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POLITICAL FRENZY '92

Student Activists Hype Bush-Clinton Race Into

By Ira E. Stoll, Crimson Staff Writer

Student political leaders, like their counterparts in Little Rock and Washington, are very predictable when it comes to their predictions of support.

On both sides, Republicans and Democrats are hyping the fall presidential campaign on campus like promoters of a big-time boxing bout.

Listen to Gregory S. Chernak '93, head of Harvard/Radcliffe for Clinton: "I'm expecting big things," he says.

Now listen to Emil Michael '94, head of the Harvard Republican Club: "We have some good plans, some big plans."

Both camps say the student electorate is likely to be energized in what promises to be a close election.

And if history is any indication, they may be justified. Students, generally apathetic when it comes to politics, come alive every four years.

Linda D. Rottenberg '90, now in her third year at Yale Law School, ran Harvard Students for Dukakis/Bentsen in 1988. She says 1000 students from the University worked for the ill-fated campaign.

The scene on campus during the last election, Rottenberg says, was far from apathetic. Supporters of then-Massachusetts Governor Michael S. Dukakis organized in each house, displayedcampaign posters in their dorm windows, sold morethan 2000 T-shirts, and woke up early to holdDukakis signs in the Cambridge traffic.

"Young Republicans were pretty active, too,"Rottenberg says.

Student activism in 1992 is likely to bebolstered by increased attention by nationalcampaigns, a trend foreseen by College Democratsof America President James M. Harmon '93-94.Harmon says the Clinton/Gore campaign emphasizesregistering young voters and campus appearances.

Rottenberg says campus political strategies,like national ones, adjusts to the candidates inany particular election year. Dukakis struggledwith an image as a cold-blooded technocrat, so hisyouthful supporters sought to "pep people up" and"generate excitement."

There is no dearth of excitement in this year'selection, so student volunteers will be doing lesscheerleading and more footwork--registeringvoters, and canvassing neighborhoods to get theircandidate's message out.

Both parties hope to attract students tovolunteer in the campaign. Connecticut, with itseight electoral votes, is a swing state and willlikely draw Harvard students hoping to make adifference.

Massachusetts will almost certainly go to theDemocrats, but Michael says a the Republicans lookto achieve as strongest mandate as possible.

"It's still important to garner as many votesin Massachusetts as we can," Michael says.

The rhetoric is likely to escalate as November3 draws nearer and, although every presidentialelection is framed as historic, this year'scontest highlights issues of particular interestto many students.

For one, the 22-year age gap between Democratcontender Bill Clinton and President Bush isunprecedented. And though Clinton's relative youthwill not necessarily win him support, ithighlights a fundamental choice available tostudent voters.

The presence of Al Gore '69 on the ticket alsoplaces the environment at the forefront. Democratsboast of his unchallenged leadership on the issue.Michael, like Bush's top strategists,characterized the Democrats' environmental viewsas left-wing extremism.

"There's a limit to this environmental freakattitude that Gore supports," Michael said. Intough economic times, he said, humans takeprecedence over "the spotted owl and overgrowngarter snakes."

Another stark difference between the candidatesis their plans to deal with a dismal economy thatstudent leaders say has hit young Harvard alumnihard in recent years.

Clinton backers argue that the Arkansasgovernor is likely to be supported by about 80percent of undergraduates, mainly on the strengthof his economic message.

"This election is about three things: theeconomy, the economy and the economy," Harmonsays.

The Republicans' strategy has long been todeflect attention away from a dismal economy andtoward character issues.

"[Clinton] doesn't respect the institution ofmarriage nor the institution of the military,"Michael said, referring to the allegations ofdraftdodging and marital infidelity that havedogged Clinton since the primaries.

Both parties are honing an aggressivecampaign--which involves attack politics and issuediscussions alike. But the campaign season thatbrought us Ross Perot could hold additionalsurprises.

The discontent with the two-party system is anationwide phenomenon. A group known as Lead...orLeave is making it a generational issue.

The organization, founded by twentysomethings,asks candidates for national office to pledge tocut the budget deficit in half by 1996 or not seekre-election when their terms expire.

The problem, according to the group's founders,is "the generation in power has a credit card withour generation's name on it."

"It was discouraging watching both theconventions," says Allen P. Webb '91, a proctor inStoughton and Boston coordinator for thegrassroots organization.

The current presidential campaign, Webb says,has seen an abundance of "all the typical electionyear stuff," as seen by the refusal of thecandidates to propose cutting entitlements likeMedicare and social security.

The founders of Lead...or Leave--which isbacked by political foes Paul E. Tsongas andSenator Warren Rudman (R-NH)--will be in CambridgeThursday to speak at the Kennedy School ofGovernment.

Even with the surprises in this politicalseason, it is safe to expect that either Clintonor Bush will win a majority of electoral votes inNovember. And Harvard affiliates, which Michaelfreely admits has "tilted leftward" for years,will almost certainly support Gore, a Universityoverseer, and Clinton by a wide margin.

The real contest in this election is how muchsweat the political organizations will be able tosqueeze out of young volunteers--whether eachstudent vote can be multiplied by signholding,canvasing and phone-calling. It's a closeelection, and each student-solicited vote couldmake a difference.

"Young Republicans were pretty active, too,"Rottenberg says.

Student activism in 1992 is likely to bebolstered by increased attention by nationalcampaigns, a trend foreseen by College Democratsof America President James M. Harmon '93-94.Harmon says the Clinton/Gore campaign emphasizesregistering young voters and campus appearances.

Rottenberg says campus political strategies,like national ones, adjusts to the candidates inany particular election year. Dukakis struggledwith an image as a cold-blooded technocrat, so hisyouthful supporters sought to "pep people up" and"generate excitement."

There is no dearth of excitement in this year'selection, so student volunteers will be doing lesscheerleading and more footwork--registeringvoters, and canvassing neighborhoods to get theircandidate's message out.

Both parties hope to attract students tovolunteer in the campaign. Connecticut, with itseight electoral votes, is a swing state and willlikely draw Harvard students hoping to make adifference.

Massachusetts will almost certainly go to theDemocrats, but Michael says a the Republicans lookto achieve as strongest mandate as possible.

"It's still important to garner as many votesin Massachusetts as we can," Michael says.

The rhetoric is likely to escalate as November3 draws nearer and, although every presidentialelection is framed as historic, this year'scontest highlights issues of particular interestto many students.

For one, the 22-year age gap between Democratcontender Bill Clinton and President Bush isunprecedented. And though Clinton's relative youthwill not necessarily win him support, ithighlights a fundamental choice available tostudent voters.

The presence of Al Gore '69 on the ticket alsoplaces the environment at the forefront. Democratsboast of his unchallenged leadership on the issue.Michael, like Bush's top strategists,characterized the Democrats' environmental viewsas left-wing extremism.

"There's a limit to this environmental freakattitude that Gore supports," Michael said. Intough economic times, he said, humans takeprecedence over "the spotted owl and overgrowngarter snakes."

Another stark difference between the candidatesis their plans to deal with a dismal economy thatstudent leaders say has hit young Harvard alumnihard in recent years.

Clinton backers argue that the Arkansasgovernor is likely to be supported by about 80percent of undergraduates, mainly on the strengthof his economic message.

"This election is about three things: theeconomy, the economy and the economy," Harmonsays.

The Republicans' strategy has long been todeflect attention away from a dismal economy andtoward character issues.

"[Clinton] doesn't respect the institution ofmarriage nor the institution of the military,"Michael said, referring to the allegations ofdraftdodging and marital infidelity that havedogged Clinton since the primaries.

Both parties are honing an aggressivecampaign--which involves attack politics and issuediscussions alike. But the campaign season thatbrought us Ross Perot could hold additionalsurprises.

The discontent with the two-party system is anationwide phenomenon. A group known as Lead...orLeave is making it a generational issue.

The organization, founded by twentysomethings,asks candidates for national office to pledge tocut the budget deficit in half by 1996 or not seekre-election when their terms expire.

The problem, according to the group's founders,is "the generation in power has a credit card withour generation's name on it."

"It was discouraging watching both theconventions," says Allen P. Webb '91, a proctor inStoughton and Boston coordinator for thegrassroots organization.

The current presidential campaign, Webb says,has seen an abundance of "all the typical electionyear stuff," as seen by the refusal of thecandidates to propose cutting entitlements likeMedicare and social security.

The founders of Lead...or Leave--which isbacked by political foes Paul E. Tsongas andSenator Warren Rudman (R-NH)--will be in CambridgeThursday to speak at the Kennedy School ofGovernment.

Even with the surprises in this politicalseason, it is safe to expect that either Clintonor Bush will win a majority of electoral votes inNovember. And Harvard affiliates, which Michaelfreely admits has "tilted leftward" for years,will almost certainly support Gore, a Universityoverseer, and Clinton by a wide margin.

The real contest in this election is how muchsweat the political organizations will be able tosqueeze out of young volunteers--whether eachstudent vote can be multiplied by signholding,canvasing and phone-calling. It's a closeelection, and each student-solicited vote couldmake a difference.

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