Politically Minded Groups Prepare for the Election

James Morra

With the presidential election close at hand and political jousts reaching a fever pitch, several organi-zations across campus are working to facilitate the discussion of pertinent issues among students. Three groups in particular – College Democrats, College Republicans and Democracy Matters – meet on a regular basis to discuss recent developments in the political arena. Recently, however, taking advantage of the heightened sensitivity of the election season, these groups are opening up to the com-munity to raise awareness of their own political fronts and to encourage participation in the election.

Both the College Demo-crats and the College Republi-cans concentrate on discussing a broad field of issues, ranging from developments within their respective parties to foreign and domestic policy. With the presidential campaign nearing its conclusion, the conversation tends to fall on the candidates and their platforms. Despite the gulf in political views, howev-er, the College Democrats and College Republicans often col-laborate, most recently to host screenings along with Democ-racy Matters of various conven-tions and both the presidential and vice-presidential debates.

In addition, since arguments within each group are bound to turn stale, the groups coordinate debates in order to give students on both sides an opportunity to defend their views. Even so, President of College Demo-crats junior Andy Philipson said that the rela-tionship mostly lacks any animosity.

“We are pretty friendly with the leaders of the [College] Republicans, so though our po-litical views differ sharply, we are both more than happy to coordinate to bolster political education on campus.”

Furthermore, for these organizations, involvement in both the presidential and general elections is not limited to conversa-tion. College Democrats plans to arrange several phone banks to support both Presi-dent Obama and Dan Lamb, a candidate running for Congress in the local district, and others. For each phone bank, students would call registered voters to remind them to vote and provide information on certain candidates’ platforms.

On the other hand, Democracy Matters, as its name suggests, does not concentrate on any one particular stance but rather it tries to raise political awareness. Specifically, Democ-racy Matters targets the problems ingrained in the United States’ political system, namely in “eliminating big, private money.” Its or-ganizational mission seems to underline the public’s recent anxiety over Republican presi-dential candidate Mitt Romney’s personal fi-nances and the ongoing controversy over his tax payments.

Especially since a majority of students were not eligible to vote in the last presidential elec-tion, these three groups in particular have capital-ized on the enthusiasm that comes with the elec-tion season. Democracy Matters has partnered with College Democrats, College Republicans and the Political Science Department to offer catered showings of all the presidential debates, streamed live from YouTube, in order to spur political awareness and engagement across cam-pus. In addition, these groups sponsor voting registration drives, which have yielded over 200 new voters in Madison County so far, and pro-vide absentee ballots for interested individuals. At the first live-streamed debate, campus coordina-tor for Democracy Matters senior David Butler announced that there will be a panel discussion later in the month, in which five or six professors each will sketch how the outcome of the election will affect their academic concentrations.

In spite of individual politics, however, there is a consensus among the three groups that student involvement in the current political environment is critical. With the future uncertain and an entire swath of is-sues ready to fall on students once they leave college, this election comes to bear on many social and economic concerns that they will inevitably have to confront.

“Without a doubt some of the major issues facing college students today will be decided in the next term, including student debt, health care, abortion and other varying social issues,” Philipson said. “We’re at a crossroads in America – we’re losing our grip on the validity of calling ourselves the best in the world. It’s up to our generation to change the issues that come about today. As cal-lous as it sounds, those in office, those who elect these people to office won’t be around when these decisions have a more tangible effect on us.”

Election Day is November 6 and the lo-cal polls will be located in the Hamilton Public Library.

Contact James Morra at [email protected]