UCSB Votes: With Campaign Season in Full Swing, Many Gauchos are Feeling the Bern


Madeleine Lee
Staff Writer

With the presidential primaries fast approaching, many University of California, Santa Barbara students are changing the campus political tone from apathy to activism as the campus Arbor fills with students pledging their support for this year’s hippest (and oldest) presidential candidate: Bernie Sanders.

With his blunt, pragmatic rhetoric, Yoda-like charm and fervent promises of free college tuition, Bernie Sanders is the year’s hottest political celebrity among college students and fellow youth voters. Whether his idealist policies stand as an object of love or hate, supporters on both sides of the party lines agree that Sander’s presence has sparked a newfound political urgency in youth even stronger than that witnessed in Obama’s 2008 campaign, according to The Washington Post.

“I believe in Bernie because I believe he gives the fairest shot to the widest amount of people,” Rebecca Ellster, a third year literature and dance double major and member of the official UCSB for Bernie group, said. “He’s authentic in ways that Hillary, and candidates on the Republican side, just aren’t.”

The UCSB for Bernie group, one of hundreds of college student-headed Bernie Sanders campaign groups across the nation, rides on the coattails of this newfound political urgency and was started on a whim this past September after Eric Villalobos, a third year religious studies major, acted on a casual suggestion by friends.

Now, with over 500 supporters on Facebook, the group has evolved into a serious catalyst in the nationwide campaign, hosting fundraising events, debate watching parties, and arming the masses with a continuous arsenal of Sanders posters, pins and stickers.

“So far, the support has been really great, and it’s only getting better,” Villalobos said, as he cheerily engaged in Bernie themed banter with visiting extremist preachers, answering their screams of “Repent, and turn to the Gospel,” with a chorus of “Repent, and Vote for Bernie.”

The newest line of events hosted by UCSB for Bernie comes in the form of phone banking, as UCSB for Bernie supporters gathered in the classroom of San Rafael Hall this past Saturday to cold call voters in the hopes of collecting data and changing minds.

With smartphones, a volunteer created automatic calling system and a good sense of humor, UCSB volunteers called over 165 individuals, second only to the 650 calls made by the Bernie Sanders campaign team at UC Berkeley.

“Phone banking is definitely the easiest and most impactful way for college students to reach out to voters,” Victor Garcia, a third year political science major, said after making his forty-eighth call of the day.

Marisa Jones, a second year psychology major, was the lead caller for the UCSB team by the day’s end, and even had to decline an invitation for a lunch date.

“Our goal in the end is to inspire people to vote,” Villalobos said in an interview conducted last October regarding the level of political efficacy on campus and nationwide. “We need to be a part of the movement of getting people the right information, and making sure that they’re exposed to that information, whether they seek it out or not.”

Encouraging college students to vote is a mission adopted by many non-campaign affiliated organizations on campus as well, including UCSB College Republicans and Campus Democrats, who were unavailable for comment but remain important resources for interested students to learn about policy issues.

The Residence Hall Association also hopes to inspire its 5,000+ residents by holding informational mock elections and primary result parties, according to third year psychology major and RHA president Matilda Mead.

The first primary, scheduled to be held in Iowa on Feb. 1, is the first of a caucus marathon that extends until mid June, with California’s primary scheduled to be held on June 7, according to The New York Times.

In the year of the groundbreaking Million Student March held this past November that attracted nearly 1,500 supporters campus wide and millions more nation-wide, it’s clear that students have finally had enough. The overwhelming support for Bernie Sanders proves, at the very least, that college students once again have a stake in the political landscape.