SCHLOSSBERG: Investing in our state

We, as Yale students, pride ourselves on being bright, curious and engaged citizens. We are part of an institution that aims to educate its students to better the world. We tend to think that we do not fit the stereotype of ignorance and apathy that is all too often associated with America. But Yale students often forget the most accessible outlet to effect change: state politics.

Before I lose you, consider the implications of the upcoming U.S. Senate race. Whether you are a Democrat, Republican, Independent, Bull Moose or Whig, this is important race for all of us.

I admit it is easy to forget or dismiss the responsibility we have to Connecticut and think only of our civic duties in our home states, but this is a mistake. Even if you could care less about Connecticut, you probably do care about Yale. And, to be sure, Connecticut has given a lot to Yale, so it is important for us to give back.

In some cases, we do. The Ward 1 aldermanic race this fall marked a height of participation by students, and programs run by Dwight Hall, the Roosevelt Institute and New Haven Action mark student involvement in our community. But we should all take a moment to look at this senatorial race.

On November 6, the seat held by former Democrat and current Independent Joe Lieberman is up for grabs. Joe Lieberman is my least favorite politician of all time, excluding President Franklin Pierce (he just annoys me — not sure why). But I digress. This Senate race, while still in its infancy, is about to get interesting. So please, step into my office for a closer look.

Both the Republican and Democratic primaries for this race will be held on August 14, and the Republican nominee is likely to be Linda McMahon. McMahon, who served as president and then CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, enjoys as much as a 33 percent lead in the Republican primary contest. McMahon ran for U.S. Senate in Connecticut in 2010, and despite pouring $50 million into her own campaign, she lost to Democrat Richard Blumenthal by double digits.

On the Democratic side, the candidate who will likely face McMahon is not yet certain.

I strongly support Chris Murphy for the Democratic nomination and, while he enjoys a lead over his primary challengers, Murphy could use Yale’s support in both the Democratic primary and the general election.

Murphy’s political career began when he was elected to the Planning and Zoning Commission in Southington, Connecticut in 1997. In his next two races — first for the Connecticut House of Representatives and then for the state Senate — he defeated longtime incumbents. In 2006, Murphy ran for the U.S. House of Representatives and won big despite challenging a 24-year incumbent who outspent him two to one in that election.

As a U.S. congressman, he organized an independent and nonpartisan ethics panel to evaluate ethics complaints concerning members of Congress. He vocally supported the Affordable Care Act in 2009, establishing himself as a staunch advocate of the public option.

He supports a woman’s right to chose as a legal and moral issue — and he supports gay marriage on those same grounds.

Murphy also strongly supports public education, an issue we, as students, should pay close attention to. He advocates for legislation that would prevent shortening the school week and increasing class sizes. He also voted to increase the federal Pell Grant program by 37 percent to allow more high school graduates the chance to go to college.

And consider that, if elected, Murphy would be the youngest member of the U.S. Senate at 40. This means he might actually know how to use a computer.

Now that you are more familiar with the race and might feel sort of guilty for not having voted in the Ward 1 aldermanic race — or, more likely, if you have no idea what an alderman does — view this senatorial race as an opportunity to invest in Connecticut, not just your party’s candidate.

Voting in Connecticut is a way to make Connecticut a home, not just an area surrounding Yale that we happen to be in for four years. In fulfilling our basic civic obligations, we express our values and invest — even if it is just in the effort of voting — in the future of our state.

If we feel that we have something at stake in this election and we act on this by voting, we give back to Connecticut in the most basic way and show that our school doesn’t just care about curing cancer and ending poverty, but that we know we’re part of a local polity that can do real good for us — but only if we ask it to.

Jack Schlossberg is a freshman in Trumbull College. Contact him at john.schlossberg@yale.edu.

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