Week of politics

Adam Berey

The College Democrats stepped up their annual “College Democrats Week” events this year with a catchy slogan and a merchandise table in Downer Commons. Starting last Sunday, the group gave away blue-colored merchandise and sponsored several on-campus political events. The College Republicans also sponsored events as part of “Republican Pride Week.”
The Democrats’ slogan, “Think Blue,” comes from the Think Blue Political Action Committee, an independent group that sells blue rubber fundraising bracelets to aid leftist groups such as MoveOn.org and 2020 Democrats. The Lawrence Democrats extended this slogan for use on blue T-shirts, buttons, and pride ribbons, and adorned campus foliage with blue glowsticks.
The evocation of the red state/blue state major-party rivalry may seem too partisan to some. College Republicans president Michael Papincak said Wednesday, “I don’t particularly like it because it widens the gap between our two parties.”
But the Democrats assert that it is only a show of pride. According to College Democrats president Kevin Cooper-Fenske, the week’s activities were meant to increase party enthusiasm, not rivalry between the two sides. “I don’t consider [the slogan] to be an attack,” said the senior. “It’s more of a hopeful thing.”
In Cooper-Fenske’s eyes, the Republicans have been less diplomatic. Posters slamming John Kerry appeared around campus Monday night and the group showed “Fahrenhype 9/11” Thursday, a right-wing response to Michael Moore’s politically-charged “Fahrenheit 9/11.” The Democrats screened the non-partisan political satire “Wag the Dog” the same night.
But party politics is what the weeks is about, says Papincak, a sophomore. “If they want to watch some Hollywood Dustin Hoffman movie, let ’em go.”
That both the Republicans and Democrats planned their events for the same week was purely coincidental. Cooper-Fenske said there was a significant lack of communication between the two organizations. When the public relations office informed them of the overlap, the club leaders attempted to plan around each other’s events in order to avoid competition.
In addition, they encouraged their clubs’ members to attend both groups’ events. “I didn’t want it to be one-sided,” said Cooper-Fenske. The Democrats reportedly invited the Republicans to table with them at Downer, although no Republican representative made an appearance.
Papincak has been wary of collaborating with the College Democrats because of what he sees as an abrupt upswing in their visibility. “Anything we do seems reactionary,” he said. “We don’t see any reason to cooperate with a group that hasn’t been active and all of a sudden is.”
But there is a flipside to the animosity. Both groups came together Friday for a Republican-Democrat picnic and kickball game – a revival of the traditional match that the College Republicans played in previous years against the Students for Leftist Action.
While both groups have annually been organizing these weeklong events, the Democrats’ efforts this week have garnered much more attention than in past years.
Free merchandise may be the best explanation for the high visibility. The organization started the week with 75 T-shirts and about 100 buttons. They gave out all the shirts on the first day and the buttons were gone by Monday night.
Cooper-Fenske said that he hopes the increased publicity will encourage more students to participate in the club. Cooper-Fenske himself was unaffiliated with the club until this year, a fact that he attributes to its low profile. “I’d like to change the outlook and presence of our group,” he said. “Maybe if there was more outreach to me, I would have joined [sooner].”
Cooper-Fenske said he hopes to repeat this week’s success in future terms with a greater frequency of events. “Some people can’t come to weekly meetings because they’re always the same time, same place,” he said. To provide more opportunities for students to get involved, Cooper-Fenske intends sponsor at least one speaker and one event per term.
The College Republicans also intend to be more active. Papincak cited plans to picket at this Thursday’s convocation featuring left-leaning Columbia president Lee Bollinger, and a revival of the club’s Right on Time newspaper next year.