Organizers: The Life and Soul of a Campaign
Iowa, for one reason or another, has traditionally been the first state to vote in the Presidential Primary process. Being the first state makes Iowa a hotbed for campaign organizers doing the work it takes to get their candidate to win the nomination. An extra caveat is thrown into the mix as well, as Iowa is a caucus state. In a primary, people go to their voting station and cast their vote on a ballot in secrecy. However in a caucus, people gather at their caucuses and literally stand in the corner of whichever candidate they support. Being a caucus makes Iowa a much different state for organizing. With many caucus precincts being small in size, quite few with only a few hundred people showing up, organizing becomes even more personal. Every connection made and voter swayed can have a major impact on the results within that precinct. Organizers will spend their days, usually working late into the night and getting up early in the morning, getting as many people to commit to their candidate and volunteer for their candidate as they can.
I was able to spend a few weeks organizing in Iowa. I organized for Elizabeth Warren’s campaign, a senator from the state of Massachusetts. Organizing has many different facets to it. Much of the day is spent knocking on people’s doors and making phone calls, trying to show voters why your candidate is the best fit for the country. I spent much of my days doing these very things. I organized in Dubuque, a town on the eastern side of the state right on the Mississippi River. Dubuque is a decent sized town, with a population of 57, 637. I knock doors in the town along with the surrounding rural areas. Knocking doors can be a very nerve racking experience. You can never be sure how you will be received by the person on the other side of the door. You may only have a very brief conversation or you may even have the door slammed in your face. However, many Iowans are very welcoming to canvassers. I was often invited into the house to have a conversation about my candidate. These conversations can be very moving and I learned a thing or two about what the people on the ground and in communities really wanted. These conversations can be the backbone of a campaign.
The people that really drive a campaign are the organizers. These are people, often young people, who pick up their lives and move to whatever state they are assigned to advocate and organize for their candidate. This is no different with the Elizabeth Warren campaign. The Dubuque field office was full of passionate organizers, all in their 20’s, who were ready to do whatever was needed for Elizabeth Warren. They were people who truly believed in their candidate. Two of these organizers, Aeshna Sarkar and Sandy Henshaw-Greene. I got to know very well during my brief time in Iowa. They were both very passionate about Elizabeth Warren and the vision she has for our country.
After graduating college, Aeshna went and got a job as a consultant in San Francisco. She was in a job that was often shielded from the news, but as she found herself delving into the headlines and coverage of things going on in our country she became saddened and depressed.
“I was in my liberal bubble in California watching the news and history pass me by and then I saw Elizabeth speak,” Aeshna said, speaking on what brought her to the Warren campaign.
“You hear in stories all over the country about her and how you’re helpless, you’re hopeless and then you hear her speak and you see her passion, you see her principles, and you see her policy and you are filled with hope.”
“When I saw her speak I decided I didn’t want to just stand by on the sidelines and watch history happen. I wanted to fight and I wanted to fight with her.”
Aeshna explained how it was the perfect time for her to get involved.
“There is no other time then when you’re in your 20’s to pack up your life in a moment's notice and go where you’re most needed… the Iowa Caucus to help Elizabeth win the Democratic nomination for president.”
Aeshna had been working in Iowa since the summer. She was there all the way through caucus night. After Iowa, she told me she would be going to California to continue to organize for the Warren campaign. She explained what it was like to organize in Iowa.
“At the beginning organizing was really making yourself a part of the community.”
She explained how organizers were really there for more than just to get people’s vote. They were there to become members of the community. She went to a lot of community events and had a lot of 1 on 1’s with community members. She then would take these relationships she created and get these people to do more for Elizabeth Warren. This includes canvassing, door knocking, and phone calls. As the caucus night got closer, they moved into a phase of mobilizing people to go out and vote.
Sandy, an intern for the Warren campaign, added in about his experience working Iowa.
“It’s been a really good experience for me. It’s the most important state in maybe the most important election ever and I’m working for a candidate who I think is our best chance of winning and the best candidate we have. To be able to just go knock on doors and talk to people who make these decisions and are the people who will be caucusing is a really interesting and cool opportunity.”
These organizers are truly some of the most hard working, dedicated individuals you can ever meet. They are willing to do whatever is necessary to help the campaign and not just because it is their job, but because of a belief in their candidate. They truly believe their candidate is the best for the job and want to ensure they can get them there. While organizing can be hard and challenging work, these people are there, ready to rise and meet the challenge. The future of our democracy is in good hands with these people leading the charge.