Q: What is the current atmosphere of the Yale College Democrats?
A: People are disappointed and upset but also determined. I think in some ways the election convinced many people both in the Yale Dems and on campus to get involved in politics and electoral politics in particular, in a way that personally gives me something to take comfort in. It’s certainly a very concerning time for us and for anyone who cares deeply about inclusivity, equality and fairness, and for people who have had general faith in the political process for a long time. All of us have grown up in the Obama era so since I was in 8th grade, we have had a democratic president of the United States. For most people here, the kind of political coming-of-age that people have had has revolved around Barack Obama. The common narrative has been an increasingly progressive America. An election in which, to the shock of everyone, a candidate who was the antithesis of those values can win can be dispiriting and highly disillusioning. Also growing up in the Obama era, we have had the privilege of critiquing politics from the outside and not having to work from the inside. I think this is a major wake up-call for many people and we can understand that the system is only bankrupt if we don’t participate in it. We need to stop the dangerous policies of the next administration and build a grassroots movement that can replace what has been lost. We need to get out there and support progressive candidates.
Q: What could the Democratic Party have done better?
A: The mistake of the Democratic Party is that they didn’t reach out to white working class voters as they maybe should have. I’m not saying that their focus on minority groups was wrong, but strategically speaking they should have reached out to traditional white working class union members. A lot of the issue with that is that they did some focus group testing on working union members before the election. They tested techniques in what persuaded them to not vote for Trump. The least effective argument was that he was a racist, sexist, homophobic candidate. What did work was saying he was against national minimum wage, he’ll appoint justices that will gut labor union rights: things that are grounded in policy. At the end of the day, the white working class voters seemed to care more about ‘what he would do for me’ versus Trump’s character. The [Democratic] Party focused on attacking Trump’s character, which wasn’t effective for these groups. The idea of that may have been to turn out communities of color but it wasn’t effective for the white working class.
Q: What is the goal of the Democratic Party moving forward?
A: Because we are no longer the party in power in many respects, we in some ways are liberated to define what the Democratic Party should be going forward and what our vision is and what the people on campus want. That, in many ways, allows us to pair with other groups and work together to see what we can do to stop Donald Trump and win in later elections. I think that when you’re the party in power, it’s easy for people in the progressive movement to be very self-critical and associate the Yale Dems with the agenda of national Democrats which we may not necessarily agree with all the way. In some way, not having a national personality allows us to define our own personal platform. I think this election has inspired a lot of people to start caring about politics and especially party politics. Our goal is mobilization. There are already collaborative groups developing amongst organizations to add our voice to this growing opposition to Donald Trump. We’ll want to be a part of that. Typically in the spring we work to move state legislation. We’re here to support Democrats and push them to accept more progressive legislation.
Q: Looking forward, what are some of the good things that this round of elections has achieved?
A: Well, it’s a difficult time to see the bright spots in this election but there are some. The first Somali American refugee has become a legislator, the first African American woman was elected into U.S Senate, the first bisexual governor was elected in her own right in Minnesota, the first Latina senator will be sworn in in January… There is progress, and progressive ballot measures were passed across the country. This shows me that people believe progressive ideas but the problem is party identity. If we can change the identity of our party, we can be a success. Even in states that voted for Trump, progressive measures were passed. We need to remember to go back to our message of what we stand for and what our ideas are, and I genuinely believe that these ideas will win in the end. Now is the time to build the movement from the bottom up and we as young people can take back the country and take back the White House.