Behind the Political Screen
UPDATE April 14, 2015: In 2006, Betsy Hoover graduated with a degree from Xavier’s newest honors program—Philosophy, Politics and the Public. It had been official for only two years, but Hoover was able to adapt her schedule of courses and switch her major and became one of the PPP program’s first two students to graduate.
Looking back, it was a pretty savvy move. The next year, she was working on the social media campaign for Barack Obama in his first bid for president and was still on his staff during the 2012 election when she was given responsibility for a staff of 200 who managed the campaign’s social media outreach. The experience and contacts she made led her to start a non-profit political consulting firm, 270 Strategies, that works with Democratic candidates. She has offices in Washington, DC, and San Francisco and a staff of 60. She just turned 31.
“The Xavier connection was completely foundational for me and a huge reason I’m doing what I’m doing,” Hoover says. “When I came to Xavier, I was very focused on what I could do to serve my community, but Xavier taught me about social justice and about changing the system through politics, and I left in a very different place than where I started.”
ORIGINAL STORY July 1, 2012
For a person who values relationships, it follows that Betsy Hoover got her job the way a friendship is formed—with a common interest and a leap of faith.
Hoover, a 2006 Philosophy, Politics and the Public major from Milwaukee, was a year out of college and living in Washington, D.C., when she attended a weeklong training session in online political organizing. At the week’s end, the trainees were encouraged to join a presidential primary campaign. Hoover wasn’t sure if she wanted a political job. But when the Barack Obama campaign called about an organizing position in South Carolina, its community-based style intrigued her. “I really liked the relationship aspect of it,” she says. “You leave the states you’re in better than you found them.”
Hoover just signed a lease on an apartment in D.C., didn’t own a car and had never been to South Carolina. But she was willing to take the risk.
So she packed up her life and shipped out to South Carolina, where she trained volunteers, organized house meetings and set up phone banks. “It was really tough, but I loved it,” Hoover says. Hoover hopscotched eight states for the rest of the primary season, and by the general election she was deputy field director in Michigan.
Four years later, Hoover is now in Chicago as director of online organizing for Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign, coordinating the online and offline organization strategies. It’s a pretty significant position for a 28-year-old—significant enough that Forbes magazine included her in its 2012 “30 Under 30” list.
The job isn’t easy. She’s already pulling 12-hour shifts, and the days will get even longer and busier as November approaches. “There’s never a day off on the campaign,” she says. But every day brings a new challenge. And now and then she gets to see President Obama.
Hoover says her priorities haven’t changed since she was involved in social justice and campus ministry programs at Xavier. “I care about relationships and organizing and changing the world,” she says.