Stories from the US campaign trail: 'Today we gained an insight into how to build a career in politics'

2nd November 2016 at 17:14
Government and politics
In our second instalment from the US campaign trail, UK sixth-formers taking part in the campaigning say they are learning about the conservative values compelling Republican voters to give up their time

As the final stages of the US presidential race get underway, 20 sixth-formers from five UK schools have joined campaigners for Democrat nominee Hillary Clinton and a number of the Republican congressional races. The students are part of the Inspire US 2016 programme, run by education charity The Transformation Trust, which offers opportunities to young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to help them develop new employability skills and grow in confidence. TES will carry a report each day from the students.

Reporting from Florida are Khadar Osman, Ginapreet Sandhu Jaipur Gupta and Jasmeet Sanghera, sixth-form students at Lampton School in Hounslow​, west London

On Tuesday, the US Inspire team headed upstate to the Florida state capital, Tallahassee, to campaign for aspiring congressman Neal Dunn (pictured). We began our journey to Tallahassee at 6am; it was an early start but we were looking forward to the day ahead as we were intrigued to be campaigning for a particularly conservative politician.

Neal is a Republican candidate for the US House of Representatives and – as we learned from our prior research of his biography – an army doctor and founder of a healthcare organisation and community bank. So we knew he would be quite a character. 

We arrived at the George Bush Republican Centre in Tallahassee and were greeted by an enthusiastic group of volunteers. They reminded us just how vital our volunteering would be in the campaign, as contact with the voters really makes a difference in getting people to vote. In particular, face-to-face contact is the most effective in securing every single precious vote.

We set out as a team, pounding the streets of Tallahassee with a full set of Republican campaign literature, and accompanied by some Republican volunteers who gave us a fascinating insight into the conservative values that compelled them to give up their time.

Targeting wavering voters

Through the door-to-door campaigning, it became very clear to us that effective organisation is crucial in making sure that every voter is reached. For instance, recording every single person's response to our survey was critical in ensuring that any wavering voters could be followed up with another visit or a call to secure their vote.

By the end of the campaigning, the Transformation Trust team had dropped literature to over 300 houses, spoken to countless voters on the doorstep and made 6,669 phone calls to Florida voters.

When we returned to Republican HQ, we were greeted by the man himself, Dr Neal Dunn. We came to understand how his background had informed his policy platform, and our probing questions further developed an appreciation of the nuances of conservative ideology.

Our team questioned Dr Dunn on his 100 per cent support for the preservation of gun rights, as the night before we had won a debate supporting the Republican perspective on the 2nd amendment – the right to bear arms.

Before our journey home, we were given a tour of the Florida legislature building by Dr Dunn’s campaign staffers, Tyler and Landen, two recent politics graduates who hope to accompany Dr Dunn to Washington DC if he succeeds in his election bid next week. Tyler and Landen offered a fascinating insight into how to build a career in politics; perhaps one day we will be joining them on Capitol Hill?

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