How Students Can Engage in the Political Process

As the 2016 presidential race heats up, demand for volunteers to get out the vote climbs up. Republican National Committee director of faith engagement Chad Connelly visited a crowded Regent University classroom Thursday evening, January 21, to tell students about a real-world, real-time way to get engaged and active in the political process.

“My desire, and the desire of some of my colleagues, is to come to Christian universities across the country, and give an opportunity to students who are looking for that real-world experience,” said Connelly. “The RLI program is going to hire 1,300 people across the country in this election, and we’re actually going to have even more interns than that. There are going to be volunteers, mostly in the battleground states. The opportunity is unprecedented.”

The Republican Leadership Initiative (RLI) aims to put students, young people, or anyone who wants to get involved into a system where they learn how to run a campaign. Connelly shared his personal journey of how the Lord led him into politics, and says the political process is a spiritual one. He explains that 40 or 50 percent of the Republican Party’s base in a primary is faith-based. This translates to 25 or 35 percent in a general election, and he’d like Christians to be involved.

“I believe when people just do the detached, non-personal TV ads, they’re missing something,” said Connelly. “Politics is always going to be about that high touch, getting to know people, getting to know them at the back door, seeing them at the events. They call it retail politics. This is a really big deal. We believe this is where the other side has overcome us and beat us the last couple of cycles. We were the best at it. We kind of got lackadaisical, so we’re re-engaging and doing this at a level where we’ve never done it before.”

The RLI opportunity will select students to join the program as fellows. It pulls people together from across the country to work on a campaign. This can include sign-waving, door-knocking and phone-banking. Connelly says it not only provides experience, but is a great networking opportunity, forming relationships that could lead to recommendations down the road.

“The real chance here for a student is to get real-world experience and have somebody who is in that political game write a nice letter for them, or get to know them, or be able to recommend them later on,” said Connelly.

The Robertson School of Government sponsored Connelly’s visit. Connelly is the RNC’s first director of faith engagement and is leading an online effort to rally conservative believers behind the party.