Thursday, July 18

Liberal student groups rally to strengthen Democratic leadership in US


Student groups supporting Democratic and progressive agendas were disappointed at the 2016 presidential election results, but said they will continue to work to elect liberal candidates at all levels of government.

Republicans will control the White House, both houses of Congress and 25 state trifectas for at least the near future. A trifecta occurs when a political party holds the governorship and majorities in both houses of a state legislature.

Bruins Elect, formerly called Bruins for Hillary, is a liberal student group that seeks to provide a space for people to engage in direct political action such as calling prospective voters.

Jessica Chase, president of Bruins Elect and third-year political science student, said the organization plans to focus on supporting progressive candidates in local elections for the next few years.

“It’s easy to say we’ll be back in 2018 or that we’ll be back in 2020,” Chase said. “However, right now things are happening too.”

For example, she said a lot of students don’t know about the city council elections coming up this year.

“If there’s low voter turnout, anyone can get into office,” Chase added. “Whereas if we engage and we get out the vote, we can make sure we keep having progressive candidates.”

The group is currently focused on choosing a candidate to support in the upcoming Los Angeles city council election for District 5, which includes UCLA. Chase said representatives from two progressive candidates for the district will speak to the organization next week.

Afterwards, members of Bruins Elect will vote on which candidate they prefer and then campaign for that candidate.

The group is also paying close attention to a vacancy on the Riverside County Board of Supervisors.

Danny Zander, internal vice president of Bruins Elect and second-year economics student, said the group is also interested in Initiative Ordinance S on the March 7 ballot. The group is strongly against the measure, which would suspend certain Los Angeles development for two years, Zander said.

Chase said she thinks the biggest obstacle in Bruins Elect’s goal of supporting a progressive agenda is keeping students engaged. She hopes to address this issue by making events even more accessible to people.

“I don’t believe college students are apathetic, or the millennial generation not caring,” Chase said. “But it has to be accessible and it has to make sense for them to do.”

She added she thinks engaging students requires going to them.

“If you don’t have a car and you have to drive across town somewhere to work an event, it’s not going to work for you,” she said. “But if you can do it on campus, or right near campus, I really believe people will engage.”

Chad Cracraft, external vice president of Bruin Democrats at UCLA and third-year political science student, said the group will work to prevent policy defeats for progressive causes over the next four years.

“We’re going to do what we can through tweets, calling Congress, interning and participating in politics in general to set up contrast between California and the dysfunction in Washington,” Cracraft said.

The club will work to support liberal and progressive policy initiatives at a local level, Cracraft added.

“We thanked the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors the week before last for their courage in setting up an office of immigrant affairs,” he said. “But moving forward, we will be doing a lot of different things to help achieve what policy gains we can.”

Chase said she thinks the national party should focus on securing local elections over the next four years.

President Barack Obama has said he plans to remain active to elect Democratic candidates across the country, but Democrats are still trying to decide who will lead the Democratic National Committee.

Cracraft said he thinks when Obama leaves office, there will be a power vacuum in the national party. However, he added he thinks Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer can act as a party leader from the Senate by preventing the confirmation of Trump Cabinet nominees who Democrats see as unqualified.

Zander said he cannot think of someone other than Obama who can lead the party more effectively.

Contributing reports from Ryan Leou and Stephen Liu, Daily Bruin staff.

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