Article by Leilani Doneux
For Democrats all over the United States, the months since the 2016 presidential election have been an imperfect storm: branding, party goals and message, and “where to go from here” loom large in the minds and ideologies of candidates and party members alike.
It was nothing short of symbolic, then, that as the runoff from Hurricane Irma came to Roanoke College, so did Democratic candidates for Virginia’s House of Delegates, ready to weather the storm by working together. Hosted by the Roanoke College Democrats, and with support from both Roanoke’s Democratic Party and the Roanoke Young Democrats, the candidates got together for a roundtable discussion on the importance of youth in politics, and how to make politics on college campuses an impetus of academic life.
From scientists (Virginia’s 8th District candidate Steve McBride) to social workers (the 17th District candidate Djuna Osborne), the group aims to bring a diversified population of politicians to Richmond, representing the Roanoke Valley as the centerpiece of Southwestern Virginia’s potential for progress. For the Roanoke College Democrats, who look to emerge as an effective organization in pursuit of that progress, the insight from the candidates proved invaluable for the election season ahead. For these candidates, it is all about bringing back a sense of genuineness to politics that has long been lost to the Democrats.
“Having a genuine conversation about what issues [students and voters] care about is what is going to turn Virginia from a baby blue to a dark navy”, said Roanoke College alumna Sumi Yi, a former intern for the 11th District’s Sam Rasoul.
All of the delegates and staff members in attendance had advice for students about the role they can play in the turning of the tide.
“If they knew that that phone call could really flip somebody’s life […] they’re not going to stop at phone banking and canvassing,” Yi said.
9th District candidate Stephanie Cook also emphasized the importance that youth can play in the party, noting that when the demographic most likely to vote, age 65+, begins to shrink, the party will be left in the hands of the younger generation, which includes students at Roanoke College. “We are going to have to be bold, we’re going to have to put ourselves in that door,” Cook said. For Democrats on both the Roanoke College
“We are going to have to be bold, we’re going to have to put ourselves in that door,” Cook said. For Democrats on both the Roanoke College
For Democrats on both the Roanoke College campus and the candidates for the Virginia House of Delegates, this November election is important. It is a chance to make waves in a Red Sea, and show off the best of what Roanoke’s Democratic legislature can do.
As Rasoul emphasized, “It’s time to remake the American Left.” That ideological renaissance begins with the young people of Roanoke College and beyond. Some might call it an uphill battle; others, a perfect storm.