Editor’s note: Throughout the 2018 midterm election season, The Observer will sit down with various student organizations and professors to discuss political engagement and issues particularly pertinent to students. In this fourth installment, Notre Dame College Democrats discusses its plans to help Democrat politicians get elected.
With the 2018 midterm elections drawing near, the Notre Dame College Democrats is ramping up operations to help make the Democrat “blue wave” in Congress a reality.
Co-president of College Democrats senior Jack Grogan said following the Democratic Party’s lack of success across the board in 2016, members of the club are especially motivated to go out and work to help Democrats win.
“I was working in field for the congressional candidate in 2016, and it was easily the most depressing night of my life when we lost that race and every race that night in Indiana, to say nothing of the presidential race, obviously,” Grogan said. “I guess the motivation is pretty high for those of us who’ve been around for that long not to see that happen again.”
Grogan said the primary campaigns of interest for the club are Indiana Senator Joe Donnelly’s re-election campaign and Mel Hall’s campaign for Indiana’s second district — Notre Dame’s district.
Junior Sheila Gregory, the College Democrats’ Chair of Volunteer Outreach, said Democrats hope to learn from the mistakes of the last election and do all they can to find victory in November.
“A lot of people complained after 2016 about what happened … but a lot of people didn’t go out and do anything about it,” she said. “They didn’t knock on doors, they didn’t canvas and then they were shocked when things didn’t go in their favor. So, our biggest push is to be like, ‘Let’s do everything to be sure that we try to get the results that we want, and even if we don’t get the results that we want, then we know that we did something about it. We didn’t just sit there and talk about how we don’t like what’s going on with the current administration. We actually took measures into our hands to affect the change that we wanted to see.’ That’s our biggest priority right now.”
Though 2016 may not have delivered the results Democrats were hoping for, Grogan said the resulting political climate of 2016 brought much more interest to the normally-quieter midterm elections.
“The big difference [from 2016] obviously is that it’s not a presidential year and is a midterm year, so sometimes that makes it harder to generate interest,” Grogan said. “I’m not sure how much that’s true this year. I think the interest, at least among our core club members, is probably just as high, and the challenge is going to make everyone else care as much as we do.”
Gregory said the club’s primary method of supporting Democratic candidates is going door-to-door in the surrounding communities to talk to people about the election — a method known as canvassing.
“Our huge effort is getting people out there and knocking on doors because … Indiana, especially in this area, [went] Democrat in 2008 .. but swung really hard for Republicans in 2016,” Gregory said. “Studies show that the best way to get turnout, and especially turnout in your favor, is to get out there and have personal conversations with voters by knocking on doors.”
Interest in canvassing amongst volunteers has risen since the 2016 election year, Gregory said.
“I was a freshman on 2016, and I was probably one of six people that volunteered to do canvassing in the 2016 election,” she said. “Now on just [last] Sunday alone, we [had] about 25 people signed up to canvas, which is ridiculous. Not only [did] we have 25 people committed to Sunday, we have about 50 people committed to volunteering at least one day a week and that’s including weekdays after class. … That sort of effort is not something we saw at all last [election year].”
Grogan said other events planned in preparation for the November elections include policy discussion nights and phone call campaigns. In the end, however, what really matters to the College Democrats is how many Democrats win their race, he said.
“Obviously success on a broad level is winning top to bottom,” Grogan said. “I’d probably say Joe Donnelly’s re-election is top of the list. If we can achieve that, it’ll be a big night.”