Focus on the blue

Anne Aaker

Saturday, a throng of blue shirts surrounded the College Democrats’ shack outside the library on Main Hall Green. This week, the College Dems hosted an assortment of different events in support and celebration of the left end of the political spectrum.
Among the several events were speakers, a barbecue picnic in Riverview, and a concert featuring a campus bands and Milwaukee-based Those Royals.
“The whole week is about celebrating democrats, but we also want to educate people,” explained Ryan Day, president of the College Dems. He says that is the reason the group brought in three speakers.
The first speaker, Jeff Hall, is an involved local politician who was a congressional candidate in 2004 and now serves on the Winnebago County Board of Supervisors.
Dottie LeClair, who spoke Wednesday, also ran for a congressional seat in 2004.
The final speaker was Penny Schaber, who is running for a seat in the district State Assembly. Schaber’s main concern is the environment, and she also believes in the power of public responsibility.
The goal of the group itself is to promote democratic ideas and to get people involved in politics. “We want to make politics enjoyable for people,” Day said.
To help accomplish this, the group brings speakers into their meetings to inspire motivation, generate new ideas, and gain information about the work of democratic candidates, both those in the area and running for national positions.
“Bringing the speakers in helps the group to become more in tune with what’s going on in the community,” Day added. “We try to make sure people are up to date on the big issues in Wisconsin and the nation, and to help people to become better informed.”
Senior Emily Barlow elaborated on the still-evolving purposes of the group. “We’ve struggled a bit in finding our niche on campus among all the liberal groups, such as Greenfire, which also draw in lots of students,” she said.
“They’re all great groups,” continued Barlow, “But since we all fall under the umbrella of ‘the left,’ it’s hard to get a lot of membership.”
This year, however, the College Dems began to find their place. The group brought in a few student speakers as well as political candidates. One student speaker was Pete Snyder, who gave a presentation on the Kyoto Protocol.
The group also occasionally meets for a “Fireside Chat,” at which the radio is tuned to BBC1 and group members discuss topics that come up on the air. The College Democrats also get involved in supporting leftist area politicians.
Barlow agreed that the main purpose of College Democrat Week was to celebrate being a democrat and to help educate people about the left side. “We host the week because it fulfills a lot of the purposes of the group,” Barlow said.
In the past the event was smaller than it is now, however, as Barlow said jubilantly, “It keeps getting bigger and better each year!”
Barlow also made sure to mention that College Democrat Week is meant to be a positive thing. “It is not meant to be a week of Republican-bashing! We want to be clear about that.