Tufts for Warren mobilizes for 2020 presidential campaign

Amanda Westlake, a first-year, co-president of Tufts for Warren, poses for a portrait on Oct. 18. Ann Marie Burke / The Tufts Daily

Disclaimer: Hannah Kahn is the executive audio producer at the Tufts Daily. Hannah was not involved in the writing or editing of this article.

The start of the semester always brings with it many new beginnings, and this semester is no different. For many students on the Tufts campus, this semester is the beginning of an exciting once-in-college opportunity: the chance to influence the upcoming presidential election.

A group of Tufts students, led by co-presidents senior Hannah Kahn and first-year Amanda Westlake, have jumped at this chance to show their support for Democratic primary candidate Elizabeth Warren for president through a new campus group called Tufts for Warren.

Tufts for Warren is … trying to reach a lot of the students and inform them of Elizabeth Warren’s policies and why we support her and trying to hold events on the Tufts campus that will help her campaign and get turnout within the Tufts community,” sophomore Ella Missan, Tufts for Warren’s recruitment leader, said.

According to sophomore Jennifer Best, the group’s communications leader, Tufts for Warren’s founding was facilitated by the Warren campaign itself after they invited student leaders to apply over the summer.

“They [the campaign] chose usually one or two leaders, then [those leaders] created the group. So we have Amanda and Hannah who were chosen by the campaign, and Amanda and Hannah were given lots of information [and] resources,” Best said. From there, campaign-selected leaders began to set up the organization following the guidelines of the national campaign. 

“The way that the Warren campaign wanted the executive board to be set up was to have an outreach leader, an events leader and a communications leader,” Best said. “Hannah and Amanda went through [the applications] and chose people [for executive board] … and then we have a bunch of people underneath in a bunch of forms of leadership positions.”

According to Best, approximately 30 students applied for positions on the executive board.

Following a paid internship with the Warren campaign in New Hampshire over the summer, Westlake said she decided to apply for a leadership role within the Tufts group.

“I wanted to continue working with the campaign and organizing for [Warren] at Tufts,” Westlake said. “I think that college campuses are really great places to organize because there are so many students who want to get involved, and one of the best ways that we can mobilize people is in a group and creating a community. I could’ve just gone and volunteered at the office, but with this you really get the chance to build a group.”

Tufts for Warren has not yet become an official club recognized through Tufts Community Union, so the group is working closely with Tufts Democrats to achieve its goals. 

Sophomore Nicolas Salem, the vice president of Tufts Democrats, discussed how Tufts Democrats looks to work with Democratic candidate groups, like Tufts for Warren, to promote political discussion.

“We’re always making sure to coordinate and making sure they have everything they need, just as it is with every other [Democratic] candidate’s group,” Salem said. “Because the club was started this year, they’re not officially an independent club, so they can’t book rooms and they can’t get funding, so we help them whenever they have a meeting or [an event].” 

In the future, Tufts for Warren might move under the Tufts Democrats umbrella, according to Missan, a move that Salem said Tufts Democrats would welcome.

Even though the club is not yet officially recognized, the executive board has begun meeting and planning for the upcoming semester. They have already held a few events this semester and are looking forward to the year ahead.

“The first event that was open to the whole Tufts community was the New Hampshire Democratic Party Convention … We all went early, and we held signs for Warren and we all got to meet her, which was very exciting,” Missan said.

Since then, Tufts for Warren has hosted a canvassing event in New Hampshire, where members went door-to-door asking about voters’ preferences and discussing Warren with them. They hosted a debate watch party for the most recent Democratic debate, and they’re planning on running more canvassing and watch party events, along with tabling and socials, according to Best.

Despite Tufts for Warren’s connection with the national campaign, the group does not limit itself to the policies set by the national office.

“We’re looking to add another position for diversity and inclusion on our executive board,” Best said. “That was not something that the Warren campaign had said but something that we think that we want because we think it’s important that it’s a diverse and inclusive campaign.”

Missan expressed similar thoughts regarding diversity and inclusion within Warren’s campaign. 

“My biggest reservation about Warren right now … [is that] a big amount of her following and her support are white, educated Americans … because that’s not the voice of the American people, so I think that something that Tufts for Warren is really focused on doing is trying to have a more diverse following and executive board,” she said.

In taking this initiative, Tufts for Warren hopes to embody the same sentiment that first brought many of the members of the executive board to Warren.

“Her history in bankruptcy law and in establishing the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau shows she’s always been advocating for middle, working-class Americans, and she understands we need to change the systems of power so they work for everyone instead of just the rich,” Westlake said. “She also has a really great focus on corruption in government and making sure the government works for everyone.”

Other members of the group support Warren because they are impressed by her knowledge, strength, passion and bravery.

“I think that she is by far the most knowledgeable candidate, who has shown herself to be the most willing to just go and take initiative and say what other people might not be willing to say … and calling people out and not being afraid to stand up and really just fight for people more than for corporations,” Gabby Borenstein, a sophomore on the recruitment team, said.

Best shared similar reasons for supporting Warren, noting that she sees the candidate as authentic. 

“It’s clear that she cares about the people of America, and she’s not running for president because she wants to be president, but because she cares,” Best said. “I think that passion shows through, and I think that passion of hers incites a passion in the American people, and I think that is the most important thing that’s necessary to get someone elected.”

Even if Warren doesn’t win the primary, though, the leaders of Tufts for Warren made it clear that they plan to support whoever the Democratic nominee will be.

“A big part of Tufts for Warren is we’re not trying to create any divisions … Whoever is going to be the Democratic candidate, we will support one hundred percent,” Missan said.

On the same note, Tufts for Warren welcomes anyone interested in engaging politically, including those who have not yet chosen a candidate they support. According to Missan, their priorities are education and engagement.

“We just want to promote people getting involved in politics,” Missan said.