Students for Gore

Daily Convention Coverage


Having spent a hot afternoon cruising South Central Los Angeles on an official "poverty tour" (to be discussed in an upcoming dispatch), the speeches and videos that passed for the DNC program Tuesday night—Kennedy Sweeps Night—were putting me to sleep. In a desperate bid to stay awake, I set out to interview the youngsters holding the individual letters that composed the sign, Students for Gore. What makes a kid join such a cult? Were they being held against their will? Would they date a student for Bush? I needed to know.

Shannon O'Daniel, a sophomore American Studies major from the University of Arkansas, was responsible for the T and the S. I took over the S and we commenced conversation. The crowd was going nuts over whatever Kennedy was doing onstage at the time as Shannon told me that she supported Gore because she's a "big-time Democrat and from the South." I questioned her commitment, however, when I discovered she worked for Bill Bradley before joining Gore. Why Bradley, I asked? Replied O'Daniel, "I got the email to work for him first." (Her suitors should take note.) Politics, I should point out, is really expanding her life. When she campaigned for Bradley in New Hampshire, it was the first time she saw the ocean (if the Granite State's tiny shoreline counts); her first taxi ride came in Los Angeles this week.

Interviewing Shannon meant interviewing her friend, Emily Hildebrand, who's also a sophomore at University of Arkansas. Emily was holding the N. Whenever I asked Shannon a question, she'd check with Emily for the answer. For both of them, the best thing about being a student for Gore is "feeling like you're really doing something in the political arena, making a difference, getting other students to vote." Neither would date a student for Bush. They just couldn't respect them or connect on a moral level.

Thomas Jones is a junior at Duke University majoring in political science. He is concerned that Gore is suffering from Clinton's scandal while not benefiting from the good economy. "I don't think that's fair to him," he said, Democrats being big on fairness. "I don't think it's fair to the American people. But that's the decision people are making right now."

"I'm passionate about the Democratic Party," says Thomas, when I ask him why he's a Gore activist. He's willing to work with the other side, though, granting that he'd date a student for Bush so long as she made up for it with a great personality. "I'm passionate about what Gore can do for us," he said, clearly prepping for a life in politics. The personality line gives it away. As does his response when I ask him about what's best about being a student for Gore.

"That's a pretty loaded question," he said cautiously. "I think it's a great time to be excited and energetic about the Democratic Party and the promise of the Gore administration alongside a Democratic Congress. Just being involved at this early age in my adult development in the political process and developing the country from government is an incredible opportunity individually and a great way to use whatever skills and aptitudes and privileges I've been endowed with to do good for my country."

If you want to get at the root causes of crime–Congress being the only truly indigenous criminal class in America, if Mark Twain is to be believed–you have to get a handle on these conventions, filled with parties, catchy slogans, and stars that lure kids in. Thomas Jones is too far gone to save; the same goes for each of the others I interviewed.

I next talked with Evan Day, a Harvard sophomore studying environmental science and public policy (a rather deadly combination), and his girlfriend, Amy Margolius, a sophomore at Boston University studying journalism (perhaps even more lethal).

Evan's a policy wonk. He immediately starts talking about "brownfields" and how environmental protection doesn't have to come at the expense of economic growth. He was a Gore supporter from the get-go, attracted by the vice president's "leadership ability." As Bill Bradley takes the stage and begins flapping his chins in the Staples Center, Evan says he would have been happy with Dollar Bill, too.

"I sure as hell would not be a student for Bush," Amy tells me in a rather partisan outburst. Al Gore cares, she explains, while George Bush only pretends to. Her issue is education and she wishes both candidates would make it a higher priority.

Amy has the zeal of a convert. She was a registered Republican when Day met her but she demonstrated an open mind by dating across party lines. "I got her to flip," Evan says. "A student for Bush represents a student without a conscience, a student who doesn't care about social issues," Amy insists. "As long as I live I would never date a Student for Bush!"