Defending the initiative
Observer Viewpoint | Wednesday, September 22, 2004
As a student coordinator for Rock the Vote and someone with no loyalty to the College Republicans and College Democrats of Notre Dame, “I would [also] like to clear something up lest there be no mistake.”
Philip Wells’ letter in Monday’s Observer was the stinging indictment it was meant to be, and more.
Not only did his letter finally get the College Republicans to publicly admit that demographics and numbers are their bottom line, a point which their leadership has privately touted at our weekly Rock the Vote meetings, but it also begged one important question: With whom does your loyalty lie?
I ask because in early May, I was one of four students to co-sign the Youth Venture “Choose or Lose” Grant awarded to Notre Dame by MTV. In signing that grant, we pledged to use the funds allotted to our university to organize voter registration drives, undertake issue advocacy and education, and above all “support the right of young people to be change agents in their communities.” Most importantly, we pledged that our venture – as sponsored by the Center for Social Concerns – would not be used for partisan political ends.
When our committee was approached regarding the Transpo voter project, we emphasized that – in the spirit of nonpartisanship – we would not lend our name to the community outreach initiative without the collective support of College Republicans and College Democrats.
Exercising their right to do so, the College Republicans put the initiative to a vote and it failed. Why? Because their demographic research indicated that, “the precincts being serviced by such an initiative are overwhelmingly democratic … [and] could potentially thwart the campaigns of their candidates.”
But in their motion to reject the Transpo proposal, did the College Republicans consider that the College Democrats have never once vetoed or thwarted on-campus registration drives despite that Notre Dame’s demographics – white, middle class and conservative – could potentially thwart the campaigns of their candidates?
In the past semester, it has been a privilege to work with Philip Wells, Ian Ronderos and other leaders in College Republicans and College Democrats to foster political dialogue at Notre Dame. Yet, at this time, I would ask the leaders of both parties to reconsider their focus. For what is loyalty to a particular candidate worth if in the effort to ensure his victory demographics and numbers become the bottom line?
In this election year, I assure you, Notre Dame Rock the Vote has only one bottom line: to get as many students and faculty on this campus, as well as residents in the surrounding community, registered and educated about the issues. In order to do so, we need the collective support of the College Republicans and the College Democrats as well as the diverse perspectives that they offer through coordinated debate and discussion.
At its conception, we titled our venture Notre Dame Rock the Vote for a reason. Come Nov. 2, that is exactly what we intend to do.
It is my hope that the College Republicans and College Democrats – party politics aside – will still join us.