How did you become involved with Democrats Overseas?
In high school I was involved with the Junior Statesmen of America, a national debating club. However, my interest in politics grew in my final years of high school. When I met the president of the society Democrats Overseas here in St. Andrews, I considered it as a great opportunity to get involved.
What is your society’s main aim?
Our primary aim is to get as many people to vote as we can, and to facilitate the voting process. Although we have “democrats” in the name, our aim is to raise awareness about the election. We plan on setting up political discussions and debate viewing parties, creating an opportunity to discuss American politics within an organized framework. This year, our focus is on increasing membership and raising awareness about our society, since the actual election is not for another year. Next year, our focus will be on campaigning.
Do you believe that you can have a real impact on the American student body?
There are a number of students who came here to escape American politics –they’re hard to attract. However, most Americans I have met here are democrats. We are planning a big meeting to raise awareness. We are also planning discussion groups with various debate topics. Once the election gets firmly going, we will try to set up bigger events and organize talks, inviting staff from the American consulate in Edinburgh or someone representing the “Democrats Overseas” here in Scotland. Sometimes, it is easy to forget what is happening politically back home, but we can provide a framework for political discussion.
What are some main issues directly affecting students that already came up in debates concerning the elections?
College loans are a central issue, since many students enter the job market with a lot of debt. Another issue is also the relations to the European Union resulting from the election. I do not think that a Republican candidate would be very beneficial to the US-EU relations. For example, the current refugee crisis has illustrated that American decision-making will have an impact on its relation with European states.
What are the most significant differences between the two main democratic candidates, Hillary Clinton and her main competitor Bernie Sanders?
Clinton represents the older part of the party, which both Obama and her husband belonged to. She seems pro-business whilst being pro-social care. Her foreign policy is quite aggressive in comparison to Sanders.
Sanders is more critical towards the financial sector and builds on the continuation of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement, which was founded in 2008 when young people were unhappy with how the government dealt with the financial crisis. Clinton might follow Obama’s path, whereas Sanders attempts to reach out to those who feel left alone by current politics. After the first primary democratic debate, the media were quite divided on its outcome. Whereas CNN and BBC perceived Hillary Clinton as a winner, other media portrayed Bernie Sanders as successful. How did you perceive the debate? The first primary debate helped Hillary Clinton a lot, whereas it left Sanders without losses or gains if you have a look at the numbers. Traditional democratic voters tend to favour Hillary Clinton. People my age or in the age group of 18-30 would probably favour Sanders, but historically, this group’s participation in the primary election have not been high.
It is too early for any predictions concerning the actual elections, but do you perceive any trends in the USA?
I believe that America is moving centre-left, although the emphasis should still remain on the “centre”. We are moving away from the traditionally religious country we used to be. A danger I perceive in America is the ideological split, which prevents Americans from rationally assessing the candidates and the consequences of their votes.
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