Confessions of an SU election campaign manager

Claire McCabe


It’s funny when I think back to my relationship with the SU elections during my first three years of college. It’s easy to say it was non-existent. I was interested in hearing who was running for elections and hearing what they had to say. But, with relation to campaigning, I was the average student who tried to dodge from the Arts Block to the library, unscathed. I kept leaflets in my bag just to prove I had heard the pitch, to avoid the hassle of interacting with campaigners. To me, those 2 weeks were irritating more than anything else.

So what changed? Well, a better question would be – who changed me? A friend. Matt Taylor. I was excited to help him, because I knew him as a friend, and I agreed to become his campaign manager, but, to be honest, I felt very anxious about it all. I didn’t know what a campaign manager was suppose to do. It was a title. It sounded important. Images of me letting Matt down flickered across my mind.

December came and plans started to form. I cannot even count the number of conversations myself and Matt had planning. I look back on every single conversation with fondness. Chatting in the TFM studio late into the night, plotting, joking, brainstorming, like Pinky and the Brain. Quickly, I began to realize what a campaign manager is. It’s an intensified version of a friendship with a best friend. It’s being a support for them. It’s being there to half their stresses and to encourage people to support them. It’s being there to help them organize the finer details. When they are feeling low about their chances, you raise them up.

Of course, politics in college, as most of you have realized, is a miniscule version of politics in the real world. For a campaign you need a great core team. You need to have a few key ideas about what you can do better than your predecessor and you need to have the appropriate media outlets to convince every single person who has not made up their mind.

You need a group of reliable people who have great creative ideas and who will turn up at their shifts. A team of people who will change their profiler on Facebook, who will like and share posts, who will attend hustings in the cold, who will trek out to halls to encourage first years. I did not know a lot of the people on Matt’s team very well before the election, but that quickly changed. After spending 3 weeks in various locations of college at 10am in the morning mobbing people with manifestos and spending the evenings sharing our ideas for the following days hustle, I got to know each and every one of Matt’s candidates, much to my delight.

Like anything else in society, Trinity is split up into a lot of different sections. You have various societies, sports clubs, friend groups ranging from the Arts Block to the Hamilton to D’Olier st. to James’s. The votes of your competitors’ and their campaign teams and friends may be gone, but remember – there are hundreds of other people out there who haven’t yet cast a decided vote.  Tickets, where candidates from different sectors get together to conquer, are a whole different ball game. But as I said, it’s politics.  During the campaign, you may be tired, you may feel like crashing and taking one day off, but you can’t. The candidate that’s running is expected to give speeches to the most populated lectures and has to to speak at various events during the hectic 2 weeks. It’s an election, you have to be willing to match your competitor and raise them. So you, in your role as campaign manager, need to orchestrate everything together and make sure things are running smoothly.

You need to remind people of the timetable, let them know where they’re most needed. But, most of all, make it fun. These are fellow students that have got involved because they were asked to. The whole point of getting involved is to meet new people, support your friends and see what other aspects of college are like. A lot of people on our team were Matt’s friends, a lot of people were also people we had just spoken to or met the month before, a lot of people were people I had never met.

So, when you’re walking though the Arts Block and you are meandering around, festooned by various colours who are begging you to take a manifesto as if their life depended on it. Take one. Talk to them. Hey, maybe even get involved?

Our team, in the end, was a great group of friends who stood each morning in the Arts block or in the Hamilton. We had fun the whole way through, making the Harlem Shake video, participating in Chinese whispers by candlelight in Halls or walking around with our mannequin – the student body.

Matt didn’t win that night. Undeniably, I was devastated for him, if none of you could tell. The closeness in the race is a testament to the hard effort each candidate and team put in. Life goes on and the next week, myself and Matt were plotting about something else.  Matt4Comms4lyf.