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2007 October

What Are You Doing This Weekend?

On October 28, 2007, in Uncategorized, by administrator

This weekend, five vans of over sixty Columbia University and Barnard College student activists will hurtle into Lexington, Kentucky as the Columbia University College Democrats launch an army of liberal campaigners into the final days of Kentucky’s gubernatorial race. This race is of tremendous importance, not just to Kentucky, but to our whole nation, as this Southern state becomes a potential battleground in the 2008 presidential race. The campaign trip has become an annual institution of the CU College Democrats Activist Council, bringing New York students to participate in major races across the country and boosting crucial campaigns in their final days. Previous campaign trips by the College Democrats to Virginia and Ohio were remarkably successful, leading to higher-than-predicted margins of victory in canvassed precincts. Columbia and Barnard students have proved themselves invaluable campaigners who come equipped with political smarts, enthusiasm, and an ability to survive on pure political adrenaline. Campaigns now seek out and generously accommodate the Columbia contingent in the hopes of drawing us onto their team and benefiting from our numbers and our energy.

The reason for this campaign trip, however, is both larger and more long-term than simply electing more Democrats. This campaign trip is about giving students the opportunity to participate more powerfully in their democracy and to have a genuine impact on national races. Election Day Weekend was created for a reason. Students must seize the initiative to leave campus and claim ownership of their government and their country. The campaign trip facilitates a type of student activism that is not possible in deep blue New York City, by targeting decisive districts in crucial races and training students to participate effectively in tough campaigns. Campaigners each meet with dozens of ideologically diverse voters throughout the trip, participating constantly in the political debate that makes democracy function. This Democratic campaign trip is a unique institution at Columbia that uses Election Break for its original and greatest purpose – empowering student voices in American politics, not just in an academic environment, but on the ground amongst voters of all persuasions and in a climate of direct political action and change.

We are thrilled that dozens of students have chosen to spend Election Day Weekend bringing change to Kentucky, and we hope that the University administration will soon show equal enthusiasm for this type of opportunity. In the spirit of fulfilling the promise of Election Day Weekend, Columbia University should actively support student political participation by funding or otherwise supporting activities that take advantage of the long weekend. We are lucky to attend a university that fosters debate and welcomes controversy. But no amount of on-campus discussion can give students the same stake in the democratic process as working door-to-door to win a critical, national-level race. We challenge the University to commit to consistently facilitating, rather than just regulating, these efforts, so that campus organizations are less limited by funds and logistics when they want to bring students further into the democratic process.

As students prepare, in record numbers, to immerse themselves in American politics, we are inspired by the surge of activism and expect it to build in the lead up to the 2008 presidential election. We hope that Columbia University will offer the help that students deserve to fully engage with the electoral process. Facilitating political activity is not only about winning elections, but about helping students to be activists whose voices are heard loud and clear in the national dialogue of their democracy.


On October 24, 2007, in Uncategorized, by administrator

CU College Democrats Announce Anti-Bigotry Panel

Panelists will speak about strategies for countering right-wing hate on campus and in the media

Now in the midst of “Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week,” Columbia University faces a coordinated barrage of right wing bigotry and misinformation. The College Democrats will fortify the campus against this assault with a panel discussion on media strategies for combating such hatred on campus this Friday, 26 October 2007, at 12:00 noon. The panel will convene in 555 Lerner and will feature Center for American Progress Deputy Research Director Amanda Terkel, Columbia University Professor of Comparative Literature Gil Anidjar, Frameshop blogger and political media expert Jeffrey Feldman, and Jewish Theological Seminary Professor Rabbi Burton Visotzky.

This Friday, former Communist and current right wing demagogue David Horowitz returns to his alma mater to spread his message of hate and to conflate the religious extremism of a few thousand terrorists with the organized right wing nationalism of mid-twentieth century Europe. This foolish man has no interest in legitimate debate because he knows that his theories lack intellectual merit; his academically indefensible hate speech can only needlessly divide a campus already shocked by other recent manifestations of racism and bigotry.

As is demonstrated by the materials distributed by Horowitz’s minions, such as The Oppression of Women in Islam and Islam: What the West Needs to Know, the target of this campaign is not terrorism but Islam itself. The College Democrats strongly condemn these efforts to demonize an entire people by linking the moderate and peaceful religion of Islam to the extreme and violent actions of a very small number of Muslims—the goal of the “David Horowitz Freedom Center.”

Friday’s panel will provide attendees with an arsenal of strategies for restoring a sane, productive debate about the issues facing America and the world today. After seven years of Bush administration mishandling of Middle Eastern affairs, it is more essential than ever that American students of all political leanings understand how to discuss problems without resorting to the race-baiting tactics employed by so many on the far right.



The Activist Council held an event this Wednesday to pressure the two members of the New York congressional delegation NOT voting to override Bush’s veto of SCHIP. We thought they should change their votes and support healthcare for American children. Congressmen Kuhl and Reynolds obviously hate poor children though, since they’re voting against giving them health insurance. But we made dozens of calls to their offices, and wrote letters with friendly notes like “please vote for SCHIP” and “good luck getting elected.” Here are some pics (credit to Kaley Hanenkrat)!

Our table at set-up time

Glory Banner

Columbia in Action


Three lines for children

On October 18, 2007, in Uncategorized, by administrator

In the British Parliament, party whips distribute letters before important votes instructing members to attend. The number of underlines traditionally conveys the consequences for party members that fail to show up and vote with party leadership. The most important votes–generally the ones on which the government has staked its reputation–are underlined three times, with an implied consequence of party expulsion for disobeying members. This is called a “three line whip”.

No such system formally exists in the United States Congress, where party controls have traditionally been much less important. Recent years have seen Republican Party leadership turn instead to dirty tricks and electioneering to effectively expel and intimidate unruly members, but the general idea is that we allow more personal voting freedom than most European systems. However, some votes are so crucial and so morally one-sided that party leaders should consider making consequences more clear.

While most Congressional activity leaves room for genuine ideological or practical disagreement, the imminent vote on an override of President Bush’s S-CHIP veto is one instance in which there is a clear moral divide. Those who put their hateful right wing ideologies ahead of children do so for the cynical reason that a successful government health care program makes their opposition to universal health care look nonsensical. These people are not real Democrats, and the handful of Democrats who voted against the original bill and have not yet agreed to vote for the override should be made aware of their stance outside the acceptable realm of party positions.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the rest of House leadership should announce that no person who opposes children’s health care belongs in the Democratic Party. They should not run for re-election with Democratic Party funds and infrastructure, and they should not speak as representatives of the Democratic Party before the public. Speaker Pelosi should employ an effective three line whip by making absolutely clear to these renegade members that continued support of the right wing fringe in this dispute will earn them expulsion from the Democratic caucus and a refusal of party endorsement in the 2008 election.

UPDATE: The override has failed (by thirteen votes) and Representatives Jim Marshall (DINO-GA) and Gene Taylor (DINO-MS) both voted against it. Remember those names.


The Great Immigration Debate: The Liveblog

On October 11, 2007, in Debate, by administrator

Welcome to the L&D’s first attempt at liveblogging one of our debates / smackdowns of the CU College Republicans. If you’re reading this now, it means you’re stuck in a 7-10 film class watching something artsy and in Flemish, so…we’ll try to be slightly more edifying than that. Tonight’s subject: immigration. We’ll try to keep stage-rushing to a minimum.

Dems debaters: Greer Feick and Linda Magana.

9:05 Roone is surprisingly full for a student event. And free food was just promised by someone. So if you’re reading this and not in the Flemish cinema class….come. Now.

9:12 Josh Lipsky is standing tentatively at the podium. Diana from CR is…no, wait, coming back, smiling awkwardly – this could very well be it. And only 12 minutes late.

9:15 OK, false alarm. Introductions now. The CR cheering section is (of course) small, but they sure are vocal. And suited up. Alastair from the CPU is announcing the format: opening statements, 35 minutes of CPU-created questions, and then questions from the audience. Apparently, Alastair can use his discretion to extend debate on a question – the committee on Presidential debates could learn a thing or two.

9:19 Opening statements. Linda comes out swinging, bringing this debate where it ought to be – the increasingly squeezed out middle class. Now Greer on terrorism – not a single 9/11 hijacker got into this country illegally. Sweet.

9:21 CR opening: didn’t know you could end a sentence with the word “um.” Seems they’re in favor of the kind of guest-worker program their own party killed this summer. And for paying unnaturalized aliens below minimum wage – because honestly, who needs to both eat and have shelter, right? Pshhh.

9:28 The Republicans have already begun conflating national security issues with immigration. The Dems responded by excoriating the Republicans for–get this–misrepresenting the Cato Institute. Greer just got a round of applause for declaring that walls don’t work in America.

9:30 Lauren of CR just came out against car insurance. The t-word elicits chuckles.

9:33 The CR board has just applauded their debaters for being non-white. After coaching them not to answer the question on sustaining the white majority. Greer’s rebuts with history, ‘cuz facts don’t lie.

9:35 Greer just took the Republicans to task for pretending not to see xenophobia in immigration issues while at the same time inviting speakers like Jim Gilchrist to campus.

9:36 The Dems are outlining the rights they would like to see for immigrants–minimum wage, health care, and driver’s licenses, yes; voting rights, no. We are pro-safety and pro-public health; let’s see how the Republicans conflate that.

9:37 Of course, the Republicans are going after the idea of issuing driver’s licenses to illegals or offering them minimum wage protections as clearly impossible–obviously they are unfamiliar with existing state laws. Illegal immigrants contribute economically to our country…they just don’t exist.

9:39 The CR’s Lauren wants to get foreign nationals to come to jobs that we can’t get Americans to do…but want to build a wall in Texas. Because that’s consistent.

9:41 The Republicans just argued that a guest worker program without a path to citizenship will increase the cultural exchange between our two nations (presumably, the United States and Mexico). This is accurate–the exchange of immigrants coming here to work in horrendous conditions for slave wages would continue to thrive.

9:42 The Dems are arguing against vigilante justice on the border. Presumably the Republicans will agree… They are also supportive of measures ensuring that the human rights of immigrants are not violated.

9:43 Republicans want to make it more difficult to cross the border–the same policy that has caused immigrant deaths to skyrocket, but has failed to actually stop immigration at all. Lovely. The Dems are responding that a large portion of illegal immigrants entered legally and have stayed illegally–the Republicans retort that their cute little guest worker program will solve that issue. Right.

9:45 Amnesty for certain groups of immigrants? What’s going on CR? Linda of the Dems is actually answering the question, bringing things back to human rights and poorly-trained police.

9:46 Dems come out against NAFTA, because American farm subsidies (boooooo) are killing Mexican agriculture. A very coherent, concise, and effect answer from first-year Linda. Props, freshie. CR’s response: the Mexican economy is “improving” (like the US stock market this summer?) and NAFTA is “working” (right)

9:49 The Dems are talking about the 80,000 unfilled unskilled labour jobs in California this year and saying that the issue of immigration is not entirely based around citizenship, but also around economics. A path to citizenship, they say, will only ensure that they actually have some rights when they arrive. The Republicans say that, unfortunately, they DO think that the path to citizenship will increase immigration. Wait, I thought they didn’t oppose immigration.

9:51 “Require that they learn English” Wow, it took the Republicans almost an hour to throw that one out! They are arguing that bilingual education prevents people from entering our culture–right, American culture is inextricably tied to failure to learn more than one language. Well, maybe the American education system. Greer has just cited Bush’s claim that the Senate bill to make English the official US language was the “goodest” thing he had heard in a long time.

9:54 Dems’ again demonstrate an understanding of the big picture – building a wall would hamper diplomatic relations with Mexico. Which, contrary to popular Republican beliefs, we need. Also, anyone think it’s funny that for all their talk of the importance of ‘border security’, CR hasn’t mentioned Canada once? Just sayin.

9:57 Republicans: Where is your money coming from? TAXES! Really, did they just say that? They also just said that the massively expensive border wall will pale in comparison to the cost of the Iraq War. Yes, true… Is this really a Republican argument? It’s telling that they have to run in the opposite direction from their own policies. Greer just pointed out the contradiction between Republican tax policy and immigration reform ideas.

9:59 Linda is arguing in support of the DREAM Act, which would ensure that immigrants are able to contribute to society as educated individuals (what the Republicans pretend that they want). The Republicans want the DREAM Act restricted to people who are already inside the borders (just like the Reagan amnesty program, right? These guys need to pick up a copy of the GOP’s talking points).

10:01 CR finally says it: immigrants who cross the border deserve death. And where do they break with Gilchrist, exactly? Now the Canada question is asked, and CR’s got a great response: no one’s crossing that border, and we don’t need to up security (like Bush’s burdensome new passport policy does, for instance). Greer points out the obvious: terrorists, like the Millenium bombers, cross from the Great White North. And not Mexico.

10:05 The Republicans propose “other measures” for “dealing with” employment of illegal immigrants, but they don’t list any. Maybe next question. The Republicans are arguing that we should make it so American citizens will WANT the jobs that illegal immigrants currently fill. By…raising the minimum wage, perhaps? I wonder how they’d feel about that. The Republicans are arguing something about paying more to workers, but Greer asked them up front if they want to pay higher wages and they said no. What? I’m really confused.

10:12 Greer brings back the middle class focus, for the 5th time this debate. And the Republicans wonder why they’re losing so much electoral ground…

10:14 Closing statement time! That debate sure went out with a…fizzle, we have to say. But Lauren’s repeating her talking points so let’s recap: Guest workers, a ‘path to citizenship’, fines on employers (whatever happened to laissez faire?) , keeping out the nonexistent terrorists, and letting more Mexicans die in the desert.

10:15 The Democrats respond, sensibly – help develop foreign countries to lower the incentive to immigrate illegally. More civil rights, more human rights, and of course, the middle class – now these are values.

-Stephen Cox and Jacob Taber