Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
June 28, 2022

After last year’s hectic fall semester canvassing and campaigning during the heat of the national election, the Hopkins College Democrats have begun this academic year with plans to politically engage the campus in new ways. While it is not a national election year, the College Democrats plan to keep up the canvassing, bring in speakers and collaborate with other groups on campus.

One of their main activities this year will be canvassing for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe in Virginia. As a swing state, Virginia’s race for governor has the potential to have a national impact.

“Although there isn’t a presidential election this year, there are major elections going on, like the governor race in Virginia. We do have kind of a break for the next few months from elections, but, while there’s nothing super intense happening right now, pretty soon there will be. In the spring there will be primaries for midterms, so we need to get ready to start prepping for that,” junior Leah Barresi, vice president of the College Democrats, said.

As last year was a presidential election year, the club’s activities were particularly campaign-oriented.

“Everyone was really excited about both the election nationally and what was going on here in Maryland. Nationally, we had the Obama reelection campaign. We did a lot of canvassing in Virginia, which was a crucial swing state that we ended up winning,” junior Jordan Carmon, president of the College Democrats, said.

On campus, club members worked to register voters and get students involved in other ways.

“Our organization registered over 700 undergraduates to vote in their first election! Another huge election effort was driving anyone to the polls — undergraduates, faculty, workers, etc. We gave anyone who wanted a ride, a ride to the polls,” senior Suzy Yaster, former president of the College Democrats, wrote in an email to The News-Letter. “We also organize trips to DC — for example, last year, we brought around 50 students to Obama’s second inaugural.”

In addition to the national election, the Maryland ballot was also a target of the College Democrats.

“In Maryland, there was the question about marriage equality on the ballot, so we did a lot of campaigning and phone banking for that. The DREAM Act in Maryland also passed,” Carmon said, referring to the law that gives undocumented immigrants the opportunity to qualify for in-state college tuition.

This year, outside of elections, the College Democrats hope to build relationships with other on-campus groups.

“As the first portion of our meetings deal with announcements, we will often have people from outside groups come to talk about things that they’re organizing or advertising. For example, we might have someone from the [JHU] Politik come to ask people to write,” Carmon said. “We’re aiming to make our group the center of progressive news at Hopkins, and the place to go for news related to progressive politics, human rights, women’s issues, etcetera.”

Last year, the College Democrats co-sponsored events with other Hopkins student groups. At a speaker event co-sponsored with the Hopkins Feminists, the College Democrats hosted MSNBC contributor and Salon staff writer Irin Carmon, who spoke about women and politics in the 2012 presidential election.

At the end of the year, they hosted a political debate with the College Republicans. The debate was so well attended that the College Democrats are aiming to continue hosting such events every semester.

“We really liked that event. We are building a friendly relationship with College Republicans, which is good, because we always want to get both sides of the issue out there,” Barresi said.

Last semester’s debate covered three main topics: immigration, gun control as well as the economy and the budget.

“We try to do one foreign affairs issue, one domestic issue and one economic issue, but there were so many domestic and economic issues last year that we decided to focus on those two. Especially because it was right off of Sandy Hook, everyone was talking about gun control. At our next debate, we will probably focus more heavily on foreign affairs,” Barresi said.

Thus far, College Democrats have already hosted their annual Welcome Back Barbeque to encourage new membership.

In addition to members of the College Democrats and left-leaning freshmen, U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD) was also in attendance and spoke with students.

“We have a really good relationship with him and his office, so he has been coming for the past few years. He talked about his grassroots donation campaign, where he’s trying to get money out of politics,” Barresi said.

With a turnout of 44 attendees, the College Democrats found the barbeque to be a successful recruiting endeavor.

“We’re enormously satisfied with how recruiting has gone so far. We actually had a larger amount of people sign up this year than last year, which is surprising, since last year was an election year. It’s traditional that non-election years are very slow. At our first meeting, we actually had people sitting on the floor because we didn’t have enough room,” Carmon said.

The group hosts weekly meetings to discuss current events in the media and politics in general.

“We had a great discussion about Syria at our first meeting. We have a diverse array of opinions, especially from the freshmen. We have people from Utah, Oklahoma, New Orleans and Hawaii, not just the usual New York and tri-state area thing. These are all people who grew up with different experiences and in different communities, which makes for a really interesting dialogue,” Carmon said.

Through their political engagement, the College Democrats hope to illustrate the importance of staying aware of issues beyond the Homewood Campus.

“We definitely want to do more events to get people into politics, since our campus can sometimes seem apathetic. It is hard to stay up to date with what’s going on when you have other schoolwork and such, which sounds self-absorbed, but it’s true. College Democrats has helped me with this. I never would have gone to Virginia last year if not for College Democrats,” Barresi said.

Especially in light of Hopkins making national news with the NSA blog post controversy earlier this year and with the Voice for Life conflict last year, Carmon stressed the importance of Hopkins on a national level.

“This is not a place where politics do not happen. Hopkins students should be aware of what is going on, and while College Democrats is not the only place to get this information, it is one of the places you can go to stay informed, channel this awareness and take action. It allows students to keep up with the news and to expand their horizons not only at the university, but also around the world,” Carmon said.

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