With former Vice President Joe Biden set to become the Democratic nominee for president, Penn Democrats and Penn for Biden are preparing to unite the party against Trump.
As the general election approaches, the two political groups will work together closely to mobilize youth voters, according to Penn for Biden co-founder and Wharton senior Dylan Milligan. There is a lot of overlap between Penn Dems and Penn for Biden membership and leadership, Milligan said, and during the 2016 presidential election, Penn Dems and Penn for Hillary combined to campaign for the former Secretary of State.
College junior and Penn Dems President Owen Voutsinas-Klose, who is also a member of Penn for Biden, sees the upcoming election as an opportunity for Penn for Biden members to become more involved with Penn Dems.
“For all intents and purposes, Penn for Biden is going to be rolled into Penn Dems now,” Voutsinas-Klose said.
Biden's former rival Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) ended his presidential campaign last week and endorsed Biden, leaving the former Penn presidential professor of practice the presumptive Democratic nominee in a general election against 1968 Wharton graduate Donald Trump.
“Bernie has changed this race and the country for the better, and we hope the countless people he inspired will continue to fight for the most vulnerable among us in this time of uncertainty,” the tweet read.
Voutsinas-Klose praised Sanders' decision to suspend his campaign and endorse Biden.
“I’m super glad that [Sanders] put the unity of the Democratic Party over continuing a campaign that he knew he wasn’t going to win,” Voutsinas-Klouse said. “I really see Bernie as a selfless individual who really cares about uniting the party and defeating Donald Trump.”
Sanders' endorsement of Biden has drawn the ire of Penn for Bernie, with the group declining to endorse Biden. Regardless, Voutsinas-Klose is hopeful many young Sanders supporters will vote for Biden in the fall, calling those who pledge not to vote for Biden a "vocal minority."
"I think that there's a lot of raw emotions right now, so I'm not going to fault anyone for being unsure about Joe Biden," he said. "Joe Biden has a responsibility to convince young voters especially to be inspired by something. But with that in mind, we really can't afford four more years of Donald Trump, and a vote for anyone besides Biden is effectively a vote for Donald Trump."
Although not everyone in Penn Dems originally supported Biden, most members of the club believe it is important to unite the Democratic Party around one candidate. Penn Dems Communications Director and College first-year Emma Wennberg was a Sanders supporter, but said she is supporting Biden moving forward.
“Personally, as a Sanders supporter, it was disappointing to see [Sanders drop out], but ultimately I think it was the right decision as we work to coalesce to win in November,” Wennberg said.
Like Voutsinas-Klose, Milligan is hopeful that other Sanders supporters will vote for Biden, even though the moderate candidate notably struggles to gain the youth voting bloc. He said Biden will have to work hard to win younger voters, but also believes other students must help their peers understand the stakes of November's election.
“I hope that [Sanders'] supporters take their cues from him when Sanders says that this is too important to screw around and sit it out, or vote third party," he said. "You have to vote for Biden or else you jeopardize another four years of President Trump’s nonsense,” Milligan said.
Heading into November, Penn for Biden will hold hold phone banks and canvass for Biden, register voters, and maintain visibility on campus and social media, according to Penn for Biden co-founder and College senior Gabriel Barnett.
Penn Dems is likewise going to focus on building support for Biden as well as reach out to other activist groups on campus, Wennberg said. Voutsinas-Klose also said the group will emphasize the danger of another Trump term, as well as the progressive aspects of Biden's campaign.
In the event that classes move online in the fall, Penn Dems will engage with Penn students virtually, according to Voutsinas-Klose. Penn Dems will hold phone and text banking, and will encourage students to mail-in absentee ballots.
Voutsinas-Klose is optimistic about Biden’s chances in November, but cautions that Biden’s campaign against Trump will not be easy.
"Joe Biden definitely has a good shot, but Donald Trump and the Republicans are going to put up a very nasty, tough fight, so we need to be prepared," Voutsinas-Klose said.