Post-election, no love lost among Dems

By
Thursday, November 20, 2008

Correction appended.

The members of the Brown Students for Barack Obama worked for months to get their candidate elected, and on Nov. 4 they finally celebrated the culmination of those efforts.

But as they basked in their candidate’s triumph, they were faced with another question: What next?

One thing is certain – the group will not be merging with the Brown Democrats, from which many of its initial members came. The Dems’ decision not to endorse a candidate in the primaries led to the creation of Brown’s chapter of the SFBO, according to Max Chaiken ’09, president of the group and a former Herald opinions columnist.The loyalties of the Dems’ board members were pretty evenly split between president-elect Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton D-NY during the primary season, said Harrison Kreisberg ’10, the Dems’ president.

Once Obama accepted the party’s nomination, there were efforts to unite Brown’s Clinton and Obama supporters in the same way the national party tried to join the two camps, Ariel Werner ’09, a leader of Students for Barack Obama, said. But there were some “ruffled feathers” about who should be in charge of the joint effort, she added.

Kreisberg said that after the primary, there were difficulties in determining each group’s responsibilities, particularly because the Dems’ endorsement policy prevented them from campaigning during primary season.

Werner and Kreisberg said that, ultimately, both groups coordinated campaigning events together.

“It was about sacrificing your ego to the greater cause,” Kreisberg said.

Despite the period of collaboration, the groups’ rocky history and ideological differences make a merger unlikely.

“We stayed distinct because we had a distinct membership,” said Chaiken, adding that many members of SFBO don’t consider themselves vocal Democrats.

Werner said that, for her, “SFBO was about Barack Obama, not the Democratic Party in Rhode Island or nationally.”

“I feel a very strong affiliation with SFBO that I don’t feel for the Brown Dems,” Werner said.

Kreisberg added that the two groups have different goals.

“SFBO was about winning this election,” he said. “We have a more long-term focus.”

Werner said the executive board members of SFBO do not intend to join the Dems, though the two boards intend to meet and discuss whether or not the SFBO listserv should be turned over to the Democrats.

“The Dems are certainly a great group,” Chaiken said. He has no plans to join them but said he couldn’t speak for the rest of the group.

Werner said she’d hesitate to turn over the SFBO listserv because joining the Dems should be a decision left up to individual members.

Although SFBO as a group does not have a current agenda, individual members are still interested in remaining politically active.

“There are plenty of issues that need immediate attention,” wrote Samuel Magaram ’12 in an e-mail to The Herald, who said he plans to continue his involvement in Democratic causes and campaigns.

“I’d potentially be interested in getting involved in the Brown Dems,” Tanya Lewis ’10 wrote in an e-mail to The Herald.

“Now that Obama’s elected, we need to get involved in the particular issues that drew us to him in the first place,” wrote Nick Hagerty ’10, who now dedicates his time to the advancement of renewable energy sources with the group emPOWER.

But some people are still unsure about their continued commitment to political activism.

Shane Easter ’10 wrote he does not intend to join another group but will remain active in SFBO if the group has any further plans.

The Herald reported on Nov. 18 (“Post-election, no love lost among Dems,” Nov. 18) that Ariel Werner ’09 is not an active Democrat in local elections. In fact, she is active in local elections but not as a Democrat. The article also reported that there was tension between the Brown Democrats and Students for Barack Obama since the Democrats’ decision not to endorse a candidate in the primaries. The tension is not related to that decision.