MacDems reflects on an eventful election season

By Kyle Coombs

After hosting a substantial number of events throughout this semester, Mac Dems’ political programming will reach its peak with the Election Night Watch Party co-hosted with MPIRG and Program Board on November 6. “It seems weird that it’s coming up soon because there’s been a lot going on and it’s kind of hard to keep track of everything, but crunch time is coming,” co-chair Rick Beckel ’15 said. Over the last year, Mac Dems hosted speakers like Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden, sponsored watch parties for every presidential and vice presidential debate, organized weekly phone banking shifts, tabled in and outside the Campus Center to sign-up canvassing volunteers and registered people to vote. Beckel, along with fellow co-chairs, Zack Avre ’14 and Lucas Asher ’15, said the high level of activities is typical of an election year. Collaboration has been critical this semester, they said. They co-hosted the watch party for the first debate with the political science department and the foreign policy debate with JStreetU, a Washington lobbying group which advocates for a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine. “The first debate we co-hosted with the Poli Sci department and it was a big success,” Beckel said. “We filled JBD. We also had the Twitter feed during that which was fun just seeing the audience reactions to everything that was going on.” Mac Dems held volunteer sign-ups for attendees at each debate, which were relatively successful as demonstrated by the high level of attendance, Beckel said. “[For] the vice presidential debate we filled probably half of JBD during that one,” he said, “[We] got people signed up for Get Out The Vote shifts.” Although the candidates did not mention a two-state solution during the foreign policy debate, Asher said that it was a highly successful collaboration event with JStreetU. “We almost filled JBD for that one.” he said. “We had a professor panel which was very good and students asked very interesting questions. Professor Latham and Dolan led the panel. We signed more people up there, too.” Avre said that organization members have had direct contact with local voters all semester. “We’ve also been having regular weekly phone banking shifts and canvassing shifts,” he said. They have also attempted to inform students who have moved off campus to be aware of whether they have moved out of District 64A and are not eligible to vote at the Mac-Plymouth Presbyterian Church anymore, though MPIRG takes the lead on that. The organization also hosted several important speakers from the DFL party of Minnesota. Rep. Keith Ellison came to campus for a statewide conference call to colleges on October 10. The event called on students from around the state to get out the vote and have an effect on the election. Additionally, Rep. Betty McCollum attended the Vice Presidential Debate. On Thursday, Nov. 1, Mac Dems hosted the Get Out The Vote (GOTV) Rally event. As of print deadline, the event speaker line-up included Gov. Mark Dayton, City Councilmembers Melvin Carter III and Chris Tolbert and Rep. Erin Murphy. There was also a comedy sketch of a campaign commercial for Gov. Mitt Romney and an “I’m In” video named for an early 2012 campaign slogan for Barack Obama. “We just asked various people around campus why they were in,” Beckel said. “Whether that’s because they were concerned about combating the two amendments, because they like Obama’s health care plans, because they think Romney’s foreign policy is scary, because they want climate change to be an issue that’s talked about.” The video featured a wide range of members of the Macalester community and the reasons they chose to support Barack Obama or stand against the marriage and voter ID amendments. “We wanted to have a lot of student voices at [the rally], because we didn’t want it to be all like top-down candidates talking at us,” Beckel said. “Obviously, we’re happy to have these people talking with us, but at the same time we’ve been hearing a lot of that in this election and you don’t often get to hear the student voices.” Following the rally, Avre said that Mac Dems is organizing volunteers to phone bank and door-knock on Friday through Tuesday. “We’re trying to get as many students out to vote and as many people in the surrounding community, especially targeting areas where there have been drop off voters,” he said. “Make sure we get as many people out to vote to re-elect the president, win back the Minnesota State Legislature and defeat the amendments.” They are targeting areas that had high Democratic voter turnout in 2008 but not in 2010, said Beckel. If more people in these areas vote, Minnesota’s 10 Electoral College votes are more likely to go to Barack Obama, particularly since the state is already leaning blue. Beckel said they will be sending volunteers to apartment complexes and public housing areas to encourage residents to vote. “We’re trying to recruit 100 volunteers for that week and recruitment is going well so far,” he said. The co-chairs agreed that there have been issues with consistency of student involvement, but overall the semester has gone well. “There have been weeks when we have had great turn out for a phone [bank] or great turn out for a canvass,” said Beckel. Avre said Mac Dems often faces this problem. “At times it’s been frustrating because Macalester has a definite tradition of being a very liberal and politically active community,” Avre said, “But the enthusiasm hasn’t necessarily been there that we thought would be.” Beckel said he was surprised that more people did not get involved in response to the marriage and voter ID amendments. “We thought people would be more energized about [the amendments],” he said, “Because these two are going to directly affect a lot of members of our community and obviously the national elections, like with Obama has national implications like staying on your parents’ health care plan, your student loans.” Avre said Mac Dems may have lost involvement in phone banks and canvassing events to other organizations like Minnesotans United for All Families and MPIRG hosting similar events. “We’re not the only group doing work…. It’s not necessarily that all Mac students aren’t getting involved,” he said, “It’s just there are multiple ways for students to do so.” Additionally, he said students at Macalester tend to overextend themselves and are unable to be as active in politics. “A lot of times when you get to a place that is very academic and a lot of like-minded people,” he said. “There can be a sense of complacency in that like ‘things will just like work out.’” Asher pointed to the drop in student support for Obama among college students nationwide. “You’ll find it not just here but at all campuses that enthusiasm is down and involvement is down,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s necessarily unique to Macalester, it’s just Obama’s not new and some students may be disappointed and they just don’t really care as much.” Beckel added that he is hopeful that involvement would spike for the weekend preceding the election and the Get Out The Vote volunteering opportunities. “I think people are really going to step it up during Get Out The Vote week when they realize, ‘Okay, it’s Friday, I’ve got five days now to change the course of this election,’” he said, “And I mean these five days are going to impact the next four years.” Beckel said the voter ID amendment is expected to pass and the marriage amendment is highly contested. He encouraged students who care about either to get involved before November 6. “I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for anyone who cares about these amendments at all to spend one hour phone-banking with us or sign up for one shift canvassing with us,” he said. Avre encouraged people to attend the non-partisan Election Night Watch Party in the Ballroom on Tuesday night. “There will be snacks on snacks,” he said,
“And there will be a live stream of things like returns. Hopefully it will be a good time.” Avre, Asher and Beckel agreed that an “impromptu” Kagin Dance would be in order if Obama wins. refresh –>