NEWMAN: What’s next?

After months of ads, hundreds of thousands of calls and thousands of doors knocked, the election is finally coming to a close. Both sides have laid out the stakes of this election and their plans for the future. But no matter which party is victorious today, we cannot expect any meaningful progress unless we are a part of it.

Yale students this semester have contributed to history in this election. The Yale Dems have traveled across the region, talking with voters from New Hampshire to Pennsylvania about the importance of voting in this election. We have called thousands of voters across the country and in critical swing states including Ohio and North Carolina to share with them President Obama’s plans to fight for the middle class and spur job growth. We have registered over 500 students on campus in partnership with progressive groups on campus like Students Unite Now and the Party of the Left. Working together, we believe that will push forward on the crucial work President Obama has done to restart our economy, to fight for social justice, and to improve our relationships abroad.

Conservatives on campus have put together their own impressive operation in support of their views. Largely inactive in 2008, Republicans on campus have knocked on doors in support of their candidates and have registered voters on campus in bipartisan work with the Dems.

Active political engagement on both sides of the aisle is critical to sustaining impassioned conversation about where we want to go as a country. The conversation must continue past Wednesday.

Over the past four years we have seen the 2008 promise of hope fulfilled. Reforms to the America’s healthcare system mean that more Americans than ever are covered by health insurance, that insurers cannot deny coverage for preexisting conditions, and that basic preventive care is covered. The Dodd-Frank reforms have set up necessary protections to ensure that we do not experience the same economic collapse we saw in 2008. The repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has meant that gay and lesbian members of the military can step out of the shadows and stand as equals with their fellow service members. And the President’s recent executive order to defer action on millions of young people residing in the United States and contributing to our economy will allow these hard-working students to stay in this country legally.

But we have also seen the worst of Washington since the last time we went to the polls for a national election. Gridlock and brinksmanship have come to characterize our most vital American institutions and disrespect for the legislative process or for those elected to our highest offices has never seemed quite as prevalent. In fact, fewer pieces of legislation have made it through this session of Congress than in any other in the modern era. Games have been played with the credit of the American people and an impending fiscal cliff awaits the winners of today’s elections.

Students on campus may not see eye to eye on every issue, but we know that civility and bipartisan work on common goals are necessary to move this country forward. We know that whomever is victorious today will need bipartisan support in a divided government to meet the challenges that lie ahead of us. In the coming months, our priorities must be centered around restoring responsibility in Congress and reinvigorating our faith in our American institutions.

Students on both sides of the aisle at Yale and across the country have proven to be leading members of their respective coalitions. We must use that position to hold our political process accountable and responsive to the needs of voters uninterested in political games. That means organizing in opposition to politicians that have held the policymaking process hostage. That means supporting those public servants that reach across the aisle. And that means not being intimidated to take a strong position on the national stage.

We have shown decisively this election season that students can take a leading role in this election. But our work doesn’t end here.

Zak Newman is a senior in Jonathan Edwards College and President of the Yale College Democrats. Contact him at zak.newman@yale.edu .

This piece is part of the News’ Election Day Forum. Click here to read more.

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