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Student activism groups form on campus ahead of 2020 Dem primaries

<p>Josiah Gouker ‘22 (left) is involved with Tigers for Julian, and Harshini Abbaraju ‘22 and Eric Periman ‘22 (right) are involved with Princeton for Warren.&nbsp;</p>

Josiah Gouker ‘22 (left) is involved with Tigers for Julian, and Harshini Abbaraju ‘22 and Eric Periman ‘22 (right) are involved with Princeton for Warren. 

As the 2020 Democratic presidential primary nears, only two official student groups rallying around specific candidates have formed: Princeton for Warren, which supports candidate Elizabeth Warren, and Tigers for Julián, which supports candidate Julián Castro. 

Princeton for Warren was initially formed at the end of the 2018–19 academic year by Harshini Abbaraju ’22 after many students expressed interest in the candidate. The lead co-organizers are now Abbaraju and Eric Periman ’22, who joined at the end of the summer. 


“If we had to count it all up,” Abbaraju said, thinking back to the students who got in touch with her either in person or online, “probably over a hundred students” initially expressed interest in the group. 

As of last week, Periman said their listserv had around 60 people.

When asked about their favorite Warren policies, Periman didn’t think twice.

“Medicare for All,” he said, citing how it exemplifies Warren’s campaign as being that of empowering the working and middle class instead of corporate interests.

Abbaraju highlighted Senator Warren’s call for Congress to enact permanent protections of reproductive rights from state intervention at a perilous time for women’s rights, given the traditionalist Supreme Court. 

Neither Abbaraju nor Periman are concerned about Warren’s appeal to moderates.


“Frankly, I think the Democratic party thinks too much about appealing to moderates,” Periman said, explaining that believed the party should not compromise on crucial values. 

Abbaraju spoke about Warren’s upbringing in a working class family from Oklahoma, stating that “she knows how to appeal to folks who are not traditionally into a pluralistic, racial justice-oriented ... campaign.” 

Periman tells the story of his grandmother, who was a “hard Joe Biden moderate voter.” After briefly reading up on other candidates, however, she immediately took a liking to Warren. 

“And [my grandmother] is one of those voters who’s, like, ‘I’m only gonna vote for someone who’ll beat Donald Trump,’” Periman added.  

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“She’s the easter egg of the primary,” Periman said. “I think it just comes down to how willing people are to open their minds to new ideas.” 

The duo hopes that by 2020, they’ll be able to organize University students to visit phone banks and engage in other grassroots activities to support Senator Warren. 

Until then, “we’re not trying to treat this nomination like a foregone conclusion,” Abbaraju said. 

Tigers for Julián organizer Josiah A. Gouker ’22 was struck by Castro’s “people first” approach. 

“It’s about approaching all of the issues with a certain level of humanity and compassion,” Gouker said.

Though he notes Castro has released an abundance of policies from housing to police brutality, the Democratic candidate has been particularly vocal about his stance on immigration. Gouker credits Castro for moving the needle on the immigration issue by being the first candidate to release a comprehensive plan back in April of this year. 

In a CBS debate last month, Castro enthusiastically promised to execute sweeping changes to the immigration policies of the current administration “within the 100 days” of his presidency.      

Castro is currently trailing behind in the polls and has not yet met the voter threshold needed to participate in the next Democratic primary presidential debate on Nov. 20 at the time of writing, but Gouker was unfazed by this.

When asked why Castro stands out to him among a crowd of like-minded progressive candidates, Gouker said, “He grew up in a life similar to mine.” He described Castro as a once-low-income-student who credits affirmative action for its role in elevating him to Stanford University. 

“Julián has lived experiences that many of the other candidates don’t,” Gouker added.

For his part, Gouker hopes to be a resource for members of the student body interested in learning more about Julián Castro. The Tigers for Julián group remains small, with only two organizers, but Gouker said they’ll be present for any debate launch parties on campus. 

According to the University’s College Democrats co-president Sullivan Hughes ’21, there have been talks of forming a support group for Andrew Yang, “but no substantive effort so far.”