Why should we care about campaigns?
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As a first year Master of Public Affairs candidate with a personal interest in campaigns and the fact that it is a campaign year, my electives so far have been Campaign Theory, Campaign Organization and Management, and Grassroots and Organizing — a perfect fit for me.
At our initial meeting in the Campaign Theory class taught John Brooks, we had a group discussion about our central question — do political campaigns matter? There are various opinions on whether they do or do not and to what extent those arguments might be true. The focus of that class was about how we can determine the degree to which campaigns actually do what they were designed to.
What is so fascinating about studying the technical aspects of campaigns while real campaigns are running, are the highlighted differences between theory and reality. We live in a world where we have access to so much information and yet it is almost impossible to decipher what is fact and what is fiction. Huge terms like public funding, Super PAC (political action committee), and special interest get thrown around a lot. But what do these words truly mean? There is the technical, legal definition and then there is reality. As a group we analyze the choices campaigns make, the actions and in-actions taken and results form these decisions. Lucky for us these political campaigns do not operate in a vacuum so we can evaluate them within a context of history, in relation to the media and in opposition to each other.
During the current Republican and Democrat debates, I recognize strategies I discussed in my Campaign Organization and Management class taught by Donnie Fowler. In that class we analyze why we have campaigns and why people run for office. For the first time, I found myself more aware because I knew that each move the candidates made was calculated and meant to steer the audience in a certain direction. Despite studying political science and watching countless political shows, I had a different appreciation for the political campaign.
As primary and caucus season begins, we see the electorate cast votes for candidates that may ultimately be our next president. Our class will continue to have material to work with as these elections get closer and more contested.
As a young, educated human being who wants to make a difference in this world through the avenues I have access to, I know that who I vote for can change how our political landscape changes. I also know that there are great forces driving issues that may not be in my best interest. Campaigns are the mechanism by which we elect our leaders, so if we want policies changed or different interests represented we need to pay attention.
That’s ultimately the goal of graduate school, right? Or more broadly life in general. To learn more about things that impact the world surrounding me. Sometimes it takes a combination of factors to understand why you should pay attention. Campaigns are well organized machines that perpetuate our political system. Caring about how campaigns work allows me to contribute more to my education and actively participate in the political process.
In my Grassroots and Organizing class, taught by Nicole Derse, co-founder of 50+1 Strategies, my classmates and I have have the opportunity to participate in the Nevada caucus later this month. This is just another example of our teachers going above and beyond to provide us students the opportunity to put what we’ve been learning into real world practice, again blending theory and practicum. This will be the first time many of us are involved in caucusing. Stayed tuned for a blog post covering this experience!
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