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Sunday, Dec 5, 2021

Bringing Back Mercer’s Democrats

Chris Grant, Drew Bryant, and Desirrae Jones hold up signs for Bernie Sanders during their time at the Iowa caucus.
Chris Grant, Drew Bryant, and Desirrae Jones hold up signs for Bernie Sanders during their time at the Iowa caucus.

Mercer University’s chapter of the Young Democrats is back in action this spring semester.

After the 2012 presidential election, the chapter deteriorated and ceased to exist due to a lack of student interest and involvement. In stark contrast, the Mercer chapter of the College Republicans continued to thrive and have an active presence in student life.

Desirrae Jones, the new president of the Young Democrats at Mercer, was responsible for the organization’s rebirth.

Jones said that the lack of equal representation for Democrats became highly apparent to her as the 2016 presidential election season got underway. As a political science and communications double major, Jones took on the responsibility whole-heartedly.

“I have always been interested in what is happening in our government,” said Jones, who self-identifies as a black, southern, low-income, product-of-a-teenage-mother woman. “However, I never acted on it because I was sure there was no place for someone like me in politics. But after coming to Mercer and finding myself, I realized that there is infinite room for people like me in politics because there is a lack of us there right now.”

After deciding to activate her political voice, Jones approached Chris Grant, an associate professor of political science at Mercer. Grant, who has experience advising both the College Republicans and the Young Democrats, was enthused at the idea of starting the chapter back up.

“I believe that students need to exercise a political voice,” Grant said. “I will facilitate and advise any group trying to do so.”

In addition to the two major parties, one Mercer organization, Young Americans for Liberty, also represents libertarians on campus.

Jones said that she hopes bringing back the active presence of a Young Democrats chapter will help Mercer students recognize the benefits of having multiple political organizations that speak to differing interests and political views.

“My personal vision is to dispel the myth of democrats being hippie liberals that just want to take your money,” Jones said. “We are way more than that. I want to help educate people on the democratic platform and get a discourse going.”

Jones said that in time the Young Democrats hope to host student debates, sponsor voter engagement events and compel Mercer students to become more politically engaged. But as of now, Jones acknowledged that the organization will face an uphill battle for stability in the months to come.

“Mercer doesn't seem that politically driven,” Jones said. “Those who are don't normally fall on the [liberal] side of the spectrum. I think it is because so much of Mercer is based in conservatism. From our Baptist and Southern heritage to the kind of students we enroll, we fall way more red on the spectrum.”

However, Jones hopes to reach a membership base of thirty to fifty students by the end of the semester. Drew Bryant, vice president of the Young Democrats, hopes that despite the lack of a budget, the new organization will be able to engage their members in various events on campus.

“My aspirations are to engage in thoughtful dialogue and further educate our potential members about politics,” Bryant said. “Hopefully, we will even be able to actively campaign and host speakers.”

Jones’ message for students is simple — get involved.

“There’s room for everybody in politics,” she said. “Politics doesn’t have to be cutthroat. It can be centered around the issues that speak to you. The great thing about these campus organizations, like the Young Democrats and College Republicans, is that it allows students to get involved, even if they just want to feel out the world of politics.”

“The more people that get involved, the better this can be for the entire Mercer community.”


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