The 2016 presidential elections are quickly approaching, and the campaigning is in full force. You don’t have to look far to find a Hillary Clinton lawn poster or surf many channels to hear pundits sound off on other potential candidates. For Seattle University students, this means gearing up for voting season, and one group of students has already begun to do so by utilizing social media.
Seattle U graduate student, Gus Voss, took it upon himself to spread the word about Bernie Sanders’ recent announcement to run for president by starting a Facebook page: Seattle for Sanders 2016. Voss is a first-year public administration masters student who joined the Seattle U community after studying political science as an undergrad at Boise State University. Voss is a self-proclaimed “socialist with a lowercase ‘s’” who stands by Sanders’ platforms.
Bernie Sanders is a long-term member of the U.S. Senate who identifies himself as a Democratic Socialist. His platforms include creating new economic models to fight the wage gap and ensuring health care for all.
“It’s more than just a [Facebook] page,” Voss said.
The group, which is now also headed by senior sociology major Olivia Engle and second-year economics and political science major Joe Jacobson, aims to create grassroots mobilization around the Bernie Sanders campaign, as well as to foster greater name recognition for Bernie Sanders in the Seattle area. The page itself is careful to clarify that the group is for everyone: whether you are for, against, on the fence or altogether uninformed about Sanders, anyone is welcome to join.
The team behind the Facebook page believes many of Sanders’ platforms align with movements at Seattle U—specifically when it comes to transparency in funding. Sanders is known for his criticism of big-money in government, and plans to fund his campaign differently than other candidates. Since his announcement, the Sanders campaign has raised over $3 million—a great deal of which was raised through online and grassroots fundraising.
As Voss puts it, “Money in politics affects every one of the major issues that I’ve seen as important to Seattle University students.”
Voss believes that the social justice and transparency aspects of Sanders’ platforms have potential to resonate with Seattle U students.
“That’s the key that will unlock the ability to discussing equality and environmental justice—both of those things, I think, are hugely important to the folks at Seattle University,” Voss said.
Jacobson also spoke to this point and mentioned how Sanders’ is outspoken when it comes to discussing issues that people care about.
“He’s one of the most honest people out there and I would give all my time and all my hours in support of him,” he said.
Jacobson attends school at the University of California, Los Angeles and became acquainted with Engle last summer while interning for Jason Ritchie’s campaign. After hearing of Sanders’ presidential bid, he found the facebook group and wanted to get more involved.
Engle agrees that Sanders’ main areas of focus are in line with the ideals of Seattle U students.
“[Sanders] makes an attractive candidate because he believes in transformative change, which is something I think many of us who are passionate about social justice believe in,” Engle said.
Another goal of the Seattle for Sanders 2016 group is to raise voter registration in the coming months. By increasing voter registration, the team hopes to mobilize the transformative change that Engle is referring to. The importance of casting a vote is a huge issue to the team, and they hope to enlist as much help as possible in doing so.
Engle further emphasized her support for Sanders as well as the importance of voting.
“Imagine a president who is willing to admit that the ‘pick yourself up by your bootstraps’ ideology has failed so many people,” Engle said. “Imagine a president who hasn’t been bought off by any corporation. Imagine someone who actually gives a damn about the people outside the five block radius of Capitol Hill. That’s the kind of president we should all fight to have.”
In the coming months, Voss, Engle and Jacobson plan to stem far beyond the confines of their Facebook group by creating an independent Political Action Committee, or PAC, in order to help raise transparent funding and create transparent advertising for the Sanders campaign.
To be included in the discussion and to find out about upcoming events, search for the Seattle for Sanders 2016 group on Facebook.