Following a period of inactivity after the 2008 presidential election, the Knox Democrats Club, the only club on campus that identified with a certain political party, is back up and running in full force, according to club officers.
In February 2011, at the time of the State of the Union Address, Knox senior Jim Hanson and juniors Anna Novikova and Gretta Reed led the first organizational meeting of Knox Dems to help the club regain a sense of vivacity on campus.
“Knox Dems was founded because Knox is an incredibly liberal campus. We saw people who believed in [democratic ideals] but didn’t act, and we wanted to change that,” Hanson explained.
Knox Dems officers effectively vocalized the need for this club to restore its previous presence on campus.
“There’s a lot of activism on this campus, but none of the organizations focus on elections and electoral politics,” Novikova said. “We just wanted to give people an outlet for that.”
Knox Dems’ members gained confidence in their ability to make a difference on campus when they tabled in the Student Union to gather petition signatures in support of the Buffett Rule.
“Even though marginal tax rates are higher for higher incomes, the effective tax rate is lower,” Novikova said.
The experience of tabling was gratifying to Knox Dems because it showed the club that outside student interest in pertinent political issues is pervasive, according to Novikova, who said “We had a lot of positive, productive, respectful conversations about the tax. It was really rewarding.”
Tabling is certainly not the only way that Knox Dems have reached out to express political views in the past.
“We brought State Senator Dave Koehler to Knox last year, and thanks to a contact we found through a student internship,” Hanson said.
“We have also been working on local elections,” Novikova said.
As for current efforts being pursued by Knox Dems, encouraging involvement from the Knox and Galesburg communities is a major priority. Novikova emphasized that Knox Dems are “in the process of planning a voter registration drive for people who want to re-register to cast their vote in Galesburg.” She added, “We are gathering petition signatures from members of the Knox-Galesburg community for Senator Koehler to get him on the ballot for Congress,” since Koehler, from Peoria, is currently running in the 17th Congressional District.
Collaboration with other clubs on campus is a significant goal communicated by Knox Dems Club. “Even though we are still building up membership, we are working on bringing a big speaker to campus. We are working with other departments and clubs, such as the Alliance for Peaceful Action (APA), Advocates for Choice, KARES, and the Knox Food Coalition,” Hanson said.
“We have pretty good working relationships with other clubs on campus, especially ones that are in the Human Rights Center at Knox, such as APA and Estudiantes [sin Fronteras]. We share non-partisan goals with several clubs on campus,” Novikova said.
While short-term goals for Knox Dems primarily concern themselves with membership, recruitment and campaign-related events, Hanson said, “We want to build an organization at Knox that really contributes to getting stuff done. You can’t really say you believe in something if you are not willing to do anything about it.”
According to Novikova, “We are working on safeguarding institutional knowledge. We have great resources at Knox, and we need to figure out how to best utilize them” in order to preserve club longevity. Seeing as that most of the club is comprised of freshmen and juniors, Knox Dems does not foresee this becoming problematic.
Enthusiasm among Knox Dems members extends itself to apply to both meetings and open-campus events.
“Getting the word out is not as difficult as having something compelling to say that gets people excited to make them want to join,” Novikova said. “A lot of our club is about getting things out by word of mouth.”