Yesterday, members of the Yale College Democrats and Yale College Republicans donned T-shirts, buttons and, in some cases, war paint, as they prepared for the culmination of more than a year and a half of work. It was Election Day.
More than 18 hours later, the Dems raucously celebrated President Barack Obama’s victory over Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. It was a “truly joyous occasion,” said Brinton Williams ’16, who added that the Dems members around him were yelling and hugging one another. Gathered in the AEPi house on Crown Street, the young liberals cheered as states turned from undecided grey to Democratic blue, filling in their own hand-drawn version of the United States electoral map with red and blue Sharpies. Gathered in the Silliflicks theater on the other side of campus, members of the Yale College Republicans said they were supportive of Obama as American citizens, but that they were not optimistic about his second term. The atmosphere among YCR members throughout the night was initially “tense, but hopeful,” according to Austin Schaefer ’15, vice chairman of the Yale College Republicans, but members grew increasingly anxious as more results were announced, booing television reports on Fox News, their outlet of choice, as more states fell to the Democratic incumbent.
Members of both organizations spent the morning and afternoon of Election Day urging registered voters to go to the polls and canvassing neighborhoods throughout Connecticut, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, said the two organizations’ presidents. Each added that the campus groups were very concerned with the Connecticut Senate race, which had the potential to swing in favor of either Democrat Chris Murphy or Republican Linda McMahon.
“Most of the [Dems] volunteers are working on Connecticut and the Murphy campaign,” said Zak Newman ’13, the president of the Dems.
Schaefer said being able to support a Republican candidate in a traditionally blue state enabled his group to “be actively involved and make a difference.”
Yale College Republicans chairwoman Elizabeth Henry ’14 said Election Day found her more excited than ever to be a young Republican.
Both groups took steps to transmit that enthusiasm to Yale’s student body. Beginning at 5:30 a.m. Tuesday morning, Newman said, the Dems divided their resources and volunteers among the 12 residential colleges to ensure high student turnout. Volunteers spent the first hour of Election Day posting cards on student doors encouraging all registered Connecticut voters to “Vote Obama, Vote Murphy, Vote Today.”
Two and a half hours later, a group of Dems went to cast their ballots. Ben Healy ’16, a Dems member, said he and other volunteers spent the rest of the day reminding students to vote by going door-to-door throughout the Yale campus and calling registered students on the phone to offer them rides to the polls.
“The best part of today [was that] the response I heard most frequently was ‘I already voted,’ ” Newman said.
The Dems were not alone in their efforts. MeCHA de Yale worked throughout the course of the campaign to combat voter suppression among Hispanic voters in Fair Haven, Conn., said group leader Diana Enriquez ’13. She added that groups like hers enabled students who did not necessarily have a direct interest in working with either of the major parties on campus to still get involved in the political process by helping to educate voters in the Latino community.
Meanwhile, activist organization Students Unite Now also joined with the Dems in efforts to get out the vote, Williams said.
By midnight on Tuesday night, the Dems were in high spirits, while the Republicans looked pessimistically on the next four years.
“I think it’s a really regrettable thing that Obama has won a second term,” said Alex Crutchfield ’15, a Republican student. “Over the past four years, he has not made policies that are good for America.”
Rafi Bildner ’16, who spent the past year working in the finance department of the Obama campaign, disagreed. He said he flew to Chicago Monday night to help out at Obama HQ on Election Day.
Bildner said he sees students as having an even larger impact on this election than they did in 2008. Newman said he agreed, adding that the large turnout among Yale students — which was higher than in 2008 — indicates the success of on-campus organizations like the Yale College Republicans and the Dems.
“At the end of the day,” he added, “I think we know we did our job well.”
Obama received 60.4 percent of the vote in New Haven county as of press time.