Students and professors crowded into Humanities Room 304 Tuesday night to celebrate what many in the department consider a holiday, as midterm election returns trickled in on a large-screen TV tuned to CNN.
“This is actually the start of your political life,” assistant professor Dr. Marcela García-Castañon told SF State students as they nibbled finger foods and watched Democrats gradually take control of the House of Representatives.
“All of you under the age of 25…[you’re] gonna be voting for multiple elections,” she said. “Gilead is not here yet.”
The election watch party, held on Tuesday, Nov. 6, by the Political Science Student Association in collaboration with the Political Science Department, offered a venue for students to hear commentary from professors, such as García-Castañon and assistant professor Dr. Rebecca Eissler on the future of American politics.
“I’m hoping that everyone who participates [in the watch party] gets a richer understanding of how elections work and what’s going on right at this moment in America, because it is sort of an exciting moment,” said Eissler, who studies and teaches American politics and led the event. “There’s been two years of President Trump’s administration, and do the American people want change, or do they want to stay on the same track?”
The event provided students the opportunity to socialize with others in the department, while also offering an open forum to share concerns and ask questions of some of the brightest political minds SF State has to offer about the incoming election results and what they may mean for the newly divided government and the country.
“It’s good to see a lot of students engaging amongst each other, amongst the professors, about something that we’re very passionate about,” said political science major and graduating senior Isaac Cisneros. “Whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat, it doesn’t matter, the point is you’re participating in a part of a democracy that we strive for for the last 200 years and I think that’s admirable.”
Political science major Michaela Byrd was really excited to attend the event because she said her class schedule has conflicted with many other department events in the past.
“I care a lot about elections and how they work and I feel like you can always learn more,” she said. “I was curious to see what some professors have to say about certain races going on, especially in Texas.”
Transfer student Roque Coral said he was also very interested in Texas, specifically the Senate race between incumbent Republican Ted Cruz and up-and-coming Democrat Beto O’Rourke.
“I’m a big political junkie,” Coral said. “Obviously I’m a poli sci major.”
Ultimately, O’Rourke lost by 2.6 percentage points, but nevertheless in his failed attempt to become the first Democrat to represent Texas in the Senate since 1994, he seems to have captured the imaginations of many like Byrd and Coral across the nation.
Associate professor Dr. Jason McDaniel, who studies and teaches American politics and elections, said he hopes students who attended the watch party took away from it the importance of elections themselves and how much every vote counts.
“We’re going to see some close elections probably, and I hope they get that,” he said. “They might not feel this way, but [I hope they get] that sense that even their vote matters.”
McDaniel said he was very impressed by the turnout both in volume and diversity for the event, especially given that the election was non-presidential.
“I have memories of doing this from when I was in college and I was really glad we were doing it,” he said. “To be able to see the students be interested in this, to watch the news unfold — this really is an incredibly important election,” he said.
“This is the diversity of San Francisco State,” he added, gesturing to the room full of attendees chattering excitedly. “I don’t always get to see all our majors, so this is great.”