Campus right and left join hands
This election season, student groups representing opposing political parties—the College Democrats and College Republicans—are joint-programming a host of election-related and recreational events.
By putting aside their fundamental differences in positions on issues such as healthcare, the economy, education, and the role of government, the organizations aim to increase student awareness of and involvement in political affairs. This comes amidst a wave of polarization sweeping across the nation.
Leaders from both the College Democrats and College Republicans have found it not only advantageous to work together but enjoyable as well.
“If Congress worked the way we did, the country would be a whole lot better,” said junior Jake Lichtenfeld, treasurer of the College Democrats.
In fact, Presidents Matt Lauer of the College Republicans and Leigha Empson of the College Democrats, both juniors, were in the same freshman seminar, Law and Society. That was, they said, when they really learned to acknowledge their differences. Now the two are both friends and intense political opponents.
The two campus organizations have a lot in store before Election Day. There will be two campus crossfires with members of each group battling it out on Sept. 26 and Oct. 29 at 7 p.m. Last year, the event had between 50 and 60 attendees. And on Sept. 29 from 1 to 6 p.m., the organizations will meet head-to-head in a game of laser tag.
The College Republicans also went to a firing range earlier this year. “We weren’t invited,” Empson said. Lauer said that he didn’t think the College Democrats, with their position on gun laws, would have wanted to come anyway.
The two groups are coordinating to hold debate watch parties, scheduled for Oct. 3, 11 and 22 from 8 to 9:30 p.m., as well as an election night watch party on Nov. 6. A faculty panel discussion on the impact of the election will take place on Nov. 28.
There will not be a watch party for the town hall debate due to midterms.
When asked what they would like the campus community to know about their organizations and the upcoming election, Empson of the College Democrats said, “Get involved.” The College Democrats have a mailing list of 500 people and hold discussion events where students can learn about issues that pique their interest, even if they don’t think of themselves as political. “Everyone has one issue they feel passionate about, and from there they can connect it to the bigger scheme,” Empson said.
“We exist,” Lauer said of the College Republicans. The College Republicans are clearly a minority on campus, with 10 to 20 active members attending weekly meetings, but still they carry a presence and influence on campus affairs. Lauer added that they tend to focus more on policy than other issues as an organization.
Although they find themselves on opposite sides of the political spectrum, the party organizations are united by the need to inspire young voters to become more actively involved in the future of the country.
At the Class of 2016’s convocation ceremony, Chancellor Wrighton made a remark in his speech stressing the civic duty to vote.
Anna Applebaum, a senior in the College Democrats, said that voting at the local level is also an important civic duty.
“Voting is one of the most basic ways that you say: OK, I’m part of society. I have a stake in where I live, the people who surround me, and how all of these things impact my daily life,” she said.
In the 2008 election, Obama lost the state of Missouri to McCain by a slim margin of fewer than 4000 votes. It was one of only two times in history in which the state has voted for a losing presidential candidate.
Gearing up for a Romney celebration party, Lauer thinks the Republicans can pull out a win. Empson on the other hand is still optimistic about Obama’s odds overall.
For more info about events and how to get involved, contact:
President, College Democrats
President, College Republicans
Editor-in-Chief, The Washington University Political Review
The Gephardt Institute also serves as a resource for questions regarding voter registration.