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 U of O students went south of the border to support presidential candidates

Patricia-Joy Crosby | Fulcrum Contributor

Photos courtesy of Andrea Sarkic and Ian Brown 

Wherever there is an election, there you will find students. During elections, university students can be found canvassing door-to-door, handing out literature, and making phone calls on behalf of the candidate they support. The American presidential election this past November sent droves of students to the streets, campaigning for Republican candidate Mitt Romney and Democratic President Barack Obama. Joining the young Americans activists were University of Ottawa students Ian Brown, Nasha Brownridge, Brett Caven, and Andrea Sarkic. Both Brown and Brownridge went south of the border in support of Obama, who will be inaugurated for the second time on Jan. 21, while Caven and Sarkic were present to offer support for the Romney campaign.

This group of students were inspired for different reasons to contribute time on the ground, but all felt passionate about issues like health care, same-sex marriage rights, freedom of speech, and the economy.

Ian Brown

4th-year political science student

Politico since: age 12

Politics has been an important part of Brown’s life for as long as he can remember. He was eager to throw support behind President Obama, whose platform he found inspiring.

“I’m a huge fan of what President Obama has done in his first term; he’s been a voice for those silenced during the Bush years,” said Brown.

Brown also felt the platform the Democratic party ran during this election was inspiring and included important endorsements for same-sex marriages.

“[Obama] is one of the most articulate and motivating people I have ever seen in my life,” Brown said.

Brown believes social media is an important campaign tool that Canadian political parties should capitalize on.

“I think social media is super effective for campaigning, and we saw with this election that it was an effective tool in getting the message of each party out to the masses,” he said.

Brown may attend university above the U.S. border, but that doesn’t stop him from travelling south to gain experience.

“I’ve always been interested in US politics, so why not get first hand experience in one of the most important elections of our time?” he said.

Brown encourages fellow students to stand up for what they believe in and to become politically involved.

“I feel a lot of people in our generation aren’t standing up for what they believe in. So make some phone calls, knock on doors—yes, it can be terrifying, but to know that you changed someone’s mind about something or that you helped to shape the future of the country is an amazing feeling.”

Nasha Brownridge

4th-year public administration student

Politico since: George Bush’s election in 2000

Brownridge argues that Obama has made significant progress since his first election, but warns about harbouring overinflated expectations for the next four years.

“No one should be so naive as to think that drastic, inconceivable change will come of the next four years,” she said.

“That being said, in his first mandate, Obama showed that social and economic progression can be made and significant controversial legislation can be passed.”

Brownridge adds that the adoption of “Obamacare” demonstrates progress and suggests that Obama is the best choice for marginalized groups.

According to Brownridge, under Obama’s presidency, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will continue to benefit citizens with  easier access to health-care insurance.

“I absolutely cannot fathom the idea that a country would not ensure the health of its citizens, regardless of the individual or family’s financial circumstances,” said Brownridge.

She also hopes marginalized minority groups and women’s rights will be given more attention thanks to Obama’s re-election.

Brownridge was inspired by regular American citizens,  believing that they were  more involved in the political scene  than their Canadian counterparts.

While it might seem strange for a Canadian to become so involved in American politics, Brownridge doesn’t see it that way.

“I know that the results [for the U.S. elections] would matter for Canadians, and the rest of the world, just as much as they would Americans,” she said.  “I wanted to do my part in making sure the best man won.”

Brett Caven

3rd-year social science student

Politico since: age 14

Caven dedicated his time in New Hampshire during the Republican primaries to ensure Romney became the Republican candidate, and has been thoroughly engaged in social media activism.

“As a fiscal conservative, I am drawn to the Republican party. I saw Mitt Romney as one of the few Republican candidates who could win the election.”

Caven sees trade and civil rights as the main issues facing America, and believes that Obama’s re-election was a step in the wrong direction.

“The United States made a move towards weakening trade with Canada and weakening their own rights as U.S. citizens,” he said.

Although Caven believes both candidates would positively impact Canada, he thinks Romney’s plan would have better helped Canada’s environment and boosted our health-care sector.

“[Romney’s election] would have helped Canada’s energy and Canada’s health-care sector by eliminating the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which is predicted to create a shortfall of doctors in the United States, where doctors are paid more,” he said.

Caven found that Americans have a healthy engagement with politics but that Super Political Action Committees (Super PACs) are an impediment to the political system. Super PACs, are third party organizations that are allowed to support a political party with an unlimited amount of spending.

“[Canadian campaigns] are better because of the exclusion of so-called Super PACs,” said Caven. “Super PACs are not held accountable for their spending nor donations—even in Canada.”

Caven’s reason for getting involved in American politics isn’t far from that of his peers.

“I got involved because the politics in the US affects Canada so much,” he said.

Andrea Sarkic

4th-year international development student

Politico since: high school

Sarkic has been involved in Canadian politics since high school. The self-identified Canadian conservative and small letter “r” republican became active in American politics in 2008 during the Republican primaries.

“I grew up in a home that was always very aware of international relations, foreign policy, and national and local politics,” said Sarkic.

While following the 2012 presidential election, Sarkic admired Romney’s  success in the private sector and business. She believed that the then governor of Massachusetts had the best overall economic vision for the States.

Sarkic also believes the US struggles with their polarized political system.  She thinks Republicans could stand to take a few pointers from Canada’s Conservative party.

“If [the Republican party] focused [more] on the economy, low taxes, and balanced budgets, and less on hot button social issues… they would’ve seen a more clear path to the White House this past election,” she said.

Sarkic encourages fellow students to share her passion and become engaged in politics.

“I believe shared values, support, and respect of the democratic system, and elections, especially with our neighbour, are important things.”