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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

‘Deis Dems canvass for Obama in New Hampshire

Published: November 11, 2011
Section: News

The Brandeis Democrats joined in support of President Obama’s reelection campaign, canvassing in New Hampshire last Sunday as Democrats tried to build momentum, while Republican candidates draw attention in debates ahead of early primaries this winter.

Sasha Beder ’14, the Organizing for America Liaison at the Brandeis Democrats, explained how volunteers went door-to-door, focusing on people who had voted as Democrats previously, and asked them if they would support Obama in the coming election. Beder, however, found the most enjoyable part to be learning about the viewpoints of the voters on the various issues and what could influence their vote.

“To me that’s always kind of the most rewarding part when campaigning … Yes the ultimate goal is to have them volunteer for the campaign, but you ask them ‘what are your issues?’ and you have some real honest genuine conversation with them,” Beder said.

Jake Weiner ’13, president of the Brandeis Democrats, stressed this idea further, suggesting that there is incredible value to talking with voters about their beliefs.

“It’s [so] gratifying to be able to actually sit down and have a legitimate conversation with someone about their beliefs and their values and their fears and show them what you perceive to be the right thing.”

Beder, however, also explained the frustration of the voting population in New Hampshire, both the disillusioned Democrats, and the Republicans.

“Obviously people are disillusioned … [Getting people] to say they’re willing to vote for Obama and getting people to say they’ll volunteer for him [were] totally different stor[ies].”

The trip was organized as part of a series of events sponsored by Organizing for America—a group dedicated to canvassing for President Obama. The organization runs major events throughout the country on particular days. Beder cited the example of how on the day that the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law was repealed, the group held various recruitment and celebratory events across the country. This past Sunday was significant because it marked that the 2012 presidential election was officially one year away.

Weiner made it clear that, as a club, Brandeis Democrats is currently more focused on raising awareness among the student population than campaigning due to the lack of crucial elections this November.

“I wanted to spend time focusing on who we are as a club and what we believe in because there’s a big assumption: ‘Oh, you’re democrats, you all believe in liberal things … Everyone’s fiscally liberal and socially liberal and everyone’s got these sets of views that are very much associated with the Democratic party.’”

Weiner recognized that many people in the club are critical of President Obama, however, for various reasons. To him there is value in listening to those criticisms and avoiding having the semester just be “Obama, Obama, Obama.”

This trip to New Hampshire, however, still marks an early move toward the start of campaigning, with the upcoming primary season in clear sight. Beder explained the crucial issue to voters as simple: “Jobs.”

Weiner agreed, saying that until the unemployment rate drops, people won’t care about the “sideshow” of other issues not related to the economy.

Both Beder and Weiner got a chance to share their views on the field of Republican candidates as well.

Weiner left no one guessing about whom he felt was going to capture the Republican nomination and gave a biting answer concerning his personal opinion of the candidate.

“I think [Former Gov. Mitt Romney] has the best chance of being the contender on the Republican ticket … I think you can tell a politician who would do or say anything to win.” Weiner explained how Romney had supported many left-leaning measures while in office in Massachusetts and yet seemed like he was not going to do so in the future were he to be president. Weiner referred to him as “wishy-washy.”

Beder has been arguing with others concerning strategy recently and has come to the conclusion that at least some of the campaigning needs to be aimed at indicating that, despite legitimate grievances against Obama, things would basically be worse under one of the opposing candidates. Beder explained coming to this conclusion about how best to “sell” Obama based on arguments with other people with whom she’s recently worked.

“Do we want to stress that Obama can be the leader that we all voted him to be? Can he be the inspiring leader that’s going to change the country fundamentally? … At this point, because people are so disillusioned, you need to talk about the alternative.”

When asked if there was a fundamental message to give to a random independent voter in a random state, Weiner stressed that knowing about the issues and the candidates is all that is really crucial.

“Get informed. It doesn’t take a lot of time. Spend the time to get informed. Read the websites. Read the talking points of the candidates. … Consider them deeply. Watch the debates. … Just pay attention.”

The Brandeis Democrats will take part next week in a debate with other political groups across campus including the Brandeis Libertarian-Conservative Union and the Brandeis Tea Party Nation. Each of the major groups, having elected one representative, will have that representative assume the part of a particular candidate, and debate using that candidate’s mannerisms and general beliefs. The end goal, according to Weiner, is to “keep people informed.”