On the campaign trail

Patrick Miner

Spring term final exams ended on June 12. At 6 p.m. I rushed out of Briggs to pack up my room and head for home. The next morning, after cramming too many belongings into a rented car, I rode from Appleton to Grand Rapids, Mich. Nine hours later I was on the road again, this time to Chicago.
The week prior, I had accepted a job collecting signatures to get the Nader/Gonzalez Presidential Ticket onto state ballot lines. Illinois was stop one. There I met up with fellow petitioners from random parts of the country. The 25 of us were all staying in a hotel in Elmhurst, which is just a few minutes from downtown Chicago. Some were college-aged, most were in their late twenties, others were in their 30s or 40s. The variety drawn to the job was immediately surprising. We had anarchist Texans, a guy with a tattooed skeletal hand over his right fist, an accountant, a professor and Justin Jeffre from the band 98 degrees.
The days were spent on the streets talking to people and engaging them in civic conversation. We handed out small issue cards and asked people to sign our petitions to place Ralph Nader and Matt Gonzalez on the ballot so that people who wanted to vote for them could. Later in June, we finished with Illinois, so we began dispersing to other states. Ballot access in the U.S. is in terrible shape: each state has different rules, forms, requirements, and deadlines, but that’s for another discussion.
It was Maryland next, followed by West Virginia in late July, then Maine in early August. I spent about 7 weeks — 7 days a week, over twelve hours a day — talking to people and walking around various towns. I petitioned crowds on the fourth of July, was in a car accident, met Ralph Nader for the first time, collected about 5000 signatures and spoke with tens of thousands of people.
When I went home in August to finally unpack and relax briefly before returning to Lawrence, I decided I didn’t want the experience to be over. I called the Campaign Manager and the National Coordinator to work out a plan for further involvement. Sept. 15 I flew to Washington DC to begin work as one of two National College Coordinators.
The other coordinator, Christina, and I formed student groups all across the country. We helped them plan events, spread the word on their campuses, and involve other students in a progressive movement, ending up with 263 campus chapters nationwide. I also edited campaign texts and managed the nationwide tours of our youth spokesperson and that of Mr. Gonzalez. Occasionally I was able to escape our rather hidden office to go to protests, rallies, debates, press conferences and other gatherings.
As of today, Nov. 19, I am sitting in my office in the campaign headquarters. I worked on College organizing until Election Day, then was asked to stay on to handle media for the campaign. That involves writing and “releasing” press releases, editing campaign texts and managing all interviews and press inquiries for Mr. Nader. I’ll be returning home to Michigan within the next week or two.
This five-month adventure has taken me to Illinois, Maryland, West Virginia, Maine, Washington DC and New York City. I’ve had the great fortune of working closely with Mr. Nader, who needs no introduction but is an inspiring and immensely energetic 74-year-old. I’m sure our LU administrators will appreciate my saying that taking a leave of absence from Lawrence was one of the best decisions in my life. Civic action is an essential part of education. It is largely missing from primary and secondary schools and is often sparse on campuses. I encourage anyone still reading this rambling message to seek out opportunities to partake in citizen organizations and movements.