On Thursday, February 6th, between twenty and thirty students flocked to a room in Wilder Student Union to call voters on behalf of the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign. The “Bernie phone bank” event, planned and organized only days prior, brought out students from all levels of political involvement, from committed members of OYDSA and OC Democrats, to students who, up until now, had never been involved in a political campaign before.
“I thought only, like, six people would show up,” joked organizer and College fourth-year Clio Schwartz, addressing the packed room. Schwartz provided call scripts, helped volunteers troubleshoot occasional problems with the “Bernie Dialer,” a web-based calling application, and brought coffee and paper cups donated by Slow Train Café.
“I organized the phone bank after canvassing in Medina last weekend,” said Schwartz, in an email to The Spectre. “It made me realize just how important every single interaction with a potential voter is.” Seeing that many of their peers are Sanders supporters, but didn’t “have the momentum to volunteer,” Schwartz decided to organize the phone bank on campus.
Nick Politi, a fourth-year double-degree student, skipped a composition department forum to participate in the phone bank. In an interview with The Spectre, he described a “sharp contrast” between the competitive, “careerist” environment in the Conservatory and the “camaraderie” that ran through the phone bank event. “My department has pushed me into my individual career and I feel so selfish ... doing something to empower and advocate for people is like a breath of fresh air for me.”
Emma Bredthauer, a fourth-year student in the College, showed up to support Sanders’ campaign and his call for a universal single-payer healthcare system, Medicare for All. “I have a chronic illness, and it's really disgusting that other people who are dealing with chronic illnesses cannot get the care that they need in this country. The fact that [Sanders] has been consistent, and hasn't wavered, is huge.” (Medicare for Whomst?)
Both Bredthauer and Politi describe themselves as newcomers to electoral campaigning. “I really like how this is a people-powered movement, and I think that that was really evident [on Thursday],” said Bredthauer. “We're not like seasoned campaign volunteers, but we're doing this because we really believe in it.” Politi says he “deserted politics” after his first semester at Oberlin, when Donald Trump won the presidential election. Asked why he came back, he cited feeling “really empowered by a candidate for the first time in my life.” When Bernie announced his 2020 run, Politi says, “it was like he was coming back for us.”