and jobs, taking leave from work, moving their families, all to help Florida to win and “turn blue”. Some of the other volunteers had been in Miami months, and when we told people that we had self-funded the trip so that we could come and help as well, their reactions were incredible – they couldn’t believe it and were so thankful. GOTV is something else that’s very different to the British system as well, campaigning and having political rallies isn’t something that happens very much, if at all sometimes, here in the UK. It seems to me that we don’t seem to have quite same passion and sense of cause that Americans do when it comes to politics and elections.
So whilst this initiative is about tackling youth engagement in politics; it’s clear to me now, that we can do more here in the UK to engage people of all ages, with politics in the UK . It’s important that this is given some proper attention.
Now I’m back in the UK, I’ve learned many great lessons from my experience of the 2016 Presidential Election and hopefully I can apply some of my knowledge and learning here in my role at Plum.