Alex Cornell du Houx on the right, photo by Ramona du Houx

by Sara Schlotterbeck & Clark Gascoigne

Alex Cornell du Houx (Bowdoin ’06) served two consecutive terms as co-president of the Maine College Democrats. By the time you are reading this, he will be fighting in Iraq.

For Alex, there is no inconsistency between his political activism and military service. In an interview with NBC this fall, he explained his position: “It’s not a contradiction to be actively involved in the Democratic Party and actively involved in the military. In fact, they should go hand in hand because both should be a service to one’s country.”

Until recently, Alex served as the development director for the College Democrats of America (CDA) in addition to his work with the Maine College Democrats. Under Alex’s leadership the state federation grew from two to 23 chapters, published the only statewide College Democrats newspaper in the nation and became one of the strongest political organizations in Maine. In addition, the Maine College Democrats earned the title of State Federation of the Year (2005) during Alex’s tenure. As president of the Bowdoin College Democrats, Alex helped to expand the chapter’s membership to include over a quarter of the student body.

Alex grew up in the rural, economically deprived town of Solon, Maine. He joined the Marine Corps Reserves out of high school and is currently a senior at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. Originally an astronomy major, he spent most of his first year at Bowdoin founding the Community Service Council, working for Habitat for Humanity and running track. He became politically engaged after returning from eight months of training with the Marines and learning that the Bowdoin College Democrats had only five people attending meetings as the 2004 election approached. He also realized that most of the military and community service work he had been participating in was undeniably related to politics, and he was disturbed by the gap that he saw between participation in community service and civic engagement. His motivations have always been grounded in the same principles of service to his country, and he has learned that he is best able to live up to these principles through participation in community service, military service and political activism.

For the past couple of years Alex has worked in the Governor’s Office in Augusta. He worked at Bowdoin and statewide on the 2004 election and the No-on-1 campaign, which maintained antidiscrimination laws protecting Maine citizens of all sexual orientations. When he was not organizing for the Democrats, he could be found building houses with Habitat, training with the Marines, tutoring students in local schools, and promoting youth’s voice with AdCare Educational and Campus Compact. He is pursuing a degree in government and history and plans to write his thesis on the relationship between political engagement and community service.

On December 1, 2005, Alex was put on active duty with the Marines. He has been in training since then, and leaves for Iraq at the end of March. Although he must put off his educational pursuits for the time being, he plans on resuming his studies at Bowdoin after he returns from Iraq in November. We wish Alex the best of luck during his time in Iraq, and we are looking forward to welcoming him back home after the midterm elections this fall.

Energy and excitement filled the campaign headquarters of the Maine College Democrats’ (MCD) No-on-1 effort at Bowdoin College. The majority of workers had been up to all hours in final preparation for the event.

“We’re running on adrenaline. This is an issue that forces us to see how we’re holding up as a tolerant society — whether we can look at ourselves in the mirror and ask whether our generation is fighting as hard for a standard of equality as previous generations have done. Discrimination is discrimination, no matter how many times one falsely evokes religion to mask their own intolerant behavior,” said Frank Chi, co-president of the Bowdoin College Democrats. “We are going to win this election because in Maine there is a deep sense of decency in how we treat one another.”

And win they did.

The MCDs helped to ensure 70 percent of voters got to the polls in Brunswick and the surrounding mid-coast region, compared to 55 percent of voters statewide. Their efforts clearly made a difference.

That’s not unusual for these motivated, enthusiastic individuals. During the Kerry campaign they traveled the state from Presque Isle to the University of Southern Maine and grew their chapters from 3 to 23. At the University of Maine at Orono the MCD’s effort increased voter turnout by over 200 percent to cast their support for Kerry by 68 to 29 percent. These results mirrored other state, community and private colleges across Maine.

One member, Kevin Larviee, got so involved in the election he worked nonstop for two days without sleep, canvassed in the rain and ended up with pneumonia.

The MCDs were honored as State Federation of the Year at last year’s College Democrats of America Convention.

So what’s the key to their success? Part is due to their obvious drive to bring about positive change, and they are not intimidated by new challenges. They were the first in the nation to hold a College Democrats Convention and the first to start a College Democratic newspaper.

They continually have key speakers at events, including Al Franken, Congressman Dennis Kucinich, Governor Baldacci, our Maine  Congressmen, and leading members of Maine’s House and Senate.

“To have a governor that’s so accessible is awesome,” said Brandon Mazer. “He has always come to our events and really listens to what we have to say.”

“Congressman Allen believes strongly in the common good. When he comes he always makes clear concise sense of complicated issues, which is great,” said Larivee.

They hold workshops during their conventions and help their local Habitat for Humanity chapter. “I liked the community service activities,” said Sara Schlotterbeck.

They travel out of state to attend the National Democratic Convention and conferences, meeting with Howard Dean, President Clinton, and Senator Clinton.

Every week they appear on a Bowdoin College TV program like Crossfire, and in Portland on the TV show, Youth in Politics.

At Bowdoin, during the week many members eat an informal dinner together before their weekly Tuesday meetings. During the dinner they joke around and discuss current political issues. Sometimes they get together and watch The West Wing series, just to enjoy each other’s company.

When the meeting time rolls around, business is conducted in a professional yet friendly manner, and issues of importance are discussed extensively.

“It’s always great to see students engaged in the political process. Their energy, enthusiasm and commitment are exciting,” said Governor Baldacci during a College Democrats convention, “It’s contagious.”

Second Annual Maine College Democrats Convention — A Great Success

by Alexander Reed

The Maine College Democrats held their second annual convention in October, ’05, at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. As the only College Democrats convention of its kind, the political event drew upon the support of every College Democrats chapter in the state, as well as loyal Democrats from all over New England.

Maine Governor John Baldacci, Representatives Tom Allen and Mike Michaud, and political satirist Al Franken gave keynote speeches praising the work Democrats have done throughout the many years of the party’s history, from its roots in the Jeffersonian era all the way through the present-day struggle to promote civil liberties, equal rights, and social justice.

The message was clear: young, politicized students such as the Maine College Democrats are the future leaders of the American liberal movement. “We wanted to promote dialogue on campus about the impact of young people on politics, and at the end of this weekend I think we really did achieve that,” says Bowdoin College Democrats Co-President Frank Chi.

Nowhere was this more evident than after the much-anticipated performance by comedian Al Franken, whose speech drew a crowd of over a thousand people at Bowdoin’s Morrell Gymnasium. He urged the audience to “celebrate Democratic family values” by supporting equal rights for gays and to stay well informed by marginalizing the right-wing media. Similarly, Franken called on young Democrats to “stay connected” so as to remain an organized, cohesive force, capable of leading the United States to new horizons.

Such enthusiasm was especially apparent when Maine Governor Baldacci proclaimed October 1st as Maine College Democrats Day, for which he urged statewide observance. With the support and passion of so many Democrats, future conventions will be sure to make even more of an impact on young voters who support Democratic ideals.

Thanks are due to all those who attended the convention from all the Maine College Democrats chapters, as well as all those who made the convention possible through their financial and organizational support. We look forward to an even bigger convention next year.


Maine College Democrats with Al Franken during their convention. Photo by Ramona du Houx

An Indictment of Incompetence:  Returning Democrats to Washington in 2006 Means a Return from Rhetoric to Reality

by Frank Chi, co-president, Bowdoin College Democrats

It is competence and expertise that we expect first from our leaders. This prerequisite of leadership is what allows our national discourse to focus on issues and ideology that determine the path of this country. But when Washington, DC turns into a Republican wasteland where competence is never met, the structure of our government collapses into bundled bureaucracies, broken chains of command, unregulated corruption, and false rhetoric.

When examined from this perspective, Republicans nationwide have failed to even meet this first requirement of leadership: competence. By monopolizing the White House and Congress, Republicans have endorsed a reckless culture of corruption that knows no limits. Jack Abramoff’s tentacles into the corridors of power expose the lax ways in which Republicans conduct business — allowing corporate power to expand while average Americans suffer. When Republicans swindled our country’s mourning on September 11 to mislead us into Iraq, they ignored even the most respected tenets of warfare. While those such as Colin Powell and Eric Shinseki warned of the consequences of a war without an exit plan, Vice President Cheney told our nation of a compelling story, where our soldiers would be greeted on the streets of Baghdad as liberators. Despite former Deputy Defense Secretary Wolfowitz’s tales of a war paid from the profits of Iraqi oil, Iraq’s war costs now reach $420 billion taxpayer dollars.

Yet when America was most in need of our government, this administration failed us. When floodwaters sent New Orleans into chaos, President Bush remained at his Crawford ranch. Yet just months prior, he regarded the saving of Terri Schiavo as an event that required his return from Crawford to Washington in time to sign emergency legislation. Was the drowning of a city and the loss of thousands less important than a media phenomenon geared to rally his political base? The betrayal of Hurricane Katrina exposed to this nation an administration of distorted priorities, and finally connected a narrative that reveals a government wasted in false promises, political maneuvering and rhetoric that does not live up to reality.

The national conversations we have today should never have been problems in the first place. Instead, they are the result of incompetence. As Democrats, our platform is one of common sense, while our first priority is to insure that our government is capable, not delinquent. We want capable policy that works for all Americans. We want a Medicare prescription plan that makes sense to our seniors. We want higher education to open more doors for our children, not to close them. We want our government to manage its budget while we are expected to manage our own. We want priorities and substance that match lofty rhetoric. The true guidelines to leadership measure not the strength of political machinery, but the competence of ideas put forth. Tragically, the difficulties we confront today are the result of leaders who fail to reach the level of competence required to lead. It is here where Republican recklessness, not ideology, has failed us.

Let this not be an election of overemphasizing one issue or another. Whether it’s Iraq, corruption, terrorism or fiscal responsibility, these issues are intertwined in a compelling narrative of incompetence. We disapprove of Republicans not because we disagree, but because they cannot perform the fundamental functions of government.

A strong Democratic presence will jolt Washington into action by holding the Bush administration responsible for the casual way they’ve abused their dominance in the White House and in Congress. A strong Democratic presence will return common sense back to the legislative branch that insures the expectations of government will never again fail the American people.

In November, 2006, indict Republicans nationwide, not on the measure of their ideas, but on the measure of their incompetence.

What are we to focus on?

by Dan Herzberg

Gay marriage. Abortion rights. Distraction. Diversion. These monikers have something in common: they are all tools used to draw a college student’s gaze away from arguably the central issue waiting on the doorstep of America’s future: fiscal security.

Let me make one thing clear, I feel that same-sex marriage and a woman’s right to choose are important issues. They focus on personal freedoms — the cornerstone of our country. Yet, how can the government of the United States possibly protect individual liberties when we do not adequately fund it to administer its agencies and carry out its programs? If the FBI cannot provide all its agents with e-mail accounts today, what tools will they be rationing in twenty years?

Under the current administration, our country has been sent on a crash course towards a gloomy fiscal setting. Our current national debt hovers at around $8.5 trillion and the White House predicts 2007 will see our debt reach its highest level in the last 50 years. In addition to continued tax cuts and heavy federal borrowing from foreign nations, our country has yet to absorb the cost of caring for today’s workforce in the decades to come. By 2015, health care is projected to cost Americans 20 percent of the country’s GDP — $4 trillion per year.

The good news is that, historically, our country has shown an unparalleled ability to rebound from a pulseless economic state (as in the 1930s with the New Deal). Despite this traditional resilience, must we allow economic conditions to reach sickly levels before we focus on restructuring our national pocketbook? The future of our economy must not only be seriously and adequately addressed by our present officials, but its importance must be thoroughly emphasized to today’s young people who will need to generate much of the resources to sustain the country in the future.

I must admit that, at least on my college campus, the national budget and health-care costs are NOT at the forefront of most students’ minds. Although these issues reside in only the most remote part of our consciousness, we can and must be educated about their consequence. It is true that focusing on the national budget is not as romantic as fighting to preserve a chunk of Alaskan wilderness from the hazards of probing for oil, but it is an issue much more pressing for younger generations to tackle.

Elected officials, governmental organizations, and concerned Americans must constantly — and conspicuously — discuss economic issues and expose American youth to all facts and arguments in the debate. How can adults help younger folks learn and care about America’s future economic stability? Well, elected officials could limit time spent discussing less-than-imperative issues such as steroids use in professional baseball, and the media could stop sensationalizing these topics. That would be a start. But all American adults owe it to themselves and to their children to learn about — and remain informed on — national and local economic issues. You tell your child that it’s wrong to cut taxes — great, but why? What could the government provide if more taxes were collected? How will a stronger government bankroll benefit your family?

Old taglines such as “A proud Democrat believes in strong government programs and the taxes necessary to fund them” will not put a sufficiently hot fire in the belly of a college student or young person. Give us numbers and facts that illustrate how improving our state and national finances now will make our futures so much better.

So go ahead, keep on talking about issues like the war in Iraq (again, another important issue) — but please keep us informed on issues like taxes, the national debt, and the future costs of keeping America running strong. When we are painted a thoughtfully-crafted picture of our country’s economic forecast, believe me, we’ll listen.

A message from the MCD’s co-president, Oliver Radwan:

The Maine College Democrats are energized and excited for both the 2006 election and the future of progressive politics in Maine, as well as the nation. Our goal is threefold: to elect, energize, and educate. We seek to elect Democrats at all levels of government through our volunteering with campaigns. From a town council race to the governor’s election, up to the 2008 presidential race, Maine College Democrats will be working campaigns and helping Democratic candidates across the state.

We seek to energize Maine’s youth, and engage them in the civic process. By bringing speakers to schools and facilitating campus discussion, we strive to get youth involved in political thought and discussion. If our actions can help mold a future candidate for public office, we’d consider that a triumph. If our actions help mold a future citizen who votes in November, that too would be a great success. Energizing the next generation of Democrats is a crucial role for us to play.

And perhaps most importantly, we work to educate. Through our panel discussions, debates, television shows, literature, and all outreach, we want to inform the youth of Maine and the nation. We know that if the youth of this country learn about what the Democratic Party stands for, they will flock to our cause. Because the Democratic Party is the party of the people. It is the party of the students, the party of the youth of our country.

If you’d like to help with our goals, we welcome you to join the Maine College Democrats. If you’d like to come to our lectures, hear our speakers, or help write our literature, we welcome you. Together we can elect, energize, and educate the future of Maine and the country. I invite you all to join us in this endeavor.