With seven students serving as delegates and a recent graduate speaking Thursday, the University has a strong influence on the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., despite Texas’ conservative political atmosphere.
University Democrats president Leslie Tisdale and the other UT delegates joined the ranks of the 287 Texas delegates who will, with delegates from the rest of the country, officially nominate President Barack Obama as the Democratic Party’s candidate for president. The delegates will also vote on the party’s platform and attend council meetings.
“This is an incredible school representation,” Tisdale said. “We’ve met a lot of cool, prominent people in the Democratic Party.”
She said as a delegate she gets to hear high-profile party speakers including the president, first lady and former president Bill Clinton. Tisdale said speakers greet delegates on the floor after their speeches.
“We are on the floor, so we have the most restricted access,” she said. “We get to meet pretty much everyone. So that is a nice perk.”
The Democratic Party does not cover delegates’ travel expenses, so Tisdale said University Democrats raised $8,000 to cover all costs for the nine UT students attending the convention. Two additional UT students joined the seven delegates as special guests and were given floor access but no vote, she said.
At the Republican National Convention last week, no UT-Austin students served as delegates, Chris Elam, delegation coordinator for the Republican Party of Texas said. One UT System student, Isabel Gonzalez from the University of Texas at El Paso, served as a delegate, he said.
Sherri Greenberg, director for the UT Center for Politics and Governance, said the national conventions have long histories in both parties. The first Democratic National Convention occurred in 1832 and the first Republican National Convention in 1856. She said they are intended to bring a proportional representation of the demographics of each party. Each state is different, but in Texas she said potential delegates pledge themselves to the candidate they will nominate, then caucus at the county level to elect delegates to the state convention and on to the national convention. All registered voters have an opportunity to attend the caucus, as long as they register with the party, Greenberg said.
“This time it is pretty simple because Obama is running unopposed,” Greenberg said. “But it is not just ceremonial.”
Aside from nominating a candidate for president, delegates can fulfill other roles, she said. They also meet to set policy, elect officers or attend to state-level business.
Tisdale said UT is surprisingly active in the political arena, which she thinks is good because politics dictates how young people will participate in their community in the future.
“It’s our future,” Tisdale said. “The economy in 10 years, in 20 years — that’s for us.”
Printed on Thursday, September 6th, 2012 as: Student delegates represent University