UO for Bernie Sanders 2016 eager to “Bring the Bern.”
Although the 2016 presidential primary elections in Oregon don’t take place until May 17 of next year, and campus remains empty in the midst of summer, the “UO for Bernie Sanders 2016” group — an organization of volunteers consisting of students, faculty and anyone with a University of Oregon affiliation — attracted 24 enthusiastic volunteers in its first meeting, as members of the group announced their plans to campaign in support of the candidate, and cause the UO to “Feel the Bern.”
The meeting took place Wednesday, in a classroom of the HEDCO College of Education. The gathering was held by students, who formed the “UO for Bernie Sanders 2016,” while working together on the leadership committee of “Lane County for Bernie Sanders.”
UO senior, and president of the student group, Xander Berenstein, who also is the student outreach coordinator of the Lane County organization, described the group’s game plan for the upcoming months. Since Oregon is a closed primary state — which means that only registered democrats will be able to vote in the state’s 2016 Democratic Party primaries — getting students registered to vote in Oregon as democrats is the first goal of the group. Starting from the “Week of Welcome” student orientations to take place beginning September 22, students can expect to see teams from the organization bearing clipboards of voter registration cards and promotion for the group’s events chalked around campus.
The second objective of the group is to inform the community about its work and its initiatives through social media and tabling at UO campus events. The group also intends to hold several parties, including debate watch parties, during the year.
Thirdly, the organization strives to reach out to other campus-based groups and convince them that Bernie Sanders’ platform best aligns with their interests as groups, specifically cultural and interest groups. Community members at the meeting hailed from an assortment of organizations, including a member of the UO Student Labor Action Project (SLAP), as well as two from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 503. The UO College Democrats helped provide the room at which the meeting was held.
Although plans were extensive, and the participants were met with volunteer sign-up sheets, the meeting had an air of joviality — Berenstein and other leading volunteers of the group chatted with newcomers prior to the meeting, and Bernie Sanders was quoted throughout (and in his accent of course). The interested attendants responded with much excitement, whooping a cry or two of “Feel the Bern.”
“I have never seen this many people turn out, this far out in an election, this excited,” said Lane Community College student Dan Kinkler, a head organizer of the group and a volunteer coordinator of the Lane County for Bernie Sanders Organization. He has experience campaigning in New Hampshire on the behalf of President Barack Obama during his 2008 run.
During the session everyone passionately expressed the policies of Bernie Sanders’ campaign that resonated with them, from his plans for a single-payer healthcare system, to the candidate’s stance on making college tuition at public universities free.
“On issues concerning students, he is the only candidate right now talking about making college education free, and talking about decreasing the wealth gap in this country,” Berenstein said.
UO junior Skyler Westra came into the event after volunteering at Bernie Sanders’ Portland rally in the Moda Center as a security and crowd control member. The rally filled the arena’s 19,980 seating capacity and inspired him to get further involved in his campaign.
“People were actually crying because they had hope and had their power restored to them,” he said. “Seeing somebody who came from a place that they could relate to and advocate for the needs of the middle class really invigorated them.”
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