Former Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean and United States Rep. John Dingell (D–Mich.) headlined a College Democrats rally last night aimed at getting students involved in the midterm elections.
Special guests at the event called, “Moving Michigan Forward,” included U.S. Rep. Mark Schauer (D–Mich.) and U.S. Rep. Gary Peters (D–Mich.). The speakers discussed a variety of topics, but focused primarily on the importance of winning Democratic seats in Congress to continue supporting President Barack Obama’s policy decisions.
Each speaker was received with cheers from the crowd of students and other University community members, who filled most of Rackham Auditorium.
Dean, a past Democratic National Committee chairman and former Vermont governor, said Obama stands for the values that many college students believe in — equal rights and opportunities — and added that if Republicans assume majority control in Congress, America will be “starkly different” and regress to days of intolerance.
“I remember what it was like to see the dogs loosed on people, who simply were crossing over into a different colored neighborhood to vote,” Dean said. “I remember what it was like to see the police turning fire hoses on peaceful demonstrators. We are not going back.”
Dean said if Democrats truly want change, they must work not only toward getting their candidates elected but also to inspire Democratic sentiment throughout the nation and to work tirelessly to make their desires heard.
“So many Americans think all we have to do is vote and get our guy in, or our women in, and then they’re going to do the work and we’re going to go back to whatever we were doing before,” Dean said. “It doesn’t work like that. If you want your country to work, you have to work every single day.”
Although voters will not be electing the next U.S. president, Dean said the upcoming elections are just as pivotal, because President Obama will need in November’s elections Congressional support to continue to accomplish policy initiatives.
“Barack Obama is not on the ballot this time, but he is in many ways,” Dean said. “He can’t get anything done, unless you send these guys back to Congress.”
Dingell echoed Dean’s sentiment, encouraging audience members to prevent Republicans from overturning Obama’s work in office thus far.
“The Republicans have talked about change, and about taking the country back,” Dingell said, “and I’m going to ask, back to what? Back to Bush? Back to Hoover? Back to 1900? Back to Louis the 13th?
“We’re talking about change and hope and making America better for our people,” Dingell added. “This country is going to move forward whether the Republicans like it or not. And we’re going to drag them kicking and screaming into the 21st century.”
Schauer also spoke about continuing to establish Democratic ideals in order to help families, through strengthening programs like Medicare and Social Security. He said he believes the Democratic Party tends to focus on the issues of the many, while the Republicans are more focused on the issues of certain individuals.
“It’s a question of our values, what kind of people we are,” Schauer said. “And the Republican Party believes it’s every person for themselves. And we know we are stronger when we are together.”
Peters emphasized the importance of job creation in a struggling economy as well as protecting Michigan’s resources like the Great Lakes.
“There isn’t anything more important than jobs,” Peters said. “We’ve had positive job growth, but we’ve got to be focused on more. We need to be focused on what it’s going to take to keep this economy going. “
Brendan Campbell, President of College Democrats, helped organize the event as an opportunity for students to hear more from Democratic legislators in the area and become inspired to vote and help the Democratic Party in the upcoming elections.
“We wanted to make sure students were excited and energized by this election,” Campbell said. “We wanted to get people motivated to volunteer, motivated to come out and vote, motivated to help us elect our candidates in the fall.”
LSA sophomore Andie Shafer said she found the event to be an important means to get young students excited about the election.
“I thought it was really rousing,” Shafer said. “There was a lot of energy in the room. I thought it got people really excited, because I feel a lot of our generation has kind of dulled down after the Obama years. And I think this was a quick burst of energy that everyone needed.”
LSA junior Ronald Cade said he felt the event was important, because it inspired students to vote in an election that he said would be crucial in allowing Obama to continue to have an impact on the nation.
“I think the governor’s election is going to be very important, and the term election for Congress is pretty critical because I don’t think President Obama has gotten enough done that he would’ve liked to have gotten done,” Cade said. “I think another two years with a Democratic Congress will really help him finish these type of things.”