With the 2016 Presidential election rapidly approaching and the primaries for said election already underway, students all over campus are picking themselves up, dusting off their “I Voted” sticker sheets and reminding themselves what it’s like to be politically active. A recent kick-off event by student organization Bernie’s CWRU was one result of this renewed patriotism.
On the evening of Saturday, Aug. 22, 80 students gathered on Mather quad to eat pizza, listen to a playlist of the top pop hits of the last year and discuss their favorite candidate for the 2016 elections.
Bernie’s CWRU is an organization dedicated to supporting the presidential campaign of independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. The former mayor of Burlington, Vermont, and Congressman in the House of Representatives is seeking the presidential nomination of the Democratic Party. His scores in polls have been growing closer to those of Hillary Clinton, surpassing hers in a few regions.
The CWRU event echoes Sander’s highly attended events across the country. One of his campaign rallies drew 10,000 people in Madison, Wisconsin, the largest crowd drawn by any of the 2016 presidential candidates to that date. A few weeks later, 11,000 people came to see him speak in Arizona; in August, there were 15,000 in Washington state, and then 28,000 people in Portland, Oregon.
Nevertheless, President Jaimee Miller was surprised and impressed by the turnout.
“I was…shocked,” she said. This was more people than we had ever expected…I think there’s a lot of Case students excited about Bernie Sanders.”
Though only about 80 students actually appeared at the rally, over 500 students were invited to the Facebook, and 213 RSVP’d.
Junior James Egelhoff brought his dog “Bernie” to the rally, both of them decked out in “Vote Bernie 2016” t-shirts.
“I like that he’s policy driven, and that he’s not just giving us platitudes like Hillary,” said Egelhoff. “I like that he’s been consistent in his policies his whole career…and I like that he’s authentic and that we can trust what he’s saying.”
“His consistency over time is probably one of the most remarkable things about him,” said Livi Saavedra, secretary of Bernie’s CWRU.
Students at the event participated in club-led chants and debated some points of policy, including gun control, prison reform and the feasibility of free education. Despite some differences, they reached agreement on one point.
All in attendance agreed that what they most wanted was to find a way to get Sanders to come to campus. For the Bernie’s CWRU leadership, this lent a more optimistic view of the future of the club, and a group of students who were a lot more willing to chant “Feel the Bern” for a video camera than they had expected.
“I was surprised at how into the chanting everyone was willing to get,” said Saavedra. “I was worried about Case students being a little reticent. Everyone was enthusiastic. I think that’s a marvelous thing, that even reticent Case students can get excited about Bernie Sanders.”
The video of Bernie’s CWRU chanting will be sent to Sander’s campaign headquarters via their website in an effort to convince Sanders to visit CWRU.
Miller and Saavedra agreed that, along with supporting Sander’s campaign, getting students more involved in politics is one of the primary goals of Bernie’s CWRU. “That’s what our goal is,” said Miller. “To make a change, to put more students in Case Dems, Case Young Americans for Liberty, YDS (Young Democratic Socialists).”
“Who knows, maybe we’ll even push some of the more conservative kids to get involved with conservative groups,” Saavedra added “Just get some kind of fervor going.”
Going forward, members of Bernie’s CWRU have suggested a democratic debate viewing party, a round-table discussion between Hillary supporters and Bernie supporters, door-to-door canvassing training, fundraising, voter registration and larger student rallies. Miller, vice president Paige Yepko and Saavedra prioritize voter registration, but their biggest concern right now is getting recognized and funded by Undergraduate Student Government.
And after that?
“Campaign, I guess,” said Miller. “Get people excited and politically involved.”