From College Democrats of Rhode Island to the University’s chapter of Turning Point USA, student-led political groups hosted events throughout Providence Wednesday night to watch the latest Democratic presidential debate.
Gathered in Trinity Brewhouse, 40-plus young Democrats enthusiastically discussed impeachment and progressivism. Throughout the night, the loudest cheers erupted for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and frequent chatter centered around Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).
“It’s great when people who all share some common values come together,” said Terrell Parker, a senior at the University of Rhode Island and an executive board member of the College Democrats of Rhode Island. “It creates a more genuine and warm environment.”
As the debate unfolded, eyes remained fixed on the some of the eight televisions spread around the room. Small groups yelled in support after their candidate of preference made a statement. Some booed. Many joked about candidates who, in their opinion, have no shot at the nomination.
The gathering included student groups from Brown, URI, Salve Regina University, Providence College and Bryant University, as well as one representative from Rhode Island College. The umbrella organization CDRI organized the event.
The debate-night event was the prominent fall gathering for CDRI, a group that aims to foster collaboration between college democrats across the state.
“With the more people we have, the more different perspectives we have,” said Robbie Welcome, a junior at Salve Regina. “It’s also just good networking to meet people from other schools.”
CDRI is associated with the College Democrats of America, a nationwide organization of college democratic chapters which is affiliated with the Democratic National Committee. Rose Lang-Maso ’20, president of CDRI and former president of Brown Democrats, organized the event with the help of the Rhode Island Democratic Party.
“There are a lot of degrees of separation between us and the (Democratic) party,” Lang-Maso said. “There is room for us to break away from the party to a certain extent, but at the same time, we do try to be respectful of what the party is thinking about.”
Cyd McKenna, who is the executive director of the RIDP and was involved with organizing the event, emphasized the need to help cultivate the next generation of democratic leadership.
“It’s important that there’s an overall body that’s inclusive of all the universities, especially in a state like Rhode Island where we have so many,” McKenna said. “Rose (Lang-Maso) has done a great job in reaching out to different universities to bring different groups together.”
Meanwhile, in a small classroom in the basement of Friedman Hall, eight students gathered to watch the debate at an event organized by Turning Point USA at Brown, the University’s chapter of the conservative youth organization. On its Facebook page, the group invited students to “A Night of Comedy.”
“We’re curious to see what the Democratic candidates have for their vision of America,” said Christian Diaz de Leon ’21, president of Turning Point USA at Brown. “We’re a limited government organization. With candidates like this campaigning for bigger government, of course we’re going to find those policies a little humorous.”
During the debate, quiet skepticism and laughter emanated through the room. But the night wasn’t entirely full of animosity toward the candidates. De Leon said that Turning Point encouraged people with all viewpoints to attend the event, adding that at least one Democrat was in the room.
At one point, a bobblehead of President Donald Trump made an appearance for photos, circulating through the back of the room.
Still, skepticism primarily ruled the night. Attendees yelled out occasional jabs in response to what was happening on the debate stage.
For de Leon, the prospect of a candidate such as Sanders or Warren winning the White House is alarming.
“It’s kind of scary,” de Leon said. “Prosperity always comes from deregulation, free markets, not a bigger government solution.”
Ben Glickman is the 132nd editor-in-chief and president of The Brown Daily Herald. He previously served as a metro editor and oversaw the College Hill and Fox Point beat, in addition to writing and editing about city politics, COVID-19 and the 2020 election. He is the co-creator of the Bruno Brief, The Herald's first news podcast. In his free time, he is passionate about birds (also tweeting) and eating way too spicy food.