Emily Lower: Pushing the Blue Wave in Missouri

The president of Mizzou College Democrats sees herself as a progressive and wants to inspire Missouri voters to support Democratic politicians the same way they have supported Democratic initiatives.

The 2020 election cycle was favorable for the Democratic Party — they held onto their majority in the House of Representatives, broke even in the Senate with two victories in Georgia and, of course, won the presidency.

While Missouri is not a strong state for Democrats, the party has its share of supporters there, including the Mizzou College Democrats. The organization campaigns and lobbies for Democratic causes in Missouri and nationwide, and junior Emily Lower is their president.

Lower is a political science, economics and statistics triple major who has involved herself in political activities since she started at MU. During her freshman year, she was a deputy field organizer for former Sen. Claire McCaskill’s re-election campaign and joined Mizzou College Democrats later that year. During her time at MU, Lower has served on the executive board for the Women’s Leadership Conference and currently works as a residential advisor for the Kinder Institute on Constitutional Democracy’s Residential College.

Lower said she started following politics during the summer of 2016. She said she was bored and passed the time watching late-night political comedy shows. Since then, she has stayed invested because she believes politics affects everyone and provides a means to help people.

“I think the biggest reason that I became so interested in politics was the idea that it has such a direct impact on the quality of people's lives,” Lower said. “I really have always wanted to have whatever my career be to involve helping people and improving the way that people live, and I feel like politics has been the strongest way to pursue that in a lot of different capacities.”

MU junior Colby Thornton, one of Lower’s friends and Mizzou College Democrats’ treasurer, said Lower’s interest in politics was strong enough to get him interested as well. Lower and Thornton were friends in high school, and Thornton said that after the Parkland school shooting, Lower led a walkout at her school and gave a speech. He talked to her about the speech and politics and was inspired to join Mizzou College Democrats when he got to MU.

Lower said acting as the president of Mizzou College Democrats allows her to use her interest in politics and her platform to organize and direct Democratic voices on campus.

“Through that role, I have been able to innovate what organizing on campus looks like, what organizing in the community looks like, what student involvement in Jefferson City and in campaigns looks like and the impact that Mizzou voices can have in the electoral process,” Lower said. “I think it's been a really cool thing to explore.”

As close friends, Lower and Thornton work together and support each other in their work for College Democrats. Thornton said that Lower always reminds him of what he needs to get done, and he always helps Lower check over messages to the club before she sends them.

“I kind of serve as a special advisor to the president … and she’s my motivator, to say the least,” Thornton said.

Lower said her role as the College Democrats’ president is the most important role she plays at MU, but she said her involvement with Sen. McCaskill’s 2018 Senate campaign was important to her as well. She said working with the campaign actually served as a pipeline to College Democrats — she spent much of her first semester at MU working for the campaign and decided to join after it ended.

Sen. McCaskill lost the 2018 Senate election to Republican Sen. Josh Hawley, meaning Lower lost her first campaign. Lower said this inspired her to think critically about Democrats’ place in Missouri, especially since Democrat-supported policies like Medicare expansion and raising the minimum wage have succeeded since that election. She said she wants to further explore the reasons behind the divide between Missouri’s support for Democratic politicians and the policies Democrats advocate.

“It has really challenged me to start working through what it's going to take to get the Missouri electorate to align with what the Democrats stand for,” Lower said. “I think a lot of times we go into politics thinking, ‘Okay, well, I believe in these things, why would anyone else not believe in these things?’ And so it's challenged me to think a little bit more deeper on what communication and listening mean to a greater electorate.”

Lower said she carried this inspiration into her work as a field intern for former state Rep. Judy Baker’s 2020 campaign for state Senate. Baker lost the race, but Lower said she enjoyed getting more involved with local politics.

Although Lower did not contribute to his campaign, she said that President Joe Biden’s victory was “extremely important.” Lower, a progressive, said she is not a whole-hearted Biden supporter and backed Sen. Elizabeth Warren in the Democratic primaries. She said she and other progressives must push President Biden to pursue “bold, out-of-the-box policies” that will help the country through its crises.

“It’s a relief, and I'm going to take a day to celebrate today,” Lower said. “But these next four years are going to be still just as much work to make sure we are pushed as far as we need to go.”

Edited by Joy Mazur | jmazur@themaneater.com

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