Harvard junior and former Model United Nations (MUN) Co-president Max Frank ’14 traversed the country this past election season as a Hillary Clinton campaign staffer before returning to the theater on November 30 to discuss his experiences with MUN members.
Encountering Secretary Clinton in person after a July 2015 town hall meeting in New Hampshire inspired Max to begin working on her campaign, he said. Starting off as an intern in January, he moved a month later to the Delegate Operations Team, with whom he prepped for Philadelphia’s Democratic National Convention (DNC) and vetted delegates who would cast their votes during the July event. In the weeks leading up to the election, Max also canvassed voters as an out-of-state volunteer for Secretary Clinton in Ohio.
A former writer for the Point of View, the school’s political magazine, Max said his interest in politics began long before his work in the election. Through participation in MUN, Max engaged in conversations with people who had different opinions and beliefs than his own—a practice that helped him talk with undecided voters in swing states like Ohio and New Hampshire ahead of the Democratic primary, he said.
“Having face-to-face interactions with voters always proved more effective than any other means of contact,” he said. “During the campaign I was in direct contact with voters who were undecided, and we were having 10-minute-long conversations, which were some of the great moments of the campaign.”
His most exciting experiences of the campaign, however, came from working at the DNC, where Max helped organize the convention from behind the scenes as a staffer in the Boiler Room, the hub of planning for Secretary Clinton’s nomination. There, he recommended over telephone how delegates should vote on procedural matters, such as the resolutions presented for the Democratic Party platform, to ensure that the policies selected were in alignment with Secretary Clinton’s proposals.
“We were working with and reaching out to delegates directly during the convention,” he said. “While the work itself with the Delegation Operations Team wasn’t that exciting leading up to the convention, it all paid off when we got to see Congress people and senators walking around at the convention itself.”
Max said campaigning for Secretary Clinton was satisfying but challenging because the first female candidate nominated by a major party had to face what he called “20 years of political slander” in the general election.
“A lot of voters never gave her a chance,” he said, blaming her portrayal in the media. “Seeing the same sentiment among my friends, people who generally supported Secretary Clinton’s policies yet were still against her, was a little bit bothersome.”
Despite not expecting Secretary Clinton’s loss on election night, Max said that the mood quickly shifted from dark to optimistic as campaign staffers began work in other political areas. For example, Max worked with campaign staffers who founded Flippable—an app that informs voters which democrats could win seats in state legislatures and gives users daily tasks to support those candidates.
Looking toward the future, Max said that if he finds a candidate in 2020 that he is particularly excited about, he will consider reentering the campaign workforce.
“I want to go to law school, so I might not be able to take time off to work for a campaign next election,” he said. “[But] if I find someone who I feel should be, without a doubt, president, then it will be hard not to get involved.”
MUN member Kaveri Bhargava ’19 said she found Max’s talk both interesting and relevant to the country’s current political climate. Though she described herself as upset by the election’s outcome, Kaveri said she would consider doing political work in the future after hearing about Max’s experience.
“Working for a campaign sounds like a lot of work and running around,” she said. “However, it would still be interesting to experience all the components of a campaign and how they work together.”
Current MUN Co-President Julie Peng ’17 said she and fellow MUN Co-president Andreas Frank ’18, Max’s brother, invited Max to talk to the club about the campaign in light of the election’s outcome. Max is the second speaker to visit the club, a new MUN practice begun when, in October, club alum Joe Hall ’12 spoke to the group via Skype about his college MUN experience.
“The club has around 50 members, which is a lot for us,” Julie said. “We really wanted to garner interest in MUN [through outside speakers] this year.”
Having worked on the election for Congressman Joe Kennedy ’99 in 2012, Julie said she hoped that bringing Max in to talk to the club about his campaign experience would encourage MUN members to think about current political issues. Though MUN focuses largely on foreign policy and Max’s work pertained to domestic politics, Julie still called the talk thought-provoking for the group.
“He really highlighted the reality of working on a campaign,” she said. “The young people like Max doing the not-so-glorious work on campaigns—who are so passionate about a candidate—are really inspiring.”