As Massachusetts heads into the final month of a hotly contested election battle, members of the Harvard-Radcliffe Democrats say that they are planning to sit out the gubernatorial campaign because no one in the group is willing to work for party nominee John R. Silber.
Club officials said this week that the blunt-spoken Silber--who drew flak during the primary for controversial remarks about minorities, immigrants and the elderly, among others--has alienated so many campus Democrats that the group cannot endorse him.
"We have the choice for the first time of supporting a Republican or supporting a real jerk," said James M. Harmon '93, president of the club.
"No one in our club is working for Silber--not a single one," said Harmon, citing Silber's dictatorial personality and ethnic slurs as the primary reasons for his lack of campus support.
But members said that while Republican nominee William F. Weld '66 has some support among the Democrats, his party affiliation makes it impossible for the club to endorse him.
The basic principle is that "if you're a party organization, you can't endorse the candidate from the other party," said Neil A. Cooper '91, executive director of the College Democrats of America.
Cooper said that although Weld is seen as a moderate, his support for the Citizens for Limited Taxation (CLT) petition to roll back taxes to their 1988 levels has kept many Democrats from supporting him.
In addition to Silber's penchant for derogatory remarks, his reputation during his tenure as Boston University president is worrying many students, Cooper said.
"No student is going to vote for anybody whotreats students like babies," said Cooper. Silberis dictatorial, tyrannical and "almost like amegalomaniac," he said.
Confronted with the choice of two unappealingcandidates, the club has decided--at least fornow--to avoid the question altogether and focus onother projects.
The group's primary emphasis is on opposing theCLT petition and supporting Democratic SenatorJohn F. Kerry's re-election bid, said Nina Nowak'93, director of the club's anti-CLT campaign.
The club distributed anti-CLT leaflets at theOktoberfest Sunday and has been sending members towork at the Kerry headquarters in Boston, saidNowak.
But it is the gubernatorial race that continuesto dominate the dinner table discussions of campusDemocrats. And members say that widespreadperception of Silber as a loose cannon and Weld asa moderate has begun to chip away at personalparty loyalties.
"There's a lot of debate in the club as towho's the better candidate, Weld or Silber," saidStephen W. Howe '93, the club's politicaldirector. "I think it might be surprising how manypeople favored Weld."
"I think there's a heavy sentiment leaningtoward Weld," said Cooper. "I've only talked toone person at Harvard who's voting for Silber, andthat person was a Republican."
According to Cooper, the situation is the sameon campuses across the state. Most collegeDemocrats clubs are taking a passive stance. "It'sbasically the same all over Massachusetts. TheCollege Democrats of Massachusetts are not reallygoing one way or the other," he said.
And Howe said that club support for aRepublican would be an unwise political move.
If Silber won after the club had endorsed Weld,"it would be very bad," Howe said, explaining thata vengeful Silber would be unlikely to help clubmembers further their political careers.
"There's no point in making powerful enemies,"Howe said