Former Nottingham student travels to America to campaign for Bernie Sanders

Probably millions were in front of their TVs during the US elections, watching carefully what the 2020 will bring for America and the entire world. Kieran Burt meets Sam Jaffe, a Nottingham students who was right in the middle of action, to give Platform readers an insight of how US elections looked like this year.

The 25-year-old ‘launched’ his career in politics through Parlimentors, a scheme for university students where they run social action projects in small groups and are mentored by an MP.

The project also helps to develop student’s careers by putting them in contact with alumni in fields such as politics, journalism, and law.

It runs at different universities across the country and aims to get students more involved with their local community.

Sam took part in Parlimentors while he was at the University of Nottingham from 2014 to 2017.

His project was about supporting those in secondary school who don’t know what a university education would be like or mean, with particular focus “on the incredibly low enrolment rate of BAME communities”.

He said: “We should be able to offer the local community a lot more than we do”.

His team held an event at the end of the year where they had guest speakers from BAME backgrounds talking about their experience with university, and what some of the alternatives to university are.

“I don’t believe university is something everyone wants to do or should feel like they need to do”, he added.

Sam joined the scheme as he saw it as an interesting opportunity to learn.

He saw it as an opportunity “to make an actual change, rather than doing what a lot of other students do, including myself, which is talk about a lot of things but not do anything”.

He added that being mentored by an MP as it was a good chance to see how their offices are run and what support they can offer.

Throughout the project Sam found it challenging to keep his group up to date and managing time.

He said: “Parlimentors tends to attract people who are already quite motivated, ambitious which often means it is people who are already involved with other projects as well as I was as other people were.

“It’s geared to the people in the later years of university as well.

“This meant that it was a lot harder to focus on the project and give it the required attention.

After university, Sam took a job in America campaigning for Bernie Sanders in the 2020 primaries.

Sam said that he choose to campaign for Sanders because he “cared deeply about his campaign” and that joining the Democratic Socialists of America was similar to Momentum in the UK.

The campaign hired him in New Hampshire to organise volunteers and make calls.

“You have to find and tap into their energy…and encourage them to join you on knocking on doors, making phone calls, and holding house parties”, added Sam.

When Coronavirus hit in March, he said that it forced them to stop knocking on doors, holding public events and overall made campaigning harder.

The job of working on a campaign can also be stressful. Out of the nine months Sam was in America, he took ten days off.

He was also up and down the East Coast, in New Hampshire, Florida and New York.

Campaigns are run on a tight budget as well as a tight schedule, meaning he had to drive the 18 hours from New Hampshire to Florida instead of flying.  

Sam explained that “everything is on a strict countdown” and that the targets that the campaign is aiming for are closely watched.

However, this pressure brought everyone closer together, as “there was an amazing sense of community” between Sam and his fellow campaigners.

Other people’s reactions also helped Sam cope with the pressure and punishing hours.

Hearing how passionate people were on the phone, seeing the Bernie Sanders financial support meme, and seeing directly how his work was making an impact, helped him carry on.

“I can’t tell you how much it meant when you’re having a long hard day, you’re exhausted, and you don’t want to do anymore.

Sometimes you need a reminder that here are all these people that know this important as well, supporting us, who want the same things as us.”

Another topic that Sam touched on was campaign finance. While the 2020 Bernie Sanders campaign raised over 211 million dollars, Sam explained that “everything is on a tight budget”.

This is because of the staff needed, rent for the offices used, advertising, and travel for Bernie Sanders.

Spending also went up during Super Tuesday. “When Super Tuesday came on March 3, you’re not just competing in one or two states but you’re competing in several states at a time across the country.

“So, the campaign really has to start throwing money around to compete like that.”

Bernie’s style of fundraising also placed additional strain on financing, as he was not receiving money from companies however it is donations for people.

“Every bit counts. Particularly when you’re fundraising like Bernie, asking people to donate a dollar, two dollars, five dollars, you’re not getting big money from big companies.

“It is just what people can give.”

Finally, with Biden now set to become the 46th US President, Sam gave his opinion on the new administration.

“Something that is very relevant, is what an incoming Biden administration will look like and where it will position itself in the Democratic Party and how it will interact with the left of the party.

“Especially because Biden didn’t run with the support with a lot of young people or people on the left.

“He doesn’t have a reputation the last time he was in the White House of being particularly progressive.”

“It’s a bit of a downer, despite it being a much better result that Trump being in office.

“Biden isn’t offering substantial change.

“And I think a lot of people really want, particularly younger and more progressive people.

“And I think that’s been very clear with his reaction to Black Lives Matter, and the social movements that are happening right now.

“He hasn’t really adapted to them in any way.”

By Kieran Burt

Featured image: Sam Jaffe

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *