Over the last couple of months, the Connecticut Campaign for Bernie has been assembled, and many students at the University created a chapter to help make Senator Bernie Sanders the next President of the United States.
“One of our main goals is to do something called the Dorm Storm: essentially going door to door and canvassing at all dorms here at Wesleyan and just asking people where their support lays, whether that be Republican or Democratic, or specifically for Bernie and/or Hillary,” Justin Campos ’19 said. “So we are specifically trying to figure out how many people are going to vote for Bernie here in Connecticut, and that’s actually what we have been doing for the past couple of weeks.”
College students are among the most vehement supporters of the Bernie campaign, with thousands of active volunteers who contribute their time to phone banking, door-to-door canvassing, and attending Bernie rallies across the nation.
Henry Prine ’18, who emphasized that he is only speaking on behalf of himself and not the Bernie campaign, said that what he and the Wesleyan Students for Bernie group are really trying to do is energize college students to turn out and vote.
“What’s really interesting about Wesleyan is that it is a very liberal campus,” Prine said. “A lot of people support Bernie, but the challenge is turning passive supporters into active volunteers: people who are excited and energized to get out in the polls. It is absolutely something that we can do, and it just requires a big push.”
The Wesleyan Students for Bernie group has tapped into the large pool of Bernie supporters on campus and channeled those efforts to power voter registration drives and Dorm Storming.
Primary voting for almost all students at the University will be happening in Beckham Hall from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Only voters who are registered as Republican or Democrat are eligible to vote in their respective primaries at the polling location in Beckham Hall. Residents of Full House and Music House cannot vote at the Beckham Hall location and will have to go Macdonough School to vote, which is located at 66 Spring Street in Middletown.
“In terms of Dorm Storming, the most effective way to get people to vote for Bernie is to talk to people,” Prine said. “It’s all about making them feel like their voice is important and that they have agency. I think one thing we know about the political system of this country is that it makes people feel like they don’t have agency. It makes people feel like their voice is not being heard.”
Bernie’s campaign is critical of the Supreme Court decision Citizens United v. Federal Elections Committee, which allowed for-profit corporations to invest money in the political system through super PACs without government restrictions. A large part of the Sanders campaign’s momentum originates from the principle that democracy should function for ordinary citizens and not what Bernie calls the “one percent.”
“The only way we are going to address those things is if people are politically active,” Prine said. “I don’t want people buying into the fact that there is nothing they can do about it. That’s exactly what the billionaires and folks want you to think. They want people to think that it is a hopeless fight that they can never win.”
Another cause of frustration Bernie supporters face is the superdelegate system used by the Democratic Party. Superdelegates consist of distinguished Democratic party leaders and elected officials, including all Democratic members of the House and Senate as well as governors. Democratic superdelegates are given the liberty to vote for whichever candidate they prefer, unlike delegates who commit to vote for a certain candidate.
“Everybody needs to show up and vote!” Prine said. “You need to go to Beckham Hall. Get out and vote! It should only take you a few minutes. Make sure to bring an ID with you; Wesleyan ID works fine. If you do not know your Social Security number and you are registering on April 26, then you can just bring any driving license as long as it has an address.”
The purpose of the voter drive, said Jordan Legaspi ’19, is simply to get people to vote.
“Even if you don’t support Senator Bernie Sanders, if you support Hillary Clinton or John Kasich, Donald Trump or Ted Cruz, it is important to exercise your civic duty to vote,” Legaspi said. “The city of Middletown has given a great opportunity by giving a polling location right here at Beckham Hall. If you vote, try to get your friends to vote. Go tell your friends ‘Hey, are you voting tomorrow or tonight?’ It’s important because the media and society, they don’t take our generation very seriously yet…that’s because we don’t vote. The only way to make our voices heard is to vote.”