Aaron Fielding lives, eats and breathes politics. Take a look in his car and there is a disarray of Tom Knox posters, buttons and other campaign materials.
“This is politics. You’ve got to bring your work home with you,” Fielding said. Fielding is a recent Temple graduate and a field coordinator for businessman Knox’s mayoral campaign. He spends about 80 hours per week making calls, talking to voters and working with the volunteer base in an effort to solicit votes and stir political involvement. Fielding also spends the majority of his day knocking on doors – about 75 in one shift. It’s called “canvassing,” and he’s required
to do four shifts of it each week.
“People who have the most ‘welcome friends’ stuff on their porches are the meanest
ones,” Fielding said. “Then you get others who want to keep you there for a really long time, but you have to politely leave and keep on going.”
Working as an intern has become a full-time job, he said. Before interning for Knox, Fielding worked on one of Gov. Ed Rendell’s gubernatorial campaigns while he was in school. Now he serves as the graduate advisor for Temple College Democrats. Fielding said during his time here, he was always involved in politics, adding that interning is a valuable way for students
to break into the political field.
“It’s a great learning experience and you get to make a lot of great connections in the field,” he said.
Fielding said he loves meeting seasoned political figures, whom he calls “old heads,” because they have been around and have seen it all in city politics. A bonus that came with working for the Knox campaign, Fielding said, was meeting Nate Chapman, a fellow campaign worker.
“He knows so much and is a great guy to work with,” he said. It is not an easy task to convince young adults to care about politics. “Temple is like its own bubble. It is its own city within a city,” Fielding said. “In most cases, the underclassmen aren’t really exposed to the city, so they don’t care or get involved.”
The demand for interns is very high, especially around election time, Fielding said. Currently, there are only two interns working at the campaign’s headquarters.
“It is hard to get interns because we are just opening our [field] offices,” he said. “It’s especially hard to get students to our Northeast office. Interns do everything from getting coffee to data entry and making calls.”
“[Interns] bring an unparalleled energy and excitement to the campaign,” said Brad Katz, a campaign spokesperson and Fielding’s superior. “When the volunteers are mostly college kids or kids right out of college, there’s a much better chance of them bringing in other college kids.”
Senior political science major Antron Watson hoped to learn more about politics by interning for Rep. Chaka Fattah’s campaign. He got involved with the Fattah campaign through one of his classes last semester. But after working for the campaign for two semesters, Watson has concluded that interning may not be for everyone.
“Politics actually doesn’t interest me,” Watson said. “Even though I am a political science major, I enjoy the theory behind it, rather than knocking on all of the doors begging for votes.”
Upon graduation, Watson aspires to become
an ambassador, but said he believes being
an ambassador and a mayor are two very different careers.
“An ambassador is put in a position to do work. [As] a congressman or mayor, you have to get people to believe in you,” he said.
“I’m not saying [that] with an ambassador you don’t need to get people to believe in you, as well, but there is more work behind it.” With this in mind, Watson began his internship with the intention of learning the ropes of the political field. The worst aspect of being an intern is feeling like he is begging people for their vote, Watson said.
“If you can’t go through with it and they don’t like you, then you don’t have a job come next election,” he said, in reference to running a campaign. But not all aspects of interning are bad, he said.
“[Campaign staffers] trust you to make good decisions, they accept your ideas and it is just a good way to grow a lot as a student within the political field,” Watson said. He said he feels Fattah’s campaign has effectively reached out to college-aged voters by using MySpace.com.
“He’s created a MySpace [page] as well as different groups. He’s more technologically advanced than the others,” Watson said.
Currently, two Fattah campaign interns make phone calls to voters and check e-mails. They also design Fattah’s campaign Web site and MySpace page.
On campus, Watson is actively involved in community service activities, a passion he’s had since high school. He would like the next mayor to take an active stance against violence in the city.
“I want to see the violence change. It seems to be the only thing that is causing the problems here,” Watson said. “If you got rid of the violence, then the city would look and be more like what it should be – a great city, like it was brought up to be.”
With five Democratic mayoral candidates campaigning in the primary election, how do the Republicans plan to address the city’s problems? Ryan McCool, chairman of Temple College Republicans, is a supporter of Al Taubenberger, the only Republican candidate in the mayoral election. Currently, there are no members from TCR who are interning for his campaign, but McCool said the organization is working hard to register Republican voters throughout the city.
“We need to remind the voters that the Democrats have been in power for 50 years and things aren’t getting any better,” McCool said, adding that Republicans have not been given the chance to fix the problems. Taubenberger’s campaign highlights crime, schools, pay-to-play politics and corruption in City Hall as the city’s biggest problems.
“College Republicans, like myself, are often contacted by local ward leaders who inform us of ways to help out GOP candidates,” McCool said. “Ward leaders place great trust in College Republicans to do the hard work for candidates. This reputation opens the door for opportunities after college.”
Students attend various events, register voters and hand out literature for candidates, McCool explained.
Whether you are a Republican or a Democrat,
getting involved in politics, especially while in college, is beneficial, Fielding said. “Just knowing who your representatives are, knowing who owns CBS – it’s civics,” he added. “The best voter is an educated voter. They make much better decisions.”
Jenna E. Oskowitz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.