Students Learn from Iowa

Students have different experience campaigning for politicians

Submitted by: Amanda Lee Molina
Amanda Ward '21 and Nora Cornell '21 campaign for Elizabeth Warren.

Caroline Hardy, Editor Emerita

A contingent of 67 students from all four grades along with 13 teacher chaperones returned from Des Moines, Iowa on Tuesday, February 4. The group spent the three days prior canvassing, meeting, and rallying for the various democratic and republication candidates vying for a victory in the Iowa Caucuses on Monday, February 3rd.

 

After canvassing and attending rallies for candidates of their choice, students attended a caucus in a local precinct and then went to the victory rally of their choice. With less than 9 months before an election that James Prince ‘23 deemed to be “the most consequential election of our lifetime,” the allure of meeting candidates, intimately seeing how the confusing caucus process works, and getting to experience to magnetic energy of rallies and town halls prompted the large amount of student interest in the trip.

 

Canvassing in an Iowa that had already been experiencing an especially large ground game led to mixed results based on neighborhood and availability of residents. Samrat Pradhan ‘21 canvassed for Senator Sanders, and explained that “I was knocking on doors, and it looked like everyone in Iowa was invested in the process.” However, Maggie Ankeny ‘20 explained that while canvassing for both Pete Buttigieg and Andrew Yang “people would yell at us and tell us that we were trespassing and be very upset with us for trying to speak up and volunteer for a campaign. It felt like we were disrupting their life and didn’t want us there and it almost made me feel like people canvassing so much….I think that it turns them away from the caucus.”

 

Students got the opportunity to attend rallies for Entrepreneur Andrew Yang, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Vice President Joe Biden, Senator Amy Klobuchar, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and Senator Bernie Sanders. Meet and greets with Libertarian republican hopeful Bill Weld were also well attended.

 

While some students began the trip with a clear preferred candidate, the vast majority engaged in political tourism as a way to learn more about each candidate and ask personal questions of them. Political tourism can be a contentious topic, but it is also a very good way to become engaged and learn more about the democratic caucus process as a whole. Trip chaperone and science teacher Steve Kaback explains that “it’s probably a healthy thing to do to see our democracy in action and this is always the first stop on the most deliberate and important vote that a lot of people make in terms of the political system in our country.” 

 

Despite the confusion and chaos in the aftermath of the actual caucus, attending a caucus and then a victory rally made it, as Scott Klinefelter ’20 explains “feel more familiar, but also more accessible in a way. My group, when we went to the caucus, was in an elementary school gym. We were sitting on the floor with 300 other people from all walks of life…It made it feel like politics and the early election is not far away… I realized how easy it is to be involved.”

 

As students and faculty return to Minneapolis, they are bringing new respect and dedication to the democratic process as a whole. Klinefelter continues, “it made me feel more strongly that I wanted to vote and be apart of this, but it also made me realize that I want to make sure that I am doing more than just throwing in my ballot for the candidate I want. There’s a lot of ways you can make a difference…. and I got to see that really up close in Iowa.”