Red, White and You

Plenty of white guys in khakis and Polo shirts shmoozed at the College Republicans’ Welcome Week reception Tuesday night. But almost as many women and a smattering of minority students participated in the kick-off event as well.

Almost 250 GW students gobbled chicken wings and mozzarella sticks on the CR’s tab in the crowded party room of TGI Friday’s, pondering what the nearing election might hold.

“George W. Bush will win back the White House for us,” exclaimed freshman Christian Berg. “I’m sure of it.”

The first-year student has set his sights on campaign work, and he is confident there will be an electoral payback for his efforts. Berg’s enthusiasm for the upcoming political season is not unusual for a GW student during the last week of August. As presidential election fever hits the District and GW with a sonorous boom, college political leaders on both sides are predicting its resonance will inspire greater participation in their groups.

CR Chairman Brad Murphy said he hopes the impending presidential primary race, with moderate front-runners like Bush and Elizabeth Dole, will invigorate activism among young Republicans on GW’s “liberal” campus.

“It doesn’t matter if you are moderate, extremely conservative or anything in between,” Murphy said. “If you consider yourself Republican, we have a place for you in this club.”

Last year, the CRs boasted almost 300 members, an increase from years past, Murphy said. He expects those numbers will inflate further this year with a full slate of activities including campaign treks to Northern Virginia and attendance at both the Christian Coalition conference and Republican National Committee meeting in D.C.

Across the political divide, College Democrats President Anjan Choudhury anticipates a banner year for his club as well. Democratic National Chairman Joe Andrew will be the featured speaker at the CDs’ kick-off barbecue Thursday at 5 p.m. on the Marvin Center third-floor terrace.

Though membership dipped last year to about 400 members, (it usually reaches 500), the Democrats managed to retain bragging rights as the largest chapter of the College Democrats in the country and one of the Student Activities Center’s student groups of the year.

During the summer, the group organized a national press conference with Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) in favor of a bill that would make $12,000 of college tuition tax deductible. Key events this year will include speeches by Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-Ill.), campaign trips to New York and New Hampshire, and a four-part series teaching students about the ins-and-outs of effective political activism.

“I think 2000 will be not only a turning point for this country, but a turning point for us as students,” said Choudhury. “There is a great chance that this election will be like it was in 1992, when students got out there and worked and everyone knew they made a difference in the end.”

Showing students the best way to flex their political muscles is a goal for both groups this year, said Choudhury and Murphy. The CRs and CDs will combine forces for a campus-wide voter registration drive later in the fall. Both groups will meet soon to hash out topics for this year’s debate series, which last year tackled issues like campaign finance reform and the International Monetary Fund. Taking political rivalry off the Hill and onto the field, a CD vs. CR football game is also in the works.

“We could be enemies,” said Choudhury. “But we just figure that by working together, both of our groups will come out stronger.”

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