Democrat Blues: Students Sound Off On Why Liberals Lost

Gubernatorial candidate Terry Goddard speaks to the Arizona Democratic Party post-election crowd. Photo by Scarlett Heydt.

Throngs of people snake up to the third floor of the Wyndham Phoenix Hotel, many with small stickers on their blouses and jackets declaring they voted earlier in the day.

It’s Nov. 2, election night, and nearly everyone looks excited. Outside, the street is partially blocked to accommodate the media vehicles that brought hordes of journalists to cover the Arizona Democratic Party’s reaction to the midterm election results.

Inside, party attendees — from neutral reporters to fervent supporters  — find themselves amongst the candidates, from Sherry Williams, running for clerk of the court, to Terry Goddard, running for governor.

As the night continues, excited chatter leaks out of the room and is replaced by frustrated sighs as the results rolling in show Democrats falling short.

Arizona State University’s Young Democrats felt the punch. The group campaigned heavily for two-term incumbent Harry Mitchell, who ran for Arizona’s 5th Congressional District seat and lost.

President Erica Pederson says she’s proud of the work the club did during the campaign. The political science and philosophy senior says the group phone banked, canvassed and tabled on campus to educate students about Democratic candidates. The work the club did, she says, played an important role in David Schapira’s win of a State Senate seat in District 17.

Pederson says she thinks a big factor behind Democrat losses, though, is the state of the economy.

“I think voters needed someone to blame and who better than who is in power?” she says. “Democrats had the House, the Senate and the presidency and [voters] think the changes should have been bigger.”

Pederson also says Democrats have always had major issues with getting their message out and communicating with the press. (College Democrats of America Communications Director Michael Worley did not respond to repeated inquiries for comment.)

In this election in particular, Pederson says Democratic congressional candidates ran on their accomplishments, which Republicans challenged.

“[Democrats] seemed worried about how Republicans had labeled it, like healthcare,” she says. “They called it ‘Obama-care.’”

Similarly in Arizona, propositions Democrats tried to halt were passed by voters.

Philosophy junior Joshua Judd campaigned against Propostition 107, which passed Tuesday. The proposition, drafted by Rep. Steve Montenergo, R-Litchfield Park, allows the state to stop enforcing affirmative action policies in public employment, public education and public contracting. Judd and others encouraged people to vote Prop 107 down, relying on students in the public education system to lend support.

But Judd says one reason Prop 107 passed is because supporters used “deceit” to promote the proposition as a vote for civil rights. Still, he says, a national conservative shift in the political climate generated the bulk of the proposition’s support.

“I think the climate shifts in cycles and we’re just at a different point in that cycle,” he says. “But if as students we want stability, or to fight for real issues like Prop 107, we have to look for policies and politicians who aren’t just claiming to represent us at the current time.”

Judd says he tries to focus on issues that affect him and other students — not partisan issues. But there’s a certain amount of apathy from students about issues that affect them.

“I think more leadership can be shown all around, at local and state levels and even at the national level,” Judd says. “We need to increase leadership across the board when it comes to education legislation and that includes university presidents.”

Judd says he was unaware of any statements ASU President Michael Crow made in favor or against Proposition 107 prior to Tuesday’s election.

On Wednesday, Crow told a group of students on the ASU Downtown campus that the proposition would not affect the University’s merit-based admissions.

“If you meet our admission standards, you are admitted,” he says.

Contact the reporter at sheydt@asu.edu

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