Hello everybody! My name is Lois Hong, and I wanted to share a little bit about my experience being a part of a political campaign internship. This past summer, I looked for ways to get more civically involved as a highschool student, and I came across the application for Rishi Kumar’s fellowship, where I gained new valuable insights on different policies that he supported, real-life experience with campaigning for a candidate, and what it is like to create graphics/send out emails to garner support for a political figure.
Some background on Kumar and why I chose to join his campaign: Rishi Kumar is going against another democratic candidate, Anna Eshoo, a U.S. Representative from California's 18th congressional district. Kumar is currently a Saratoga councilmember, an immigrant, and a Silicon Valley hi-tech executive, and more personal to me as I am a highschooler located in the Tri-Valley. His care for women in the workplace as well as his concerns for politicians exploiting money through corporate lobbying are also two things that really drew me towards his campaign. In addition, Kumar pledges to refuse Special Interest money (groups that pay money to influence policies with their own agenda) and PAC (Political Action Communities) campaign contributions. Personally, I want someone in Congress who takes steps in achieving gender equality in our nation and won’t be hindered by big money in politics.
Now to talk more about my experience in this fellowship: I am the Contact Sport Lead Coordinator in this fellowship so I focus on getting higher contact rates when canvassing (direct contact with individuals during campaigns). About once a week starting in June, I drove to the Palo Alto/Menlo Park area to walk around neighborhoods, ring doorbells and talk to constituents in these areas about Rishi Kumar. I normally go with other students in the internship and for about three hours, we would reach 60-70 houses, and we’ve had many meaningful conversations with a huge variety of people. Because with so many varying opinions even in one area, each conversation was different. Many people were grateful to see highschoolers volunteering and canvassing because it isn’t something they see often, and they were often surprised that I drove from the Tri-Valley to come volunteer! We asked many questions such as their feelings on the upcoming candidates as well as whether they know of Rishi Kumar. Then we presented our pitch and our own opinions on him. We also got the opportunity to answer their lingering questions and sometimes the constituents even offered us advice. Though it is to be expected, we did sometimes get outright ignored, have doors shut in our faces, or even experience someone opening the door stating that they will not even consider Kumar. However, the positive responses kept me engaged and excited each time I went canvassing. Being able to talk to constituents adds a deeper personal connection to the candidate, even if it is not the candidate themselves.
This internship showed me the importance of an educated voting body. Many people were unaware of who Rishi Kumar was and some had not even heard of Anna Eshoo. To me,this revealed the lack of civic information going around our community; we need to educate our voters and through canvassing these people could learn more about what each candidate supported. Even though we were campaigning for Rishi, we still gave a brief overview on what Anna Eshoo supported, offering both perspective on Rishi and the opponent. In addition to this, I realized how politics can even be seen as a popularity contest and who can get their name out to people first. One experience that I can recall was after I gave an elevator pitch, somebody answered the door and stated, “Okay, I guess I will vote for him now since I only know about him.” Even though this was a ridiculous statement, it still revealed that people will just vote which name they know without any context. Truthfully, I didn’t know much about our current CA-18 U.S. representative, Eshoo until this campaign, so I realized how much more research I should be doing as well if I want to honestly convey why someone should vote for Kumar.
These internships give you the ability to be civically involved even through a pandemic, where I searched for other political opportunities, Rishi stood out the most and I recommend all of you readers to join as well! As the internship says on its front page “Find the Leader In You,” I have genuinely found myself to come out of the program with leadership, confidence, and more knowledge on a variety of his politics and his opponent’s political policies and I encourage you all to do similar!
https://youtu.be/BrVPlIZ-PzQ (another fellow who shares his experience)