George W. Bush is a vulnerable foe, but Democrats will need to redouble their campaign efforts to secure victory, a convention of the College Democrats was told Saturday.
“George Bush can be beaten,” former California legislator Tom Hayden told the roughly 50 students who attended the speech. “But there’s a difference between whether the president can be beat and whether the Democratic party can beat him.”
Hayden, a former civil rights advocate and leader of student protests in the 1960s, is a fellow at the Institute of Politics this semester.
In a room decorated with balloons, streamers, and “re-defeat Bush” signs, Hayden shared strategies with student Democrats hoping for a 2004 victory.
Expecting another close election, Hayden said both Democrats and Republicans need to appeal to their bases of voters.
“Start your politics with your values, and look at how you can realistically spread your values,” he said. “It should be all about winning on behalf of your values.”
Hayden discouraged campaigners from trying to appeal only to “soccer moms.” He also urged activists to focus on defeating Bush.
“The protest movement and public opinion are in sync,” he said, citing the large anti-war protests that occurred before the war in Iraq. “That’s a powerful thing. People don’t just want to protest. They want to go from protest into power.”
Hayden said he identified with students’ goals.
“Our generation was robbed of its potential” by the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., he said.
The College Democrats selected Hayden as the keynote speaker for the event to excite students about the 2004 election, according to R. Gerard McGeary ’04, the group’s president.
“We didn’t just want a big name, we wanted someone who’d get the crowd riled up, especially this fall,” he said.
In addition to Hayden’s speech, Democrats conducted a straw poll and drafted a platform at the convention.
In the poll, Vermont Governor Howard Dean received the most votes, with Senator John F. Kerry, D-M.A., and Ret. General Wesley Clark coming in second and third place, respectively. A specific tally of votes was not released.
“I think it was nice to see Dean win so convincingly. It shows real strong support for Democratic values,” said convention participant Brooks E. Washington ’06.
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