College Democrats return to their `roots’

Democrats 2000, a national Democratic organization devoted to grassroots campaigning, kicked off its “2000 in 2000” movement Wednesday in the Marvin Center ballroom.

In an effort to recruit 2,000 volunteers for the 2000 election, Democrats 2000 brought Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.) and other political activists to speak to a crowd of CDs and local supporters.

Andrew Agetstein, CDs events coordinator, highlighted the central theme of the night when he said the University’s slogan would read “nothing happens here” without student initiative.

Kelly Young, executive director of Democrats 2000, said the organization plans to assist candidates in 10 state elections, help the party win back control of the House of Representatives, increase voter turnout nationally and bring issues back into political campaigns.

Nadler stressed the role of grassroots campaigning in removing the power of big business in Congress.

“The next election is ours to lose,” Nadler said. “We need to use the power of organized people to counteract the power of big money.”

Nadler said most Americans have a negative view of political figures, which contributes to poor voter turnout.

“To most Americans, politicians have a reputation to fall somewhere between a used car salesman and, for lack of a better term, a used car salesman,” Nadler said.

He said progressive candidates need the help of volunteers to bring politics back to the American people.

Wellstone stressed the importance of youth involvement with campaigns and tackling problems that affect all Americans.

He said America, which is at the peak of economic performance, should provide education for every child and health coverage for all citizens.

Citing his successful grassroots campaign in Minnesota, Wellstone said Democrats have a “secret weapon” for future campaigns.

“Grassroots politics triumphed over the money politics,” he said. “Our secret weapon is that we took community organizing and applied it to politics.”

After an enthusiastic response from the crowd, the CDs presented Wellstone with the J.W. Fulbright Award for his dedication to education.

Leslie Byrne, a Virginia State Senate candidate, stressed the importance of treating people “with fairness, dignity and respect” during a grassroots campaign.

Virginia’s Fairfax County Supervisor Penny Gross said the importance of Republican votes should not be underestimated in the upcoming election.

“Many Republicans are not happy with what their party is doing,” she said. “Everyone really wants the same thing.”

National Political Grassroots Coordinator Chuck Rocha, representing the United Steel Workers of America, told the students that it is their turn to run the country. He said the most important thing about a campaign is getting people excited about a message.

“Big business runs the country,” he said. “Big business runs that other party. They will continue to pull the money into the Republican party, so we need to keep putting people on the ground.”

The CDs have been working with Democrats 2000 for two years and plan to hold similar events in the future, CDs Vice President Anjan Choudhury said.

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