'Rutgers for Hillary' students attempt to secure votes in New Hampshire
Some students feel a certain indifference toward politics and many are reluctant to get involved at all, but there are those who still believe in the importance of political activism.
On Feb. 6, 26 Rutgers students traveled to Manchester, New Hampshire, to solicit votes for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ahead of the upcoming primary. The "Rutgers for Hillary" student group spent the day knocking on doors to encourage voters to head out and cast their ballots in favor of Clinton.
“A lot of studies have shown that it is very hard to reach people during elections. Sometimes volunteers like us are the only contact a prospective voter will get and when you are directly talking to a prospective voter, it increases their level of engagement and their likelihood of voting,” said Michael Guggenheim, vice president of Rutgers for Hillary and a School of Arts and Sciences senior.
The student political organization also held canvassing kick-off events with high-profile Democratic politicians supporting Clinton’s candidacy. These included New Jersey officials Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, said Zach Goldfarb, president of Rutgers for Hillary and a School of Arts and Sciences senior.
“The political practice of canvassing is the best way to get face-to-face contact from a campaign to a voter. Just influencing one mind makes the trip and all of the work worth it,” Goldfarb said.
Guggenheim hopes their activism in New Hampshire will mobilize voters and help Clinton’s chances in the granite state, where polls have Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) leading by several percentage points.
“New Hampshire is a battleground state and it is right next to Sen. Sander’s home state of Vermont, but we want to engage with as many Hillary voters as possible and turn them out to the polls,” he said. “The more votes Hillary gets, the more delegates she gets.”
Rutgers for Hillary is confident that she has all the qualifications to become president. She also has the most inclusive social platform, Goldfarb said.
“Hillary is the most capable of bringing America forward. She can make America better for the most amount of Americans,” he said. “No one has a stronger rhetoric in favor of the LGBT community, the Latino community, the Muslim community and the black community.”
The student organization does not consider her time in Washington politics a limitation, but rather an asset that will come in handy if she becomes president.
“She knows how to move around Washington (D.C.), which I don’t think is a bad thing. I think that it is important that when you elect a president, you elect someone who knows how to do the job and who has a realistic roadmap to get what they want done,” Guggenheim said.
Some students on campus have not been convinced by Clinton’s campaign message and do not share her vision for America.
Najum Junaid, political director of the Rutgers University College Republicans and a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, senses shortcomings in Clinton's tenure as Secretary of State, especially around the Benghazi and email controversies. All Republican candidates pose a better vision for America and the policies they would implement would prompt sustained economic growth, he said.
“Republican candidates have a greater focus on growing both small and large businesses to help put Americans back to work,” he said. “This is important for us college students because we want to be able to find jobs and not have to settle for a career that we did not want to be in.”
And even Sanders's supporters believe the former First Lady does not reflect their views as young voters as ardently as the Vermont senator.
Nicholas Quinn, president of Rutgers for Bernie 2016 and a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student, questions the sincerity of some of Clinton’s promises and believes her political agenda fails to go the extra-mile in terms of implementing progressive reforms.
“I don’t think she is going to reform Wall Street, I don’t think she wants to fix campaign finance and I don’t really want her in charge of the military because she’s been known to be hawkish at times,” he said. “Her lack of support for free college tuition is something I do not agree with.”
In spite of the explicit ideological disagreements between the different political groups around campus, a core and common value that they all embrace is the imperative of student involvement in the political process.
It is important to get involved with any political party and to have a say in every election, Junaid said. Many students say that politicians' platforms do not reflect student's views but this is because election turnouts for millennials are low.
“Getting involved while you are young keeps you aware of what is happening in the country. It is our duty as citizens to get informed in order to make educated decisions … regardless of whether you are on the right or on the left, you should stay involved in politics,” Quinn said.
Goldfarb believes student campaign involvement, similar to his group’s trip to New Hampshire, should be a fundamental part of every student’s life, and said political participation is not only informative, but engaging as well.
“It is a shame that some students say that they are not going to vote,” he said. “Students need to understand that although a lot of people are apathetic towards it, politics do make a difference in our lives.”
Camilo Montoya-Galvez is a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student majoring in Spanish and journalism and media studies. He is a contributing writer for The Daily Targum. Follow him on Twitter @camiloooom.