On Friday, November 6, hundreds of students and parents gathered in Cahn auditorium to hear a panel of famous political speakers discuss the upcoming presidential elections.
David Axelrod, Obama's former senior adviser; Jon Favreau, Obama's former speech and Jeremy Bird, national field director for Obama’s 2012 campaign covered various campaign strategies for both Democrats and Republicans. They focused on policy issues affecting Americans and college students, and how to get more citizens involved and engaged with the upcoming elections.
The panel began with a reflection on the last presidential election. Axelrod discussed his participation in Obama’s campaign seven years ago, stating that it he was part of a “historic campaign and era." While at the edge of an economic collapse, he was proud of what the campaign accomplished, especially through electing a president who believes made a long lasting, substantive contribution to American politics.
With respect to the upcoming election, Axelrod, Favreau and Bird were all happy to discuss campaign strategy, potential results and problems that the Republican party will likely run into. When asked to predict results, all of them unanimously agreed that a predication a year in advance would be impossible, but that “there are built in advantages for Democrats based on demographics," as 30 percent of the American population will be made up of marginalized communities in 2016.
Looking to prior elections, Axelrod mentioned Romney’s tendency to lean far to the right while campaigning which, although won him the primary, ultimately hurt him in the presidential election against Obama. Favreau and Bird both believe the same will happen in the 2016 election with Republican candidates.
Although all three panelists are strong supporters of the Democratic party, they agreed that their party has failed to mobilize enough grass-root politics and should utilize a more bottom-up instead of top-down approach to finding new leaders and electing them.
Following the panel discussion, speakers took questions from the public. Given the increasing cynicism in politics lately and the way money influences elections, especially after Citizens United, a student asked speakers how voters can feel like their vote matters.
Axelrod’s response stirred incredible support from the audience. He said, “Do elections matter? The answer is emphatically ‘Yes.’ Your vote matters. And the only thing that can defeat us as a democracy is if young people like yourselves decide that it doesn’t. And then you’re going to have to live with the consequences of that decision and you may not be happy with it. So I really encourage you to exercise your franchise and do it every chance you get and take control of your own destiny.”
VP of Programming for College Democrats, SESP junior Sydney Selix, said the group had been planning this speaker panel for months, starting in the summer. She said that while "not everyone knows these three names. I'm really happy with the turnout."