And the Winner of the Mikva Youth Caucus Is…
Today is Super Tuesday! The Iowa Caucuses seemed like they were ages ago. A lot has changed in the race for President. In the Democratic race, Hillary Clinton seems to have regained momentum. For the Republicans the reality of Donald Trump, the front-runner, is finally sinking in. It’s crazy to think that just a month ago before Iowa, everything was still up in the air. In the bitter January cold, we traveled with some 200 some high school students from the Chicago area to Des Moines, Iowa to get a taste of democracy in action. Organized by Mikva Challenge, this trip gave students the chance to work on campaigns, attend political rallies, and hold their own mock caucus. Students were able to choose which candidates they wanted to work for, Democrats and Republicans. One of the most interesting things was filming students at different campaign offices and getting a sense of the candidates, their campaigns, and, in our case, how the youth engaged with them.
The Ted Cruz office was in a corporate office park. It was full of volunteers, sitting in rows, diligently doing their work. It very organized, very efficient. Outside of the large Cruz logo on the wall and a bulletin board stating the goal for number of calls, the room was bare. The students arrived, got their call sheets, instructions, sat down at their spot, and got to work. *Side note: the staff allowed us to film the students, but they also seemed very cautious, concerned, and even somewhat suspicious of what we were doing.
At the Hillary Clinton office the atmosphere was very welcoming and friendly, but it was a bit smaller. The other volunteers tended to be much older, but they welcomed the youth and fit right in. The walls were more lively, but outside of a few hand-drawn signs it was mostly filled with official campaign posters.
The Sanders office was a popular request among Mikva youth. The office was large and open. It was buzzing with chatter. There was music. The walls were filled with colorful volunteer-created Bernie signs and artwork. People sat around tables, on couches, on the floor. An organizer stood up on a chair and gave one of those “rallying the troops” speeches and thanked the students for their work. The energy and enthusiasm was undeniable. Granted this was only two days worth of anecdotal observation and analysis, but we know how the story turned out. Cruz, with a highly-organized ground game, beat the favorite, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders surprised everyone by finishing in a virtual tie with Hillary Clinton. In talking with many students throughout the weekend one theme was clear. Going to Iowa made politics real. For students, it was one thing to study elections in a civics class or follow the campaigns on TV, it was another thing to be in the offices making phone calls, canvassing door-to-door, watching a candidate give a speech, or even being able to ask them a question and shake their hands. Here at Inpoints we are not endorsing any candidate, but in the election of engaging Mikva youth in the democratic process all of the Presidential candidates were winners.