Political groups look beyond November

When members of the Yale College Democrats gathered Monday night for their weekly meeting in the Branford common room, they did not make phone calls, discuss canvassing strategies or plan voter registration drives. Instead, they kicked back and watched the West Wing.

According to Dems president Zak Newman ’13, student volunteers who spent the fall working on political campaigns have earned a break. But only a short one, he added, looking ahead to the work that awaits the Dems for the rest of the semester.

“Whenever we’re not in election mode, we’re in advocacy mode. We’ve learned that the Dems cannot only do work on the local and state level, but actually effect national change, for example with our Obama 2012 ‘Change Is’ campaign,” Newman said. “Immigration is something that will take center stage in the next session of Congress. That’s something I hope the Dems will have a hand in.”

On the state level, the Dems will meet with members of the state assembly and the state senate in the coming weeks to discuss potential work on Connecticut issues. According to Newman, state advocacy work affords Yale students the opportunity to take an active role in pushing for policy changes, such as state-wide electoral reform. Going forward, he said, the Dems will seek to move beyond their supplemetary role in advocacy work, characterized in the past by writing letters and volunteering for elected officials.

While the Dems take a break from electoral work and gear up to advocate for legislative initiatives, the Yale College Republicans will enter a “development phase” after a disappointing election season. YCR is primarily trying to increase membership, said the group’s chairwoman, Elizabeth Henry ’14.

“We’re trying to figure out what we should be doing when it’s not election season,” Henry said. “This is the first year since I’ve been here that the Yale College Republicans have really existed in any fashion, so we’re trying to build on that. We don’t have a trillion members like the Dems, but we’re working to build on momentum from the election.”

Henry said YCR will be hosting speakers throughout the semester. Connecticut House Rep Gail Lavielle GRD ’81 led a discussion Monday night with YCR focusing on the election and the future of the GOP.

Sitting at a roundtable with a group of six students, Lavielle spoke about the youth’s role in revamping the Republican message to voters.

“I’m a Republican who won very big in Democratic towns,” she said. “There’s a misunderstanding about what is incontrovertibly Democratic and what is incontrovertibly Republican. The way that we as a party are going to overcome this is to articulate a stronger message about what the Republican Party stands for and what we need to do now. That will depend on young people.”

Former U.S. Representative Bob Inglis from South Carolina is also slated to speak to the group on December 5 about “conservative environmentalism,” Henry said.

The activist group Students United Now (SUN), which mobilized voter registration drives and canvassing efforts on campus leading up to Election Day, will continue its work advocating for greater student input in University decision-making, according to SUN member Sarah Cox ’15. Ward 1 co-chair Nia Holston ’14, who partnered with SUN and the Dems in canvassing prior to the election, said her work on the ward committee will revert back to promoting dialogue between campus groups and New Haven community members.

“Personally, I’d like to work on issues of reentry and voter enfranchisement,” Holston said. “As far as the broader work of the committee goes, though, we’ll be working to make sure people know what’s going on at city hall and with the Board of Aldermen. That has been our original goal, so that’s what we’ll go back to.”

Both the Dems and the Yale College Republicans said their next electoral work will focus on the 2014 midterm elections.

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