After a brisk, cold night of standing barefoot on the lawn of Dickson Plaza, screaming my lungs hoarse in agreement with politicians and registering people to vote outside of Powell Library, I was in a very political mood. So were my usually apolitical friends, whom I had convinced to come not because they were true-blue Democrats but because they were willing to listen.
We started to talk about the nature of rallies and civic engagement as we trudged up the Hill, and one of them posed this question: Why have a rally if the only people going are the ones who don’t need to be rallied? The easy answer is that rallies are for the base, but it leads to a more interesting question: Where exactly do students fit in the political climate?
Let’s phrase it differently: Would Bill Clinton, Gavin Newsom and Jerry Brown have come to UCLA if UCLA didn’t lean so heavily to the left? Were they just coming to make sure that the least-voting age group would, at least, vote for them?
For example, Meg Whitman, Abel Maldonado and George W. Bush, the Republican counterparts, probably won’t swing by UCLA anytime soon to rally the students. There’s no point ““ UCLA is very much a Democratic campus (not to undermine the loyal opposition, the Bruin Republicans).
The rally likely did little to convince the attendees whom to vote for but rather reminded them that they had to vote. To put it cynically, we’re a bunch of Democratic votes up for grabs; we just need to be encouraged. (People who don’t consider themselves Democratic must understand that I’m speaking generally, about UCLA as a whole.) With Friday’s event, UCLA self-perpetuated the idea of the liberal, left-leaning campus.
This is rather depressing. As much as I am loyal to the Democratic Party, I don’t want them to take my vote for granted.
If Gavin Newsom and Jerry Brown do nothing to ameliorate our student woes, they will have lost my future votes and my trust.
Many students feel similarly and resent the idea that many times, we are forced to choose the lesser of two evils when voting.
There are many places where students fit in the political climate. We phone bank, go door-to-door, hand out fliers, fundraise and register voters. But this is all pretty much basic legwork; any volunteer can do those things. If students couldn’t be persuaded to vote, politicians wouldn’t bother to come to our campuses and stump for our issues ““ tuition fees, the economy, the environment, the DREAM Act.
Students can be persuaded to vote, and that’s why we get courted by politicians. However, it’s instrumental that we don’t undermine our own importance by not voting and that we don’t allow politicians to take our votes for granted one way or another.
Where do we fit exactly? Students are invaluable ““ the politically educated student knows how to get other students to vote. If we don’t vote, we’re not a part of the electorate and that’s why politicians can’t be bothered to directly address our needs.
Going to a rally is the romantic and dramatic and sexy part of politics, much like protesting ““ you feel swept up in some greater destiny. This is exactly why students, decided and undecided, need to take them with a grain of salt. Rallies are tidbits of political romance fed to the base; they don’t change people’s minds.
Friday’s rally was for the Democratic students of UCLA, to make sure that students were willing to become part of the electorate. And we all should. But we should remember why.