As the Democratic primary for the 2016 presidential election heats up, scores of Yale students are gathering in support of Bernie Sanders — a 74-year-old junior senator from Vermont, who is currently Hillary Clinton’s LAW ’73 strongest challenger for the Democratic nomination.
When Sanders announced his candidacy in May, a handful of Yalies quickly formed a Facebook group and a plan to organize on campus in the fall, Yale Students for Bernie member Emaline Kelso ’17 said. Now, the small, core group of fewer than 10 students has turned its head toward expanding its ranks in the coming months, just in time for election season. The group attracted a good deal of attention from an event during Family Weekend, Yale Students for Bernie member Scott Remer ’16 said, and now aims to raise awareness and build excitement for Sanders’ campaign platform through promotions such as chalk drawings and other campuswide events.
“Essentially, it’s about the issues,” Remer said. “A huge component of our activities going forward is going to be centered on political education.”
Remer said Yale Students for Bernie will co-sponsor a talk with the student publication Margins: Student Perspectives from the Left on Oct. 27. The talk will feature Joseph Schwartz, a Temple University political science professor and vice-chair of the Democratic Socialists of America, Remer said. The talk’s organizers hope to educate students about democratic socialism, Remer said.
Members of Yale Students for Bernie will prioritize community engagement among students on campus, Kelso said.
“We both want to reach out to a few more groups on campus and find more opportunities for collaboration, on the one hand. And on the other hand, we are in contact with the official campaign and want to start doing work with and for them,” she said. “A large part of what’s exciting about a big presidential campaign is the kind of energy it can harness on a college campus … We really need to step up the kinds of events we’re offering so this energy gets harnessed.”
The group is planning a phone-banking event that will likely take place next week, as well as multiple trips to New Hampshire to go door-to-door canvassing with Sanders’ official campaign, Kelso said.
Yale Students for Bernie also hopes to co-sponsor events with other campus groups. Kelso cited a debate that took place at Harvard between student members of the Clinton and Sanders campaigns in September, stating that she would like to see a similar debate take place at Yale.
Logan Keith ’16, who helps coordinate the Yale campaign with the larger Connecticut campaign for Sanders, said he wants to encourage students to contribute to the state campaign this year.
“The biggest thing that I think the campaign really needs is any help with the events on campus, certainly, but also volunteering … or helping spread the word on Facebook,” Keith said.
Kelso and Remer noted that the formal structure of the group is very egalitarian — anyone is welcome to the group’s weekly organizational meetings and there is no application for joining the group.
Sanders currently leads Clinton by 11.3 percent in New Hampshire polls, but Clinton has a 16.3 percent lead nationally.