MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Pa. — This weekend, two student groups organized separate trips to Pennsylvania, a crucial swing state, with the same objective — to oust President George W. Bush ’68 from the White House.
The Yale College Democrats and Bush Busters, a new student-run political group, traveled to Montgomery and Coatesville counties, two of the most important swing counties nationally, to canvas door-to-door for Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry ’66. While the Yale Democrats have traditionally been active on campus, Bush Busters, started this year by seven Yale students in the hope of swinging the upcoming election, provides an alternate outlet for political action.
“We aim to provide a wider umbrella for those who don’t necessarily feel aligned with the goals of the [Yale College] Democrats,” student organizer Abraham Koogler ’06 said. “They tend to focus more on Connecticut while we’re mobilizing our resources for the last few days before the election. But we’re both working for the same cause.”
While the Yale College Democrats went to a Kerry/Edwards campaign headquarters in Coatesville, Pa., Bush Busters joined the League of Conservation Voters at Plymouth Meeting in Montgomery County, Pa.
The League of Conservation Voters, a non-partisan, non-profit environmental advocacy group, provided students with information packets including canvassing scripts, a bulleted summary of Kerry’s positions and voter identification lists.
“I realize in our times, the environment is not a priority issue for most people, and that’s okay,” LCV Campaigns Director Amy Kurtz said. “Though it would be wonderful to mention Kerry’s environmental record versus Bush’s, we can talk about the war, about our health care, about the economy.”
Both college groups conducted training sessions for students during the three-and-a-half hour trip to Pennsylvania. Leaders enacted skits of likely situations they would encounter while canvassing, cautioning students against spending too much time at one residence.
“If they get confrontational and want to involve you in an argument, just say thanks for your time and leave,” Bush Busters student coordinator Sarah Laskow ’06 said. “Don’t waste their time and your time getting into a debate when you’re not going to end up changing someone’s position.”
Stephanie Brockman ’08 said she met people with a wide variety of opinions and saw an opportunity to make a difference after an encounter with a highly-opinionated likely Bush supporter.
“I was too cold and wet at the time to consider the philosophical implications of what we were doing,” Brockman said. “But if we really did cause that one woman to think, then I think it was worth it.”
Saturday evening, organizers from both the Yale College Democrats and Bush Busters said they remained optimistic about their cause, planning for smaller student teams to continue working in swing counties in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
“The turnout was amazing because this was an opportunity for real change,” Yale College Democrats President Nirupam Sinha ’05 said. “We covered about 1,000 homes in an area ranked as one of the top ten swing counties.”
The Yale College Republicans have also been actively supporting Bush. In addition to registering over two hundred likely Bush supporters on campus, they encourage student volunteers to train in Washington, D.C. in order to canvas in northeastern swing states. A trip to New Hampshire is scheduled for next Thursday, Yale College Republicans President Al Jiwa ’06 said.
“It makes sense to concentrate resources in states where the race is closest,” Jiwa said. “I tip my hat to them for making an active effort and getting students involved.”