Young Progressives Demanding Action: A splinter group from College Democrats

Courtesy of Yu-Jen Shih
The division in the national Democratic party is being mirrored in campus politics.

Senior Reporter

Almost a year after November’s controversial presidential election, and the current political landscape continues to be a source of division for citizens across the country. According to the UCLA Newsroom, college student activism is at an all-time high, resulting in a high number of protests, demonstrations and statements held by students from both sides of the political spectrum all over the nation.

Students at the university have a variety of opportunities to engage in politics. While anyone is open to host or attend politically motivated events such as the anti-Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) rally last week, students are encouraged to join any of the six on-campus political organizations. Most of these organizations are nationally based and are therefore comprised of university chapters.

The Young Progressives Demanding Action (YPDA) are the university’s newest political organization. A non-profit Recognized Student Organization (RSO), the YPDA was brought to campus last April by Megan Hart, a senior undergraduate with a triple major in political science, communications and history.

YPDA got its start in California in July 2016, shortly before the general election. According to their Facebook page, YPDA focuses on a progressive platform and is comprised of high school and college students who wish to translate their political views into change.

Last April, Hart brought YPDA to the university after growing tired of traditional party politics. She was unhappy with the political climate and “thought that things were headed in the wrong direction.”

After conducting some research, Hart came across YPDA and thought that it would be a good way to mobilize students who had similar feelings. By aiming to localize national issues, she thought that the university would benefit from its own YPDA chapter.

Despite its new status, YPDA has been a source of discussion among politically-active members of the university community. According to Hart, its platform focuses on areas such as women’s rights, homelessness, poverty, immigration and sustainability. While many of these issues are also typical of the Democratic party, the YPDA and College Democrats are each their own separate organizations.

Dylan Tepper, president of the university’s College Democrats chapter, admitted that the two RSOs do in fact have a lot of overlap.

“We both are on the left side of American politics. We just identify generally with the Democratic Party whereas they are a more separate unit,” he said.

In addition, some view the YPDA as a splinter group — a direct reflection of the Bernie Sanders-Hillary Clinton divide that separated a number of Democrats through the primary election season and beyond.

When asked whether this claim was accurate, Hart implied that, while the organization most likely would not have existed if Sanders held the presidency, YPDA is not directly associated with his loss.

“On a national level, I guess you could say that this is a splinter group that came from Bernie supporters but we really are just more concerned with specific policies,” Hart said.

She added that, because the organization is not necessarily tied to candidates themselves, she would never tell a Trump or Hillary supporter to not attend the meetings. This would directly contradict with their focus as a group, which looks to ignore restricting affiliations.

Anna Shields, vice president of the College Democrats and sophomore political science and public policy double major, believes that organizations such as YPDA are well intentioned, but unproductive, explaining that they break apart the Democratic party instead of unifying it.

“I’m all for supporting progressive policies, but I feel like when members of a party split off, the party being split from tends to lose,” Shields said.

Both Tepper and Shields agreed that they love the idea of another progressive group on campus. They do, however, wish they could merge their efforts, as doing so would give them a lot more power, locally and nationally speaking.

Hart does intend to work with the College Democrats in the near future. She is busy trying to launch a justice coalition that involves a diverse range of RSOs, and seeks to strengthen communication between other leftward organizations.

Hart’s ambitions for the future of YPDA are far -reaching.

“What it ultimately comes down to,” Hart said, “is that I want to inspire a wave of students who are interested in getting involved with politics and being politically educated.

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