After ushering in a new president and executive board last night, the Yale College Democrats are refocusing their agenda to prepare for the looming 2008 presidential and Congressional races while simultaneously trying to ensure their lobbying efforts do not fall by the wayside.
Ben Shaffer ’09, who was elected the group’s president in an uncontested race last night, said the beginning of next semester will be devoted to the “nitty-gritty” and less glamorous aspects of preparing for the fall elections, such as fundraising and creating canvassing lists. In addition to working on campaigns, the group will maintain its increased focus on both local and state lobbying efforts through two new executive board positions — electoral campaigns coordinator and lobbying coordinator — which are replacing the campaigns coordinator position, former president Eric Kafka ’08 said Monday night.
“The group has expanded, and one of the ways we’ve really expanded is that we used to work just on electoral campaigns, but we’ve become a group that works on both electoral and lobbying,” Kafka said. “We didn’t want to give [lobbying] up just because it was a presidential cycle.”
Sarah Turbow ’10 — who edged out Matthew Ellison ’10 to become the new electoral campaign coordinator — told the group’s members before the vote that the next semester is key in ensuring that, by the time students arrive back on campus next fall, all but the incoming freshmen are registered to vote.
“The most important thing is to make sure the entire campus is mobilized,” Turbow said.
Sudipta Bandyopadhyay ’08, vice president of administration for the Yale College Republicans, said his organization has no plans to make any changes in the executive structure of the group.
He said the position of vice president of activism, which oversees electoral campaigns along with other issue campaigns, changes character during election years, but that the group has found it sufficient for their purposes.
Elections for the College Republicans will be held next week
Although the Yale College Democrats do not offer endorsements during primaries, current officers said they anticipate a quick start to canvassing once the nominee is known. And modifications to the organization’s constitution within the last month mean that once there is an obvious nominee, the group will no longer have to wait until the summer’s Democratic National Convention officially recognizes the nominee to become actively involved.
Shaffer said the group will not be “stubborn” once all but one of the party’s candidates have dropped out of the race or have begun endorsing one another.
“The [convention] has all the balloons and confetti, but for the candidate, the real work starts before, and we want to start with that candidate,” Shaffer said.
The many student groups already devoted to a single candidate will provide a pool of activists regardless of who wins the nomination, the group’s officers — as well as leaders of some of the candidates’ organizations — said.
Ben Lazarus ’10, co-president of Yale for Obama, said the eventual teamwork between his group and the Democrats will be incredibly effective at getting out the vote. Both groups, he said, have numbers and institutional know-how that will complement each other.
“It’s going to be like when all the Power Rangers got together,” Lazarus said jokingly.
Ben Stango ’11, the Yale College Democrats’ new campus coordinator responsible for outreach to other student groups, and is also the co-president of Yale for Hillary, said the Democrats could be an effective umbrella group for assisting all the various liberal and progressive groups on campus in bringing about common goals — not only for the election but in terms of lobbying efforts. He said that while the various groups often have common interests, they sometimes fail to coordinate their efforts.
Shaffer echoed these sentiments, pointing out that the number of groups committed already makes the jobs of his group that much easier.
“Since they’ve laid the groundwork on campus, we will be able to do so much more,” he said.
The Iowa caucus Jan. 3, 2008 will be the first 2008 electoral contest.