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‘All gas, no brakes’: student volunteers for Democratic candidates reflect on campaign trail experiences

Democratic campaign volunteers express relief after turbulent election season

Senior Staff Writer
Sunday, November 22, 2020
Joe Biden sitting

Seth Goldstein ‘22.5 said he hopes the next four years under Biden aren’t simply “a third Obama term," and that the new administration embarks on a more progressive path forward.

When major news outlets called the presidential race for Joe Biden on the morning of Nov. 7, Alexandra Blitzer ’22.5 fell to her couch and cried — enjoying “a huge moment of triumph and excitement” as her work campaigning for the Democratic candidate paid off. 

Blitzer, like many other students at the University, spent the last semester volunteering for the Biden campaign, mobilizing support for the Democratic candidate. A projected 66.8 percent of eligible voters cast their ballots in the 2020 presidential election — the highest rate among eligible citizens since 1900. States expanded their voting options due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Democratic Party coordinated robust voter mobilization efforts. 

A sigh of relief after holding elected officials accountable

Blitzer said it was rewarding to see the work of volunteers across the country culminate in an eventual Biden victory. “It just feels great that all of the hard work paid off and knowing all of the effort that people were putting in across the country really made the difference and moved the needle,” Blitzer said. 

Despite national polls showing Biden as the clear frontrunner in the presidential race, Blitzer and other volunteers spent the final days of the 2020 presidential campaign rallying pivotal, last-minute votes for the Democratic candidate. 

“The worst thing that you can do” on a political campaign, Blitzer said, is “to rest on your laurels.” 

The Democratic National Committee coordinated a nationwide, “get out the vote” effort in the days preceding Nov. 3. “And that was crazy,” Blitzer said. “Everyone was working 14 hour days calling people, getting people to the polls.”

“Our team motto was ‘all gas, no brakes,’” Blitzer said. 

Blitzer’s team of Biden volunteers called voters in Clark County, Nevada — where voting hours had been extended — until 11 p.m. EST on Election Day. Biden garnered 53.7 percent of the vote in Clark County, which is the most populous county in the state, and won Nevada with 50.1 percent of the vote. 

Blitzer’s work on the Biden campaign continued past Election Day. She helped provide information to voters who had mistakes on their ballots, pointing them to resources they could use to ensure their vote would be counted. Blitzer said helping voters with the “ballot curing” process was particularly important in Georgia, as the state’s deadline for securing all ballots was Nov. 6. 

Blitzer is “excited that there is a sympathetic ear in the White House,” in President-elect Biden, she said. But Blitzer said she believes work to move the country forward is not yet done and encourages people to remain politically active despite Trump’s defeat. 

“This is not the time to ‘go back to brunch’ and stop thinking about anything having to do with the White House,” Blitzer said. “This is the time to say, okay, we got this guy in office, now let’s see what we can get him to do.”

After volunteering for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, Seth Goldstein ’22.5 said he is proud of and thankful for the work done by his colleagues in his home state to secure a Biden victory, but stressed that it is time to “hold Biden accountable.”

“We did what we had to do to elect Joe and Kamala and we’re going to make sure that they keep their promises,” Goldstein said. “I’ve already seen some amazing activism from all sorts of progressive groups that, after I’m personally able to regroup, I’m excited to be a part of as well.” 

What 2020 means for the future of democracy

Despite Democratic victories in the White House and Congress, Blitzer raised concerns about the effects of President Donald Trump’s rhetoric sowing distrust in American elections moving forward. 

Trump has attempted to undermine the outcome of the 2020 election, launching lawsuits in several key battleground states like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Blitzer said that Trump’s refusal to acknowledge the results of the election and his claims of widespread voter fraud are “setting up our country for failure for years and beyond.”

Caleb Apple ’21, a Herald opinions columnist, said that he sees Trump’s legal challenges as “mind-boggling,” but “not surprising.” Apple had spent the fall working on the campaign of Democrat Sima Ladjevardian in Texas District 2. 

He explained that Ladjevardian’s opponent, Republican incumbent Dan Crenshaw, claims that voter fraud was pervasive in the 2020 election. Apple referenced the Brennan Center for Justice’s reports on voter fraud, which have concluded that many of Trump’s claims on voter fraud are unfounded.  

Although Apple said he is doubtful that Trump’s legal challenges will go anywhere, he added that the current president’s actions will “create more havoc and create more distrust in our electoral system and also make it just a little bit harder for Biden to assume office and really hit the ground running.”

Americans galvanized to get politically involved 

While Apple believes Trump has undermined the American political system, he said Trump’s brash, divisive character has indirectly gotten “a lot of people engaged in politics.” 

“I hope that people who were not engaged before, and are considering checking out again now that Trump has gone, reconsider that and stay engaged because Trump,” Apple said. 

The 2020 election is mostly finalized, but two Senate runoff races in Georgia could determine the course of national politics under a Biden presidency. Two Republican incumbents, Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, are being challenged by Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff. The runoff vote will take place Jan. 5 and will determine either Republican or Democrat control of the Senate. 

“I’m sure I’ll devote a good deal of my winter break to (the Georgia Senate races),” Apple added. 

Blitzer also said she aims to volunteer in Georgia — originally hoping to get involved in person, she now intends to work remotely, given the national rise in COVID-19 cases. 

“All of the work going on in Georgia is incredibly important,” she said. “Winning the Senate would be huge in pushing any major policy and legislation nationally.”

Goldstein is also staying politically involved in his home state of Wisconsin. “I’m nervous and excited as is always the case with Wisconsin politics,” he said. He told The Herald he is hopeful that Wisconsin will “redraw the maps next year” in an effort to end gerrymandering in the state with the retention of the governor’s veto. 

“The hope is that by the 2022 election, we’re able to actually have a state legislature that represents the people of the state,” Goldstein said. 

Goldstein said he hopes the next four years under Biden aren’t simply “a third Obama term.”

“It’s about taking really decisive action on climate change,” he said. “It’s about really, really putting people first in terms of healthcare, in terms of immigration, in terms of international relations.”

Goldstein said that the Biden and Harris coalition relied on support from urban voters, people of color and Black women. “So we’re going to hold (Biden and Harris) accountable to make sure that they’re addressing the needs of the communities that elected them.”

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