Published April 18, 2016
In a rare election year where New York State is hosting contentious primaries for both major parties, UB faculty, staff and students got a front-row seat to the action.
Two events brought major presidential candidates to campus in a single whirlwind week: First, on April 11, the Bernie Sanders campaign drew an overflow crowd of 11,000 people to Alumni Arena for a rally supporting the Democratic contender.
Three days later, MSNBC hosted a more intimate affair in the Katharine Cornell Theatre in the Ellicott Complex: a roughly 300-person town hall meeting featuring Republican hopeful Ted Cruz in conversation with Chuck Todd from “Meet the Press.” The audience included a large contingent of UB students, spotlighting the university on the national stage.
“It’s a terrific experience for students to see national politics come to them,” said James Campbell, UB Distinguished Professor of Political Science, who attended the MSNBC town hall on April 14. “It creates an important connection between them and the political system so that it’s not just an abstract idea.
“For those who are already interested in politics and public policy, it will reinforce that interest, keep that interest alive. It’s a terrific experience that they’ll remember for a long time.”
For all New Yorkers, the 2016 election stands out because — for the first time in a long time — the state’s relatively late primary matters for both leading political parties.
The last time New York’s primary was competitive for both Republicans and Democrats was back in 1988 when George H.W. Bush and Michael Dukakis became their parties’ respective nominees, said Campbell, a nationally recognized expert on campaigns and elections.
Jacob Neiheisel, an assistant professor of political science, echoed that sentiment: “Usually by this time, things are sealed up.”
With New York’s primaries looming on Tuesday, April 19, students who attended the Sanders rally and MSNBC town hall with Cruz raved about the experience, saying the ability to see major political candidates in person captured the drama and emotion of an unusually competitive race.
“I think it’s super-exciting,” said Diane Orosz, a UB law student who snagged a seat at the MSNBC town hall, which aired Thursday at 8 p.m. “It opens a forum for diversity of thought. I think it’s essential for students to hear from public figures, including those whom they agree with and those that they don’t agree with.”
If you think it's wrong that 60 percent of wages goes to just 1 percent of the population, you might be a Sanders supporter. If you think the fact that we are the only industrialized nation that does not have universal health care, even though we are the richest, you might be a Sanders supporter. If you find it hypocritical that politicians get paid by and receive most campaign money from the very same interest groups they claim to fight, you might be a Sanders supporter. If you're tired of voting for "the lesser of the two evils," then you might be a Sanders supporter.
If you don't vote, it won't happen.