We spoke to a UEA student who campaigned for Hillary

“The feeling of despair, disbelief and fear was pertinent” after Trump’s victory

It’s been a long year for Cameron Mellowes. On top of studying and revising for his third year at UEA, the Society, Culture and Media third year student also flew out to the US to campaign and canvas for Hillary Clinton.

We sat down with Cameron and discussed his time on the campaign trail for Hillary during the 2016 US general election, and to ask him about his thoughts on the nation’s verdict announced on Thursday morning.

First, tell us about the process behind it all – how did you come to be campaigning in Florida?

So I’m a member of a political think tank called the Fabian society which is affiliated to the Labour party, and they run trips regularly to various countries of political significance. This year they opted to travel to the United States for ‘Operation-Stop-Trump’. I’d been thinking over the summer about going over to America for some of the election, so getting the opportunity to canvas in a swing state was too good to miss.

Were there a lot of other non-American campaigners?

Our delegation had around 14 people in it and we were all British. However, outside of that the campaigners were all locals. They were overwhelmed that we had crossed the Atlantic just for this and we even reduced one woman to tears!


Lets get door knocking

What were your initial thoughts of it all when you arrived? How different is it to campaigning here in the UK?

The thing I most noticed was that the campaigning was far more casual than at home. The Democrat campaign office were happy for people to rock up whenever they liked and they’d be sent out with a street name and houses to knock on. In the UK, campaigning feels far more rigid and regimented. 

I’m not sure which I prefered, but the difference was interesting. The other side of campaigning in the States was that it’s incredibly image-conscious. We were draped in Hillary merch from the get-go and photo opportunities were copious.

What was the atmosphere like with the Democrats – were they optimistic?

It was an interesting one. I asked if they were confident on the first day and they said “we start every day as if we were 20 points down in the polls”, but at the same time I went to a Barack Obama rally (which was awesome) and a Hillary win felt like a foregone conclusion and the feeling of belief and hope was incredible. So yeah, I guess some people assumed she would win, which makes the loss even more bitter. These people had a lot invested in the election.

After finding out about the results, how did you feel and what was the reaction others had?

I was in a genuine state of shock; once it became clear that she was going to lose Michigan and Wisconsin I left the bar where the Orange County Democrat election party was and walked through downtown Orlando where there were hundreds of people sitting on the side of the street crying or staring in to the middle distance. The feeling of despair, disbelief and fear was pertinent.

At the Obama rally

At the Obama rally

 What do you think the reason for the Democrat’s loss was?

I’m very dismissive of the idea that working-class people were sick of establishment liberal elites so they voted for Trump as this was an almost exclusively white phenomenon, almost all African Americans voted for Clinton. I think Trump’s win was caused by a cocktail of racism, economic insecurity and a downright hatred of globalisation. One thing is clear, America is a very sick nation.

What do you feel about the comparisons with the result and Brexit here in the UK?

There are obvious parallels to be drawn between the two events. There’s a thirst for isolationist policies throughout the West which in my view are incredibly damaging to the liberal tolerant societies we live in. The next one to watch is the French presidential election, where a far right candidate could win if civilisation keeps going the way it’s going…

Finally, do you think you’ll go back in 2020?

I hope so! I met some really inspirational people in Orlando who will keep the belief alive that America is still worth fighting for and the liberal cause isn’t dead yet. I’ll keep campaigning both at home and abroad – there are people who need Democrat and Labour governments and we sure aren’t in any position to stop fighting now.