“Our goal was to interest the student population about politics outside of Emerson,” said Randi Heylek, CPLA president and an organizational and political communication major.,The entrance to the dining hall was all stripes, stars and bipartisan political enthusiasm last Thursday, as the Communication, Politics and Law Association launched its first mock Emerson primary, drawing students in with enthusiastic shouts of “Guys! Take some ballots! Just take ’em!”
“Our goal was to interest the student population about politics outside of Emerson,” said Randi Heylek, CPLA president and an organizational and political communication major.
“We just want to know where Emerson would stand if it was an actual primary.”
The CPLA is an Emerson bipartisan political organization, which aims to inform students about both Democratic and Republican issues through events like the mock primary, which the group hopes to hold annually.
“Obviously, we assume that so many people at Emerson are liberal,” Heylek said, “but we’re always looking for more representation from Republican students.”
In the wake of the voting bonanza known as Super Tuesday, in which primaries were held in 24 states, including Massachusetts, the Emerson mock primary is timely.
“This is one of the only primaries that has gone this far,” said John Baldo, the event’s organizer and an active CPLA member. “It’s really exciting, and we’ve all been on the edge of our seats. It’s been great for the organization.”
Among the red, white and blue deacute;cor, the CPLA set up a prominent board that displayed each candidate’s stance on every issue.
“We have students coming up and asking us about candidates, about where and how they can register to vote,” said Heylek. “We’ve had a great turnout.”
Even actor and Sen. Barack Obama supporter Kal Penn, famous for his role in Harold and Kumar, who was at Emerson to speak about student involvement in the elections last Thursday, cast his vote in the Emerson primary.
“We have his ballot in there somewhere,” Baldo said. “He was an Emerson student for a day, so we let him have his say.”
CPLA released the results of the Emerson Primary on Super Tuesday. It revealed an overwhelming amount of support for Obama, who received 325 votes. Sen. Hillary Clinton got 84 votes. According to JSONS, Green Party candidate Ralph Nader, who recently formed a presidential exploratory committee, received two write-in votes on the Democratic ballot.
Twenty-six Republican Emerson students voted for Sen. John McCain, sliding by Rep. Ron Paul, who received 23 votes. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee finished with six votes, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney finished with four.
In on the action
CPLA is not the only group of students on campus fired up about the impending elections. Emerson students have worked or continue to work independently on political campaigns, joining Clinton, Obama and others in their efforts to rally supporters.
During the Democratic debate between Obama and Clinton, both candidates made a point to express their excitement about the response they’ve received from student populations.
Collin Gately, a sophomore political communication major who took a semester off to work as Clinton’s New Hampshire press assistant, said he can testify to the enthusiasm of America’s student activists.
“Throughout the campaign, students came to our office in New Hampshire and asked ‘how can we help?,'” he said in an e-mail interview. “A lot of these kids didn’t have a place to stay in NH, barely fit everyone into a tiny car, drove for hours to get to our office, and then jumped at the chance to hit the streets for the weekend to do door-to-door canvassing.”
Kristen Golden, a communications studies major and contributer to The Beacon, who also worked on Clinton’s campaign, said she believes this turnout is partly due to the huge effect this election will have on today’s students.
“A lot of students are apathetic, but this election really does matter,” the junior said. “It’s going to determine if we get jobs when we get out of college, if we’re going to be able to afford healthcare and houses, if we’re going to be able to pay off our loans. I can’t even verbalize how important this election is.”
However, as all the students interviewed attested to, working for a campaign is a big commitment. According to professor and former OPC interim department chair Linda Peek-Schacht, thirteen OPC students worked in campaigns for credit as part of the fall presidential campaign semester in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina, California and Illinois. Peek-Schacht said she believes another five or six students are working on campaigns without credit and several recent graduates are currently involved with a candidate.
“You really don’t have an exact job description,” said Erika Rydberg, who worked on Obama’s campaign, “and you can never really say no to helping out.”
Though a lot of time and effort goes in to being an active part of a campaign, the senior communication studies and WLP double major agreed with the predominant message from politically involved students interviewed: the best thing you can do is vote.
“The South Carolina primary had double the number of student-aged voters than in 2004,” said Rydberg. “Young people have so much more power in this election. We shouldn’t let that slide.”
And the winner is…
The polls in Massachusetts closed at 8 p.m. Tuesday night, and the Emerson Democrats hosted a “Results Watch” party to keep track of the outcome in each state. West 1 and 2 in the Little Building were buzzing with students, arguing about the issues and the candidates.
“I love this [event],” said junior OPC major Katie-Coral Horton, as Clinton’s Massachusetts win was announced amid groans and cheers. “You get one person who’s like, ‘yes!’ and one who’s like, ‘ugh.’ It’s such a great atmosphere.”
While the “Results Watch” was alive with spirited but friendly political debate, Emerson students were either completely tuned in or tuned out, particularly in Massachusetts, said Emerson Democrats’ Vice President Alex Pearson.
“Only 24 percent of people aged 18 to 29 voted in Massachusetts,” announced Pearson, who was also monitoring the results on her laptop, “That’s ridiculous.”
Major news stations like CNN concentrated on which candidates took which state, but Baldo demanded what he felt was the true decider of Super Tuesday.
“I don’t care about the states,” he said. “What’s the delegate count?”
According to CNN.com, Clinton is leading with 580 delegates garnered from Super Tuesday primaries and a total of 823 delegates. Obama follows closely with 570 delegates from the Feb. 5 contest and a total of 741.
For the Republicans, McCain is strongly in the lead with 568 Super Tuesday delegates and 680 total delegates, followed by Romney’s 270 total delegates and Huckabee’s 176.
Many of the students in atte
ndance were shocked at the strong Republican showing, especially at Huckabee’s wins in West Virginia and Arkansas.
Despite the surprises and the low student voter turnout, the enthusiasm of Emerson’s political community was in high gear.
“My dad and I have a $20 bet going,” said Pearson. “We have a list with all the states and the candidates. I can’t wait to spend that $20.”