Cornell for Biden founder and lead organizer David Bromberg ’23 occupies a curious position: His “one-man operation” representing the Democratic party’s presidential nominee on a politically-active Ivy League campus has a mailing list of only 30 students and no campaign events or group meetings in sight.
And the lack of enthusiasm for Biden is dominant — the Cornell Progressives, a significantly larger cohort of Democratic students on campus formerly known as Cornell for Bernie, decided not to endorse the Biden-Harris ticket.
During an election year, Cornell’s campus history would suggest more mobilization behind a Democratic nominee for president — especially on a campus where, in 2016, 60 percent of Cornellians said they planned to vote for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and only 4 percent indicated they planned to vote for President Donald Trump.
Despite the difficulty of campaigning during the COVID-19 pandemic, the lack of engagement around Biden has deeper roots in the Democratic party’s divide.
When asked about some progressives’ decision not to support former Vice President Joe Biden, Bromberg offered some of the following phrases: “Stupid.” “Immature and irresponsible.” “Makes me question [their] political understanding.” “Jesus Christ!” “Have you looked outside?”
However, Bromberg added that most progressives are “good, nice people.”
In a message to The Sun, Cornell Progressives lead organizer George Defendini ’22 wrote that Biden’s platform does not rise to the group’s standard for endorsement.
“While many of us want Biden to succeed and none of us want the continued rise of Fascism under Trump, we decided in writing our Constitution to reserve endorsements for candidates who align with our values of Progressivism and Leftism,” Defendini wrote.
But for Bromberg, a stalwart Biden supporter since 2015 — he even bought a Biden T-shirt — it’s either his guy or, “the end of the republic,” he said.
“My first political memory is of my grandfather raging against Bush,” Bromberg, the child of a fiercely Democratic Long Island home, said. He has come to believe two seemingly contradictory ideas: Biden can “recapture [America’s] unity,” and “[in politics] not everyone is there in good faith.”
In an increasingly partisan nation, Bromberg said he hates the “spineless” Republicans and described President Donald Trump as a “malign and hateful freak,” but wants nationwide unity.
Even as 58 percent of self-identified Biden voters reported that they were voting more against Trump than for Biden, Bromberg said he wouldn’t be a “fairweather supporter” — he is all in for Biden.
Bromberg has an unusual role as a youth organizer in a campaign that he characterizes as targeting “soccer moms and former Republicans.” Starting Cornell for Biden as a first-year, Bromberg faced steep odds.
While Cornell Students for Bernie was 40 members strong, canvassing in New Hampshire and actively organizing on campus, Cornell for Biden was, “just me making calls,” Bromberg said. He added that he had three other members –– then one left to support Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.).
But after Super Tuesday, when it became clear that Biden would most likely be the Democratic nominee, Cornell for Biden was planning a weekend trip to Pennsylvania to canvass swing voters.
Then, the COVID-19 pandemic came to a head. Once the University announced that in-person classes were suspended and campus would close, Cornell for Biden had to cancel the Pennsylvania trip and reevaluate.
“Just when it was going well, everything went to shit,” Bromberg said.
He blamed some of his own weaknesses as an organizer for the lapse in campaign activity. For a traditional campaigner like Bromberg, virtual organizing takes a toll.
“I hate phonebanking. I seethingly despise it,” he said. “I’m a people person. I like door to door campaigning and knocking. I like reaching out to people.”
Off campus, Bromberg has seen more success: He said that he spent a year moderating the Joe Biden subreddit, which currently has more than 52,000 subscribers, as well as the subreddit’s Discord server (which has roughly 1,000 members) and another unaffiliated Biden Discord (which has roughly 500 members).
Bromberg was formerly a member of Twitter’s @BidenWarRoom, with 40,000 followers and counting. He was a “big help” in the group’s initial formation, Justin Gillespie, the organization’s chairman, wrote in an email to The Sun.
Being “the one schmuck still voting for Biden” wasn’t easy before the former vice president won his party’s nomination.
“I won’t take the conservative student approach and say I was discriminated against but … it was rough,” Bromberg said.
Bromberg recalled heated arguments in the Cornell Democrats meetings and message threads, which he described as “a strange experience and not always friendly.”
“We had several heated discussions, especially in the GroupMe,” the organization’s president, Vale Lewis ’21, said. “Biden supporters and supporters of other candidates unsurprisingly disagreed, but I think that kind of discourse is healthy and normal during primary season.”
But Bromberg has continued to campaign, even if it’s just via email.
After Nov. 3, Bromberg said that Cornell for Biden will cease to exist, whether or not the group’s candidate wins. In the event that the election results are contested or ballot counting faces disruptions, Bromberg said he will “keep [the group] members informed.”
He hopes it doesn’t come to that. Bromberg wants the Republican Party that he sees as “actively undermining our democracy” to leave the nation alone.
“I really like America,” he says. “I’m kind of a big fan of the place.”