How student groups used style to support primary presidential candidates
Before Biden was the presumptive Democratic nominee, students sported campaign pins and t-shirts
While phone banking and canvassing are traditional ways to show your support for a presidential candidate during the primary season, AU student organizations showed that simply sporting a button on your backpack or wearing a t-shirt with your candidate of choice is enough to make a statement.
Student groups on campus have devoted themselves to advocating for specific candidates during the primaries, using merchandise to increase awareness for certain candidates.
Alex Russo is the president of AU for Warren, a student organization that paid for their merchandise entirely out of their own pockets. AU did not provide funding for this merchandise because the organization was deemed as too “short-lived,” according to Russo.
Russo said AU for Warren has about 250 people on its email list, and about 20 or 30 members he could rely on for assistance.
Despite the suspension of Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign in March, the organization has remained active on social media.
AU for Warren wrote in one tweet, “While Elizabeth Warren has suspended her campaign, it does not suspend the truth in her fight.”
Other student groups, such as AU College Democrats, did not endorse specific candidates as an organization. However, Vice President of AU Dems Emily Coneybeare was proudly wearing Elizabeth Warren merchandise across campus. She has a “NH for Warren” sticker on the center of her laptop and a Warren button on her backpack. Coneybeare worked for Warren in New Hampshire, and said that being able to wear merchandise from the campaign has a sentimental value for her.
“To be able to carry on what I know is such a good campaign and to represent it at school and wherever I go is important to me,” Coneybeare said.
Even though Warren suspended her campaign, Coneybeare does not necessarily have plans to stop wearing Warren merchandise. Coneybeare said her Warren merchandise reminds her of the people she met and the formative experiences she had while working on the campaign.
AU Dems have been continuously using their online platform during the coronavirus pandemic by providing students with resources and advocacy ideas. The club is promoting COVID-19 related material and is selecting students for scholarships.
Christian Omoruyi is the president of AU Students for Biden. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, candidate-focused groups have had to brainstorm new ways to keep students involved.
“Now with coronavirus and all the mayhem that has unleashed, we are definitely looking at virtual ways to keep our momentum going,” Omoruyi said.
Even before Bernie Sanders officially suspended his campaign, Joe Biden had been gaining more traction in the race. Omoruyi said that, across AU for Biden’s communications networks, the club has a wide following.
Since the pandemic caused many AU for Biden members to return to their hometowns, Omoruyi explained that he is “strategizing on future primaries” and encouraging members to raise awareness for Biden in their local communities. He is especially interested in having students spread the word in Pennsylvania and his home state of Indiana.
Before the spring 2020 semester was moved online, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, AU for Biden did not have merchandise created.
Nonetheless, Omoruyi said he’s proud of the logo that AU for Biden designed. He said these logos will be used on future merchandise, including buttons. He is working on “light-hearted” t-shirt designs appealing to Biden’s interests in aviator glasses and ice cream.
AU for Biden will most likely sell this merchandise during the fall 2020 semester, since shipping to students across the country would not be financially feasible for the small student club.
Both Russo and Omoruyi agreed that merchandise is beneficial for supporting candidates in the presidential primaries.
“When people see something familiar, like a familiar logo, I guess there’s just something subconscious that just kicks in,” Omoruyi said, adding later, “I think merchandise can also create a sense of solidarity when people are all wearing merchandise together.”
“We are a community of laptop stickers and buttons on our backpacks, and when people see that, just like walking down the quad, that tells them, ‘Oh wait, there’s a community on campus,’” Russo said.