Hitting the pavement and talking to constituents can make or break political campaigns. But talking to voters isn’t just something for public officials. Volunteers often are involved with district campaigning, including college students.
More than 15 Hillsdale College students joined in the Michigan Republican Party’s Day of Action on Oct. 14. College Republican students spent a couple of hours walking around to houses in the city of Hillsdale to take a survey about the political beliefs and concerns of the residents.
Junior Ross Hatley, president of Hillsdale College Republicans, had a hand in organizing the Hillsdale Day of Action and said student volunteers knocked on over 380 doors across the entire city.
“The primary focus was asking the community what they thought were pressing issues on a national level, but also on a local level,” Hatley said. “This is really what College Republicans is about. Our mission statement is ‘Create, Connect, Change’: create events to connect Hillsdale College students to the political arena to change the country. An important part of that is not just the principles we learn in class but also just reaching out to the folks that are out there.”
Freshman Madeline Peltzer, who is on the board of trustees for College Republicans, said it is important for the College Republicans to stay connected with local and state politics, especially with the voters themselves. One of the goals with the survey, she said, was to provide information to the Michigan GOP.
“We are partnering with the Michigan Republican Party to try to retain control of the House and Senate, which the Democrats are trying to get a majority in,” Peltzer said. “This poll was to try and get a sense of the demographics of what the concerns are of Hillsdale County in particular.”
Peltzer said the canvassing was encouraging because most people believe Michigan “is on the right track, especially economically.”
Joe Weaver, Michigan GOP Regional Field Director for Southeast Michigan, was the state contact for Hillsdale’s College Republicans chapter.
“Ross Hatley and I worked together to build an opportunity to boost local activism within the Hillsdale area generally and within his chapter more specifically,” Weaver said. “We also wanted to better understand community priorities as we move forward into the election cycle.”
The Day of Action, Weaver said, is a benefit for local communities by creating a method for citizens to voice concerns and opinions. It also allows students the ability to make a “positive impact within their organization and the broader community,” he said.
Hatley emphasized the importance of practicing politics outside of the classroom. Practicality was a big part of the Day of Action.
“Being able to interact, that’s what the essence of politics is, and that’s an ingredient you don’t necessarily get from the classroom,” he said. “District walking, beating the pavement, and putting in hours shows that you know what you believe is right, and moreover, you’re willing to do something. If we know what is right, we ought to be acting that way. District walking really is the practice of politics, on the local level especially.”
Peltzer echoed some of Hatley’s thoughts on college students’ participation with off-campus issues. Being from Arizona, she said the district canvassing was good for her to begin getting an understanding of Michigan politics.
“Personally, I think it’s really important as students to get out of the ‘college bubble’ sometimes,” she said. “Hillsdale is wonderful, and I love it, and I love the people and the campus, but it’s easy to get stuck in our own world and not connect with real life, real families, real issues. I think it’s really good for keeping perspective.”
Weaver noted the importance for students to have an understanding of their communities concerns.
“Understanding the concerns of our communities is critical for elections on all fronts and at every level,” Weaver said. “Listening, understanding and educating are all very important throughout the election cycle.”
The time commitment for students was relatively light, as they spent two hours walking around the neighborhoods in Hillsdale.
“Everybody was back in time for the football game,” Hatley said with a grin.