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Looking into 3 UCLA clubs supporting Democratic presidential primary candidates

Sen. Bernie Sanders from Vermont, Sen. Elizabeth Warren from Massachusetts and former Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg are the only 2020 Democratic presidential candidates who have had official clubs at UCLA, which may demonstrate which candidates have been able to resonate with college students. (Keaton Larson/Daily Bruin)

By Megan McCallister

March 2, 2020 2:00 a.m.

Of the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates in the primary election race, just three have official clubs at UCLA.

From flyering on Bruin Walk to hosting debate watch parties, Bruins for Bernie, Bruins for Warren and Bruins for Pete Buttigieg, who dropped out March 1, have made efforts to drum up excitement on campus for their respective candidates.

The three candidates have resonated with college students not just at UCLA, but across the nation, said political science lecturer Ajax Peris.

Students support these candidates because they are all calling for drastic change, Peris said.

“(With) each of these (candidates) it’s like, ‘Hey, we want to grab America by the shoulders, shake it,’ and say ‘Let’s do this, let’s make this better,’” Peris said.

Younger voters are more likely to find that approach appealing, Peris said. Older voters, however, tend to be a little more pragmatic.

“(Older voters) have been around the election cycle a few times, and they see that we get different leaders in, they come and they go, and not a lot changes because politics is more evolutionary than revolutionary,” Peris said. “But younger voters are still excited about this idea of ‘We know what we need to do, let’s just go do it,’ even if that may not be the most realistic approach.”

Bruins for Bernie has had conversations with about 1,200 students about the election, said one of its club leaders, third-year geography/environmental studies student Dylan Portillo. He said he believes Sen. Bernie Sanders from Vermont’s appeal is a product of his health care and immigration policies, as well as his plan to cancel all student loan debt.

His honesty also sets him apart, Portillo said.

“He reminds us of our grandpa,” he said. “Not a racist one, but a really fun one in the sense that he gives a lot of us hope in a system that we know doesn’t really work for us.”

Similarly, one of the club leaders of Bruins for Warren, third-year political science student Walker Cook, said Sen. Elizabeth Warren from Massachusetts’ success among the college demographic stems from her focus on issues that affect students’ daily lives. Among these topics are climate change, student debt, pay inequity, gun violence and housing, Cook said.

“What makes her unique in the field is that, even though she’s only been in elected office since 2012, even before then, she’s gotten so much done legislatively that has so substantively improved people’s lives,” Cook said. “She’s someone to believe in.”

As a newcomer to the national political scene, former Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg had the potential for a large college student backing, said Jago Goddard, co-founder of Bruins for Pete Buttigieg and third-year computer science and engineering student.

Goddard said the club’s greatest success thus far has been in spreading Buttigieg’s message to students who otherwise might not have heard of him at all.

Bruins for Pete Buttigieg had a little over 1,600 followers on Twitter – the largest Twitter following of the three clubs. Social media is effective for connecting to students and spreading Buttigieg’s message more quickly, said Melinda Berman, the communications director of Bruins for Pete Buttigieg and a third-year atmospheric and oceanic sciences student.

Although Buttigieg was lesser known and lacked the experience in national government of other candidates, Goddard said he believes Buttigieg was unique in his ability to bring voters together from across the aisle.

Although the California presidential primary polls will close March 3, the clubs plan to continue its efforts until the president-elect is chosen in November.

In accordance with the “Friendship2020” hashtag coined at the beginning of the primary race, the three organizations have agreed to support whichever candidate wins the nomination. The groups have already begun to show support for one another by co-hosting debate watch parties.

At the end, although the primaries may be ugly, one of the candidates will be the Democratic nominee, Cook said.

“We’re all going to have to back them, or (President) Donald Trump is going to get reelected,” Cook said. “So I think we all have this understanding that … we have to do for that person what we would do if our chosen candidate were the nominee. We have to phone bank just as hard, we have to canvas just as hard and we have to reach out to get the vote just as hard.”

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Megan McCallister
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