Students organize in support of 2016 candidates

by Sara McGahan | 7/16/15 8:01pm

As 2016 presidential election season begins to roll into high gear, New Hampshire is becoming a hotspot for presidential candidates. The Upper Valley has already seen visits from Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Martin O’Malley in the last two months, and there will be an event for Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders' campaign in Hanover on July 29, though he will not be at the event. Republican candidate Rand Paul is planning to visit the Upper Valley on July 25.

Outside of the official scheduled visits, students are beginning to assemble campaign organizing groups to support and potentially attract candidates.

Ben Packer ’17, an organizer of Dartmouth’s branch of the College Students for Bernie Sanders movement, said that their first meeting, which occurred last Thursday, was a “success,” with 20 to 30 people in attendance.

Packer and other Sanders supporters gauged student interest by asking around and emailing out to campus, Packer said. He added that the group has many goals, including fundraising, campaigning and creating an online presence. The group has been in touch with the New Hampshire field organizer for Sanders, and they plan to campaign in different parts of the state as well as on campus.

“We are going to try and do it all,” Packer said.

Packer and other organizers contacted an organization called College Students for Bernie Sanders and have set up a chapter at the College. The organization provides resources for student groups who wish to become a part of the movement and connects chapters to the Sanders’ campaign team.

Sanders has called for a student movement, Packer said, adding that he and other students are recognizing and responding to that call. Packer said that this is probably the largest-scale grassroots campaign that American politics has witnessed in a while.

Students have also organized groups supporting Republican presidential candidates Marco Rubio and Rand Paul, College Republicans president Michelle Knesbach ’17 said. Knesbach added that in the next month, student groups supporting all the major candidates will have formed.

These groups will also aim to raise awareness about candidates and host events to spread information, though these student groups will not be doing any fundraising for the candidates, Knesbach said.

Brian Chen ’17, an organizer of the student group supporting Rand Paul, is organizing a trip to West Lebanon to see Paul on July 25.

Chen said that he expects this event to be “over capacity”, especially because the event falls on Sophomore Family Weekend, and some students plan to bring their parents.

Packer said that the term “movement” is especially important in defining how he and other students aim to support Sanders.

“Bernie Sanders knows that because of how much influence corporations have in the political process, no candidate that opposes the interests of the business class will get elected, unless there is a large scale grassroots movement,” he said.

This large-scale grassroots movement aims to revitalize and catalyze the student movement and labor movement into action, Packer said, adding that he thinks doing so is a goal not only of Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, but also important for the long term even if Sanders does not win the election.

“The connections that are established throughout this campaign — among workers, between workers, among low income [citizens], between low income [citizens] and students, between people who are worried about climate change and all of the other aforementioned categories — those connections will last, and that’s not something that goes away easily,” Packer said. “We are trying to build a movement that can lose an election and keep going. So this is just as much about building a movement around a set of issues that are neglected in American politics as much as it is getting this candidate elected.”

Correction appended (July 19, 2015):

A previous version of this article stated that Sanders will be in Hanover on July, 29. The article should have stated that there is a Sanders campaign event in Hanover on July 29, which he will not be attending.