As the U.S. gears up for its long presidential election season, average Americans are paying more and more attention to political parties and their candidates. The political parties themselves have a lot of work to do as they prepare for both the presidential election and local elections. This summer Rachel Williams ’17 got a firsthand look at the behind-the-scenes operations of the Republican Party as an intern with the Republican Party of Pennsylvania. She received support from the Katharine Eckman ’09 Internship Fund.
As a world politics major, Williams has a long-standing interest in politics. Her studies at Hamilton have helped her to develop her own world view and to learn about governments around the world. Her internship with the Republican Party was an opportunity to gain firsthand knowledge about how government functions on a small scale. Williams commented, “I decided to apply with the Republican Party because I wanted to learn about how party politics work behind the scenes.”
With a staff of six other interns, Williams worked to collect data and to campaign for upcoming elections. She conducted research and organized data that helped the party to create predictions about Pennsylvania elections. She also helped to campaign for judicial and State Representative elections. Her work included making phone calls and knocking on doors to talk to voters.
This communication with Pennsylvania residents was one of the most rewarding parts of Williams’ internship. She explained, “I really enjoyed the conversations I had with people who cared so deeply about what was happening in their area and wanted to share with me what they believed. Politics affect everyone and I really enjoyed talking to people about their concerns.” Williams also appreciated the opportunity to meet important political figures. She and the other interns met Republican candidates for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, and she got to hear Republican presidential candidates speak at the Northeast Republican Leadership Conference.
From working with the Republican Party, Williams has gained a much fuller understanding of how U.S. party politics work. She also developed a sense of direction for future work. She commented, “While realizing how important political parties are to our system of government, I also realized that I want to be more involved with international politics.” For Williams, then, the internship was a major learning experience, both about politics and about herself.