Students must recognize the privilege in working on the campaign trail

It’s not uncommon to come across a GW student urging their peers to phone bank, volunteer their time for a campaign or canvass in any of the hundreds of races across the United States. In fact, it’s encouraged to get the word out about ways students can help out with their local campaigns. But before we pressure our peers to join the campaign trail, we need to recognize that some people just don’t have that kind of time or resources.

I recently got into an argument with a friend who equated not participating in a campaign or phone banking to condemning the state of democracy. His words stuck with me – in his attempt to guilt a number of people into phone banking, he said we would have to tell our children that we were “too busy to save democracy” if we did not help out a campaign.

But I’m a full-time student with three part-time jobs. I’d love to help out with a campaign, but I will not spread myself thin.

My tiff with a friend may seem like an isolated incident, but I have seen dozens of other social media posts attempting to guilt students into volunteering their time and energy. It’s great to encourage others to get involved in politics, but we need to remember that not everyone can. To be frank, it’s a privilege to be able to set hours aside for phone banking, and we should not look down on those who cannot set aside the time needed to promote a campaign.

Some students hold jobs, internships or other obligations that limit their free time. Some of those students’ jobs or internships may be helping to keep their family financially afloat, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic strains families’ budgets. They might want to help out with a campaign, but it’s not that easy. Like many others, I am a full-time student and work. Time is money that we cannot afford to lose. Work should take precedence if that is my main responsibility, and guilting me or other people into spending time they don’t have is inconsiderate.

GW is known for its politically active student body. Heck, we even threw a fit when we were knocked off the list of most politically active schools. With political student organizations like GW College Democrats being the largest in the country and GW College Republicans being highly active, it is difficult to detach yourself from GW’s political culture. But being a politically engaged school does not mean that every single student has the means to hold campaign signs or phone bank for a candidate. Students asking for assistance in campaigns must take a moment to look outside the GW political bubble and their own lives and recognize that many students attend the same university but don’t have the means to get GW on the list of politically active schools again.

If you have the time, the passion and the ability to volunteer for a campaign you are passionate about, do it. But do not place yourself on a pedestal and look down from your moral high ground on students who do not have the same privilege to spend volunteering.

Many students feel as if democracy is on the line this election, and others may be feeling a certain pressure to get as many of their peers involved in campaigns as possible. But it is imperative that the fervor students have for a campaign or cause does not blind them to the needs of those around them. We are all a part of the GW community, and this toxic culture of looking down on those who do not have time to volunteer must end.

Students like me can still help promote a campaign or cause we are passionate about. Those who do not have the time to volunteer or phone bank could spread the word about candidates and issues to people we know, ensure that our vote gets counted, engage in conversations with those around us and if they have the ability to, donate to a campaign. The little things matter, and regardless of our workload, we can take a second to share a post that might educate someone on politics.

Students are in a unique position to be able to help campaigns this year, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic has brought us home for the academic year. It’s crucial that we all stay politically aware in some way, but suggesting that students are not doing enough to sway the outcome of the election is ineffective.  

Hannah Thacker, a junior majoring in political communication, is the opinions editor.

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