Sabrina Templeton

Student political groups brace for Election Day, aftermath

Sabrina Templeton

Middlebury College Democrats, Middlebury College Republicans and Sunday Night Environmental Group (SNEG), three of the college’s political groups, are preparing in anticipation of next week’s presidential election. 

The College Democrats have focused on encouraging participation in the election and planning programming for students both before and after the election, “cognizant of both possible outcomes,” according to Suria Vanrajah ’22, president of College Democrats.

For College Republicans, recent goals have been “keeping people engaged and in dialogue about political issues and candidates,” according to George Werner ’21, the club’s president.

Werner said his group is spending time emphasizing to students and club members that every election is important. “The attitude that voting is only important at certain times or that it varies in importance is detrimental to our system of government,” he said, noting that the organization is maintaining their historical stance of not endorsing political candidates.

Divya Gudur ’21 — one of the leaders of SNEG — says her group has predominantly focused on preparations for potential post-election action.“We are primarily equipping ourselves with the appropriate organizing skills to be prepared for a contested post-election,” she said. SNEG members are currently attending non-violent direct-action and de-escalation trainings.

All three groups have faced planning and organizational challenges as a result of Covid-19. College Democrats normally co-host an election night screening in Crossroads, which is not possible this year, according to Vanrajah. But the group is getting creative, working with the Student Activities Office (SAO) to try to plan a virtual election night event. 

College Democrats, and all other political organizations on campus, cannot directly engage in phone banking or canvassing because of Middlebury’s 501(c)(3) status.

College Republicans has focused on local races and the gubernatorial election in recent weeks. Werner believes that the best way to impact local elections is through face-to-face interactions found in door-to-door canvassing, both largely impossible under Covid-19 restrictions.

The biggest stressor for SNEG members has been the uncertainty of the election results, according to Gudur. After witnessing Trump preemptively “undermine the election results with his accusations of voter fraud,” SNEG — along with other activist organizations — has begun preparing to mobilize post-election.

However, College Republicans has confidence that the election will proceed — and conclude — smoothly. The organization feels optimistic that there will be “negligible irregularities in the process,” according to Werner. 

Vanrajah says College Democrats is planning to co-host an event with Feminist Action at Middlebury (FAM) about reproductive justice and the Supreme Court. They are also working with the SAO to prepare to support students after Nov. 3 in a way the school was not prepared to do in 2016, according Vanrajah. 

Although the three organizations come at the issues from different political perspectives and align with different candidates, they are all looking to the future.

“What we want most of all is not to let election day change who we are as people. No matter who wins, the United States will still wake up the morning after election day,” Werner said. 

“We are focusing our attention on actionable steps we can take to provide students with a space to reflect on the election and continue engagement once the election excitement dies down,” Vanrajah said.