Madison Fletcher first took notice of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in 2010 when he filibustered a tax cut deal for more than eight hours on the Senate floor, a scene that seemed straight out of one of her favorite TV shows, “The West Wing.”
“Bernie filibustered shortly after I kind of absorbed all of ‘West Wing’ for the fourth time,” said Fletcher, a graduate student in the chemistry department.
She recalls drawing a parallel between Sanders’ passion and that of Sen. Howard Stackhouse, a fictional character who filibustered for 13 hours on the show.
“I was just really, really impressed with not only what [Sanders] was saying, but the fact that this 70-year-old guy could get up there and stand for eight hours,” Fletcher said.
Fletcher has followed the candidate ever since, and is now spearheading the creation of “Temple Students for Bernie Sanders” in light of his current presidential campaign.
“Hopefully, by us sort of campaigning for Bernie with his messages and with his goals in mind, we can kind of wake up the student population,” said Fletcher, co-chair of the operations committee for the group.
The group, led by six student co-founders, has not yet been officially recognized by Student Activities, because New Organization Registration is still underway through the first two weeks of October.
Laurana Seymour, the operations committee’s other co-chair, said this registration process hasn’t stopped “TU for Bernie,” a nickname for the group, from being active. The group’s first meeting was held Sept. 23, and was announced via social media, which has been instrumental in organizing students.
“The internet has helped a lot obviously,” said Seymour, a senior English major. “Facebook—that’s how we got all of the people who came to the first event.”
About 36 students attended this meeting, which was held at the Rad Dish Co-op Cafe in Ritter Hall Annex, where the unofficial group will be holding its bi-weekly meetings until they have formal access to the Student Center.
“We don’t want people to forget about it or lose interest, which can happen if you wait too long between meetings,” Seymour said.
Claire Pope, a junior social work major, attended the first “TU for Bernie” meeting, and wants to be a general member. She said she supports Sanders because all of his views line up with her own.
“I like that he wants to provide free education and healthcare,” Pope said. “And he’s one of the few candidates that actually acknowledges the climate change crisis.”
Many Temple students who came to the first meeting had already been involved with leafleting around Main Campus and running information tables outside of the Fresh Grocer through Philadelphia for Bernie Sanders, a grassroots movement of organizers in the city.
As “TU for Bernie” becomes more active on its own, Seymour said the group hopes to set up information tables at the Bell Tower, to hold town-hall style meetings and to campaign for Sanders in the community surrounding Main Campus.
“We also really want to focus on people who live in the community who are not Temple students,” Seymour said. “If we reach out to them and say ‘Hey, this is a great candidate that the news isn’t really focusing on,’ then that would be really helpful.”
The group eventually wants to hold its own debate watch parties too, but in the meantime the group will be representing Sanders at the watch party being held by Temple College Democrats Oct. 13, in The Reel.
Fletcher said she also hopes to get college students to be more politically active in general and to pay attention to the 2016 presidential election.
“This is really important,” Fletcher said. “If we voted, we could basically get whoever we wanted elected.”
The next TU for Bernie meeting will be held tomorrow at 6 p.m. in Rad Dish.
Jenny Roberts can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.