Last Saturday, a handful of Bowdoin students woke up at the crack of dawn to drive to Manchester, New Hampshire. At 8 a.m., they arrived at their destination: the New Hampshire Democratic Convention.
Justin Ko ’22 has volunteered for Andrew Yang’s presidential campaign for the past five months. After his continued efforts, he became the co-director of the campaign’s New England regional organizing three months ago.
“We’re in charge of anything in New England, especially when it comes to volunteers,” Ko said. “We are the ones who are communicating between headquarters in New York and volunteers on the ground for all of our efforts such as phone and text banking.”
Before the New Hampshire Convention, Ko distributed tickets to Yang’s New England supporters and volunteers.
“My job was to make sure people actually got there to organize so that we’d have a lot of visibility in front of the media at this important convention,” said Ko. “When we attended we honestly just had fun looking through all the campaigns [and] listening to the candidates speak. We got a few pictures with Senator Elizabeth Warren and Yang [too.] That was pretty cool.”
“It was kind of like [being in] the center of the political universe for one day,” said Morgan Edwards ’22, one of the students who travelled with Ko.
Because New Hampshire is the first state to hold primary elections, Edwards and Ko noted the added focus on this convention. For a lot of the candidates, including Yang, last Saturday was about increasing visibility.
“Yang is polling an average of sixth place nationally but he’s getting 16th in media coverage,” Ko said. “We are trying to change that.”
Convention proceedings, though, did not work in Yang’s favor. Candidates spoke in alphabetical order, so candidates such as Senator Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden addressed a packed stadium, while Yang spoke last, when many of the convention-goers had left. Edwards noted that although the campaign team didn’t seem thrilled with the unfortunate placement of the speech, Yang still received a warm reception when he took the stage.
In addition to the candidates’ speeches inside, a significant part of the convention took place outside of the arena.
“Everyone gets in their camps based on their candidate that they are supporting and cheering on, so you kind of have this little clash,” Edwards said. “It’s this energizing thing. Rally up support. Rally the troops. Energize support and rev up your base, because the national media is there.”
The relatively civil competition between the candidates was juxtaposed by the arrival of a truck plastered with Donald Trump stickers. One of the passengers eventually entered the convention, chanting in support of Trump, but was removed by security amid shouts from the convention-goers.
The incident reminded Edwards of the Democratic Party’s ultimate goal: “To get [Trump] out of here.”
Before the speeches, the Yang campaign met inside a nearby pizzeria. Having previously only talked via Skype, Ko was finally able to meet Yang for the first time.
“I was basically talking to him about how hard all of his volunteers are working—not just the regional organizers like me but also all the other volunteers on the ground,” said Ko. “I also got him to promise that he’ll invite all his regional organizers to his headquarters on Election Day for celebrations.”
Yang has plans to rally in Portland between October and February, closer to the Maine primaries in March. Ko also has tentative plans to bring Yang to the College, depending on Yang’s ever-changing schedule. Ko plans to continue working for the campaign throughout the year and is already communicating with other Bowdoin students who are Yang supporters.
“I think it’ll definitely be a lot of work, but honestly, when you are passionate about something, you’ll make time for it,” Ko said.