On Monday, October 30, Robby Mook, former campaign manager for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, spoke to a packed room of students at an event co-hosted by the American Constitution Society and HLS Democrats. Mook shared personal stories and advice from his many years working on state and national campaigns.
Mook said he cannot say for sure why he first became involved in politics. But Mook does know where he got his start—the unlikely location of the town garbage dump. Mook said that, because where he grew up in Vermont did not have garbage pick-up, residents had to bring their trash to the dump, making it one of the best locations to connect with voters and share political messages.
Mook went on to work on campaigns in college and took his first job as a field organizer in Vermont. From there, he said, he dove in and kept going where his passion took him. He recommended that students interested in campaigns be open to having a flexible career. Mook has taken this approach in his own career, working on a variety of campaigns—including Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign, New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen’s 2008 campaign, and Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe’s 2013 campaign. He also served as the executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2012. Mook said he has found it helpful to move between national work and races on the ground, learning how to manage different environments and resource constraints.
During the second half of the event, Mook discussed recent challenges that have arisen in the political environment. “The pace of change is enormous,” he said, referring to changes in demographics and media consumption. As a result, Mook said, it is no longer enough for candidates to simply talk about issues that matter to voters. Instead, candidates need to think about how to get their message across to voters in a meaningful way. Mook also discussed how important it is to build coalitions and find common ground in the face of growing division in the electorate.
Toward the end of the event, Mook shared his advice specifically for students: “Think about what matters to you coming out of here, and think about the best path to get there.”
-Florence Bryan, 2L