College Democrats begin planning for next election cycle

Media Credit: Siobhan Finnerty | Hatchet Photographer

College Democrats announced that they will launch new programs, including a blog and campaigning "boot camp," at a general body meeting Thursday.

Less than two weeks after the U.S. general election, GW College Democrats leaders are already thinking about the next cycle.

Leaders of the group said they will launch several new programs, like a blog and a campaign “boot camp,” with the hope of keeping members active, so they do not feel helpless in the wake of an election that produced Republican majorities in Congress and a Republican president-elect.

Levi Debose, the vice president of communications for College Democrats, said the group will start a blog next semester to help build a stronger and more accessible online presence, both on campus and in the D.C. area, so interested people can know what the College Democrats are working on.

“We want to get our message and our story out to our members and to the wider public,” Debose said. “It is very important to know what our members are doing and what is important to us so it can get out to the larger D.C. community.”

The blog, which was announced to the general body at a meeting Thursday, will feature event coverage, announcements and personal statements from members, Debose said.

College Democrats President Lande Watson said the group will continue to encourage activism to hold President-elect Donald Trump accountable throughout his presidency.

“A lot of young people, a lot of GW Dems members, have some feelings, have some stories, have some opinions,” Watson said. “We want to serve as a place for people to be able to amplify that.”

To discuss and advocate for women’s rights, reproductive rights and sexual violence prevention, College Democrats will also launch “Fem Dems” – a branch of the national College Democrats focusing on women’s rights advocacy – this upcoming semester.

“It sort of serves as a hub for the women’s advocacy in our organization,” Watson said. “I think Fem Dems is a leadership community of individuals who identify as College Democrats on this campus and want to work on feminist issues.”

The branch will launch during Trump’s administration, as some women have expressed concerns with the president-elect’s proposed health policies, which could limit access to birth control and abortion clinics, The Atlantic reported.

Fem Dems already has branches at schools like the University of Pennsylvania and California State University, Sacramento.

Watson added that the College Democrats will hold “boot camps” next semester for students who want to learn the proper format for making campaign calls and canvassing.

“There are a lot of people who were not necessarily involved in campaign stuff leading up to this election, who we can train and get out there,” Watson said. “We are having them knock on their first doors, making their first calls and realizing how impactful working on a campaign can be.”

The campaign boot camps are designed to get students ready to go on campaign trips for the Democratic candidate in the 2017 Virginia gubernatorial race, Watson said.

Watson added that the boot camps give the College Democrats a chance to train new voters to be advocates and campaign for the 2018 midterms, even looking further ahead to the 2020 presidential elections.

Executive Vice President Josh Kirmsse said the group has to start mobilizing for the Democratic candidate in the 2017 Virginia gubernatorial race, as well as for the DNC chair race, by voicing support for specific candidates.

“They really do care about college student support, and it is not something that people get hyped up or vocal about,” Kirmsse said. “We as an organization should support a specific candidate and make sure they know these things are important for college students across the country.”

Kirmsse added that the 2018 midterms must be a “Senate takeover” for Democrats because Republicans now hold a majority in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. He said the College Democrats’ campaign committee is going to lead canvassing and phone banking for Democratic Senate candidates.

“The 2018 cycle is going to be here faster than we think it will be. We need to be prepared for it,” Kirmsse said. “Frankly, it is supposed to favor Republicans. There are a lot of conservative seats up, and there are Democrats in swing states that are up that people are forecasting are going to have a difficult race.”

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