Guest Blog: Politics at USC and in Los Angeles

Presidential debate watch party, phone banking for Secretary Clinton, panel discussion on the role of the media in politics, and a Bernie Sanders rally–all in one week.  True, USC may be no historical hotbed of political protest like UC Berkeley and Los Angeles may be no Washington DC, but as a student, a wealth of political opportunities on and off campus lies at a finger’s touch.

Each week you can find several discussions, lectures, and events that focus on politics, public service, and issues facing the local community, state, and nation.  For example, just a few weeks ago, the Price School of Public Policy hosted retired General David Petraeus and Californian Congressman Adam Schiff to discuss the future of American foreign policy.  And a few weeks before, the Young Turks filmed a segment of their piece on Millennials and politics right on campus with a large crowd of students.  And on November 7, the day before the election, California’s Attorney General, and senate candidate at the time, Kamala Harris, arrived at USC to discuss her political positions and her thoughts on the election. This is not an aberration –it’s the norm here at USC.  And some of these opportunities hit a lot closer to home –literally.  That’s because at my freshman residence hall, the faculty master has already brought in several USC professors with experience in political journalism and campaigns in an informal environment full of discussion and, more importantly, free food.

Alec Vandenberg (right) at the Kamala Harris, U.S. Senator – CA (elect), discussion at USC  on November 7, 2016

My most memorable political experience here so far has been listening to Jeremy Shane, former Director of Campaign Issues for Bush-Quayle 1992, in one of these dorm discussions.  He talked to us about how Trumpism has manifested itself in the past, why millennials are becoming turned off from politics, and a myriad of other issues.  I was able to ask him about the chance of third parties emerging on the political stage and how this would affect polarization.  Participating in events like this really has personalized politics for me and has provided me a window to the wider world of policy.

And off campus, from rallies, to volunteering for campaigns, to internships, LA provides USC students with chances to engage with, experience, and shape the political world around them.  Back in October for example, I had the chance to hear Bernie Sanders speak about prescription drug prices at a rally just a short Uber ride away.  Even though I didn’t agree with certain aspects of the proposition he was advocating for, it was an electric experience that I won’t soon forget.  I’m only about two months into my USC journey, but I’m more than excited to see what the next several years hold for me not just academically and personally, but also politically.

BY: Alec Vandenberg Public Policy ’20
Price Student Blog