By mid-January, with a presidential election
less than 12 months away and the New Hampshire primary only
days away, some Smith College students were already participating in
lively political contest.
During the January break, leading
up to the January 27 primary, a few dozen students, all members
of the Smith College Democrats, worked as volunteer interns
in the Granite State campaign offices of Democratic presidential candidates
Wesley Clark, Howard Dean, John Kerry, Joe Lieberman and Al Sharpton.
While they do not share political
viewpoints, Smith Democrats President Lauren Wolfe '05
(left) and Smith Republican Club President Katie
Horton '04 have a common interest in getting
students involved in the political process. Photo
by Gregory Cherin.
students is Sarah Zeiser '06, a medieval studies major, who last
fall organized students on campus to support General Wesley Clark under the Smith
Democrats umbrella. As a former Dean supporter, she thinks that Clark, with his
military background, has the best chance of beating Bush. "I would love
to see a Clark-Dean or Dean-Clark ticket," she says. "Two halves
of a wonderful whole."
Throughout the fall, as the merits and flaws
of the candidates were debated in
various forums -- including the Daily Jolt with postings like "Wesley
Clark is hot in a dorky way, even if he is a war monger" and "Howard
Dean rules" -- the Smith Democrats and supporters were busy. The club
brought prominent speakers to campus, volunteered to canvas neighborhoods, local
and otherwise, for their favorite candidates, organized a trip to Boston for
the Rock the Vote debate and threw parties on campus to build "team spirit," according
to Lauren Wolfe '05, president of the club.
The 850-member Smith Democrats
group is strong this year, making a comeback as
a Student Government Association-chartered organization after a few years
of dormancy. "Our intent," says Wolfe, a government major, "is
to raise awareness and have a good time and to make politics a central part
of students' lives. You can participate in the political process in any
way you choose."
Meanwhile, the Smith College Republican
Club, with about 20 active members and a larger mailing list, is rebuilding
its organization and
gearing up to campaign
this spring for incumbent President George W. Bush. The club has initiated
some image-building efforts on campus, according to Katie Horton '04, club president.
"The campus is very polarized," notes Horton, a psychology major. "Some
people feel the campus environment is overwhelmingly liberal and there's
no room for a conservative political viewpoint."
Being a Republican does
not go hand in hand with being a conservative extremist,
she says. "We want the campus community to know that conservatives are
not crazy, and we don't eat babies," she jokes.
More seriously, she
adds, "It is possible to mix parties and ideals, to
have socially liberal points of view but identify as a political conservative.
There are more variations on themes of being Republican than people believe."
welcomes civil discourse when every opinion is respected, no matter where
it falls on the political spectrum.
Political allegiances aside, Smith Democrats
President Wolfe and Smith Republicans President Horton have become friends
through their activism, and they often share
resources and pool efforts. A member of the Smith Democrats has offered assistance
in the redesign of the Republicans' Web site, for instance, and together
the two club presidents organized a voter registration drive on campus in November.
"There are a lot of common issues between us," notes Horton. "Getting
people to register to vote is a big thing."
Overall, what is clear is that
Smith students are getting involved and learning ways in which they can make
a difference in the political landscape. As Sally
Katzen '64, a Washington Scholar in Residence at Smith and veteran political
appointee with the Clinton Administration, said during a Smith Democrats–sponsored
lecture in November, "[Politics] is something worth being passionate about."