Students gather for a campaign kickstarter for presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. // Photo by Rachael Buselmeier
Twenty-one candidates have already placed their bids to be the elected Democratic nominee for president in the 2020 election. With a group that large, campaigning for the primaries is already underway.
Members of the Students for Bernie club, many of whom are also members of Western’s youth chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (WWU YDSA), have already locked in their choice for 2020. On Saturday, the group met up for the first time, advertised on Facebook as the Students for Bernie Organizing Kickoff.
The launch event was one of many held around the nation gathering future voters to watch a livestream of Sanders beginning his campaign.
The meeting started with students introducing themselves and expressing their personal thoughts on who the best fit for the Democratic nominee is in the upcoming primary elections. Neah Havens, Students for Bernie club leader, said she believes in many parts of Sander’s platform.
“College for all impacts every student at Western. Bernie has also been the biggest advocate for women’s health and women’s rights,” Havens said.
Student Peter Clifford took an all or nothing view of Sanders.
“I thought I ought to do my part to support Bernie, he’s the last best hope for any kind of social democracy in America,” Clifford said. “It’s kind of the last shot at compromise before the wheels fall off the train and we fall into fascism.”
During the livestream, students watched Sanders give a speech about using social connections to convert undecided voters into Sanders supporters. Ohio State Sen. Nina Turner also gave a speech asking viewers to raise both of their hands in a sign of solidarity.
“With these hands we will make change,” Turner said.
The livestream ended with an explanation of the new Bernie Sanders app that will allow supporters to register their friends and family into a database managed by the Sanders’ campaign.
Students competed after the live stream to register the greatest number of friends and family members in the app.
“I’m going to register my dad,” club leader Colton Lanning said. “He didn’t vote in the last election but I’m going to win him over.”
Student Josef Jackson said he was excited to continue campaign effort and his activism with the help of the app.
“I volunteered for the Democratic Party during the midterm elections by phone banking,” Jackson said. “The DNC has a disconnect with what the voting base is actually interested in. They’re more centrist than the voters. I think Bernie Sanders is the most qualified and most dignified of the candidates, he represents what voters really want.”
The Students for Bernie club is determined to campaign further for Sanders and help other students register to vote.
Third-year student Grace Drechsel, who works with Western Votes, has made looking for creative ways to engage Western students a center piece of her Associated Students campaign.
“On campus, Western Votes is focused on making it as easy as possible to vote. Some people need a lot of convincing, but it’s an easy argument,” Drechsel said.
Students interested in campaigning with the club are encouraged to attend the next WWU DSA meeting. The club will be screening a documentary about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on May 3 at 6 p.m. in Bond Hall.
This article was updated on May 3, 2019, to correct the name of the club that some members of Students for Bernie are part of and that hosted the documentary screening on May 6 – the club is WWU YDSA, not Young Democrats of WWU.