November 6, 2000

The Little People: Inside the Campaigns

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For months, the media has focused on the lives of the presidential candidates. But behind the scenes of Election 2000 stands a massive support staff — from professional advisers to college volunteers. Many Cornellians have key roles in the ranks, including Democratic Prof. William Galston ’67, University of Maryland, and Republican student Rachel Jacobs ’02.

In his years on the Hill, Galston did not dabble in campus politics. But since then, he has made a career of political theory. He worked on his first presidential campaign in 1980. And he’s been a Democrat and Gore devotee from the start. “Al first ran for the presidential nomination in 1988,” he said, “and I left a perfectly good job to join his campaign when he was a 39-year-old junior senator from Tennessee.”

For the 2000 campaign, he stresses that he is not abandoning academia. “In past campaigns I have taken leaves of absence. Now I’m combining a full time job with helping this political campaign to the maximum.” Besides his day job as University of Maryland’s Director of the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy, “I’m helping the campaign out as a senior adviser on a range of issues,” he said.

Last Wednesday night he appeared, as spokesperson for the Gore campaign, on a national PBS program — his third of the year, battling the other camp with “comprehensive looks at major issues.” He has also spoken on Fox Network and CNN.

His typical day varies as much as the Vice President’s. “If the question is what stance the candidate should take on a particular issue, I’m busy writing memoranda, going to meetings, dealing with arguments and counter-arguments. I help represent the campaign in media appearances and speeches.”

When Gore must prepare for a major event, Galston and advisers get together exchanging ideas, reviewing outlines and drafts and meeting with speechwriters. “The Vice President is involved in the beginning as well as the end,” Galston said.

He notes that every speech, meeting and project involves Gore and only ends when he is satisfied. Though Galston might argue with him, “he’s the boss.”

“Before he’s made up his mind, I owe him my honest opinion and frankest argument. Afterwards … if I want to be a team player, I’ll support his position. But I’m not doing my job if I pull any punches after he’s made up his mind,” he said.

Lately he regrets he has not had the chance to shoot around ideas with Gore. “Right now there are little issues developing — not much in the way of major speeches. I’m spending more time dealing with reporters. The candidate is going from rally to rally …. There’s no time for leisurely discussions with issue advisers anymore.”

Looking back on the campaign, Galston hopes his efforts have clinched a Democratic victory. “This is the closest election in 40 years … it’s hard to make predictions and I won’t,” he said. Come tomorrow he’ll be “watching and waiting, like everyone else. It’s the hardest day, because there’s nothing you can do.”

Student Activist

In contrast to Galston’s seasoned political career, Jacobs seized her first opportunity, this summer, to devote time and energy to her party’s campaign.

In the intense first week of August, Jacobs linked up with thousands of GOP members, helping organize the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia. As assistant to the convention’s executive coordinator, helping take charge of 10,000 volunteers, Jacobs had to oversee a flow of operations from distributing bottled water to staffing security guards.

Coordinating volunteers “was the biggest leadership position I’ve ever held,” Jacobs recalled. She was charged with finding volunteers to man security stations spaced widely apart. She arranged for continuous coverage of these posts all week, coordinating people and time shifts. She also provided for transportation through a delegated committee and driver. It was empowering: “They put us in charge. We’re college kids, and we were telling 40-year-old businessmen volunteers what to do.”

Jacobs, an Industrial and Labor Relations major, joined the Republican Youth Majority in Washington D.C., during a summer at the Cornell-in-Washington program. Interning for Gov. George Pataki, she found out about convention opportunities from an executive coordinator who had worked in the same office. From there she worked at the convention alongside other students, until advancing to a leadership role. “I kind of convinced [the coordinator] to give me the position,” she said.

Despite having to stay in “seedy” downtown Philadelphia, she enjoyed every aspect of the convention, including meeting some colorful politicos. “[Congressman Rick] Lazio didn’t want to go in vans …. He liked to go in golf carts. My friend and I had three golf carts, and we picked up him and his wife. He liked us so much he asked us to drop him off, pick him up the whole day. Once, he jumped off the golf cart at a stop sign to do an interview with MTV on the side.”

Overall, taking part in the convention brought her studies to life, she said. “I was studying public policy over the summer … and learning about the people who make it, so it was exciting to meet them.”

Archived article by Melissa Hantman