Growing Divide Graphic

Northwest organizations are reacting to the 2020 Presidential election with consequences on issues like COVID-19, climate change, economy and national image. 

Both political groups on campus — Northwest Missouri College Democrats and Northwest College Republicans — have grievances with their own parties and the opposition. Despite their differences in affiliation, the two groups work to uplift student voices and create environments that foster civil dialogue. The groups hold watch parties, host guest speakers and establish a central message. 

College Democrats President Tyler Bears grew up on far-right television and was immersed in his family’s hatred for Barack Obama. It wasn’t until Bears stumbled upon Jon Stewart on “The Daily Show” that he realized he disagreed with his family. He has been a loyal Democrat ever since, believing in the importance of safety for minority communities, science and universal healthcare. 

“Democrats have been given this duty to protect and uplift the most vulnerable members of our society,” Bears said. 

William Anderson, secretary of College Republicans and social media manager for Northwest Students for Life, said he believes the unborn are the most vulnerable. When he learned of his grandmother being nearly forced to abort his mother, his passion for protecting the unborn began. His belief in anti-abortion is the backbone of his decison to side with the right. He also votes for a better economy.

“My third value is traditional grassroot values: constitutionalism, good ole stars and stripes, saying thank you, ma’am, thank you, sir,” Anderson said.

College Republicans offer a platform for what Anderson called an unwelcome opinion on the Northwest campus. 

Anderson voted for Donald Trump and Mike Pence for the president and vice president. Treasurer Abigail Shepherd and Vice President Savannah Baker also voted for a Republican ticket for Second Amendment protections, economic growth, the now conservative majority on the Supreme Court and out of concern of President-elect Joe Biden’s policies regarding taxes.  

Bears voted for Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris for president and vice-president. Members of College Democrats Jordan Unger and Amy McMullen did the same. The three say the reasons include COVID-19, climate change, race relations, education and what Bears describes as the regression of America under Trump. 

While both groups felt confident in their decisions, they were both able to admit there were grievances to be had with their own candidate. One of the largest concerns for College Democrats is Harris, the vice president-elect. 

Bears and Anderson agree Harris needs to provide answers for her time as a district attorney in San Francisco, California. Harris earned a reputation for toughness when she prosecuted cases of gang violence, drug trafficking and sexual abuse. 

When the College Democrats watched last year’s preliminary hearings, they noticed Harris and Biden often disagreed on policies. Bears also referenced what he called a transphobic past between Harris and the LGBTQ community. However, the College Democrats agree it was time for diversity in the office.

“The way that I justify voting for a Biden-Harris ticket is the fact that I know that a Trump-Pence ticket would be objectively worse in every single measure,” Bears said. 

Trump has also been accused of being transphobic, along with homophobic, racist and more. Shepherd said she believes Trump’s ban on transgender military service was intended to protect transgender people if they’re lacking proper hormone treatments. She also referenced the low unemployment rates for minorities during Trump’s presidency.

“How can you say that about one person while representing the other person that has quoted evidence of being racist himself,” Shepherd said. 

She was referring to a quote from Biden saying, “Poor kids are just as bright and just as talented as white kids.”

The three conservatives agreed that while the two share similar faults, Trump lacks professionalism. Shepherd explains the differences between Trump and Biden with an analogy about the importance of experience in the medical field. 

“You have a surgeon,” Shepherd said. “You can have one that’s super skilled, knows what they’re doing and has shown success but doesn’t have the best bedside manners, or you can have the one that has decent bedside manners and has been a surgeon for 47 years and has a very low track record of success.”

Shepherd’s father is a police officer. With racial relationships with police officers having been in question this year following the death of George Floyd in May, Shepherd said the disrespect towards police officers has to stop.

“There is always going to be a bad apple in the bunch, and I do think that we should work to eliminate that,” Shepherd said. “A 19-year-old girl such as myself shouldn’t have to worry that every phone call she gets is a call that her dad’s been shot at work.”

Unger agreed that relationships need to be improved but said it starts with the police. He grew up in a family with many different races and backgrounds, all with unique experiences with police. Bears said he feels Biden could stand to be more progressive in that area. 

Anderson said the events surrounding Floyd’s death were tragic but believed that Floyd was resisting arrest in video footage he’s seen. He said if more Americans would have seen this footage protests wouldn’t have led to so much destruction. Anderson said this difference in the evaluation of the situation leads to a target on the back of the GOP.

“We don’t go all the way to the socialist viewpoint that they want,” Anderson said. 

Unger said Trump’s denial of science has caused him to lose faith in the administration. As a biology major, Unger said it was frustrating to hear Trump call COVID-19 a hoax and suggest cleaning the forest to stop the forest fires on the West Coast. 

College Republicans sponsor David Vlieger, assistant mathematics professor, and the three members question the validity of the current numbers due to the politicalization of the pandemic and say the 99% survivability rate is overlooked. 

Anderson knows Biden is a practicing Catholic but struggles with his pro-abortion stance.

“Catholics for Biden makes as much sense as vegans for hamburgers,” Anderson said. 

Following pushback from the Democratic Party after the inauguration of Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett, citizens like Bears and Unger fear some of the largest court cases in history may be at risk.

One of those is Roe v. Wade of 1973. Students for Life is hopeful this case will be overturned. Students for Life President Tilena Conover also hopes to see Planned Parenthood defunded and replaced with more resources for pregnant women with the exception of birth control.

“Christians are now old-fashioned,” Conover said. “Anything that stops a human life from being made shouldn’t happen.”

Obergefell v. Hodges of 2015 is also under fire. The case was won in a 5-4 vote. Now the court sits at 6-3 with a conservative majority. 

Both Bears and Unger are members of the LGBTQ community and rely on the decision to have a marriage recognized by the United States government. Bears said he’s terrified of Barrett and believes she was only pushed through due to doubt that Trump would win a second term. 

“Trump this entire time has been a useful idiot. He became more and more unpopular especially as COVID went on,” Bears said. “Republicans don’t care about playing by the rules; they don’t. They will act like they will, and they act like they’ll take the highroad, but they won’t, and democrats fall for it every single time,”

Baker and Shepherd described Barrett as a powerhouse. While Harris’ win is historical in being the first Black and South Asian woman in the office of vice president, they don’t think she’s the right woman for the job. 

“I personally don’t think race or gender should play into what job you get or your lot in life,” Shepherd said. “Based on what I’ve heard from other people, Kamala Harris is pretty much the VP because she is a woman and she’s Black.”

Shepherd said she admired Barrett’s ability to manage seven children, two of which are adopted from Haiti, while holding a full-time job. Her knowledge of the adoption process appealed to Shepherd. 

All three of the College Republican members said they admired Barrett’s denial to answer some questions during her inauguration hearings. It showed them she would wait to look at the evidence on cases before coming to a conclusion. 

Eyes are now on the Supreme Court to decide who the next president of the United States will be following recounts in many swing states like Georgia, Pennsylvania and Arizona. The members of each group agree a recount should be done and say they will accept the results of the election. 

“I won’t be crying ‘not my president,’ but I’ll always wear my hat,” Anderson said, referencing his red hat with “Keep America Great” in large white letters.

Anderson also attended the Students for Life meeting wearing a mask reading “I’m only wearing this so I don’t get fined.” He described the current election results as another Bush vs. Gore situation, referring to the contested election in 2000.

The College Democrats have many fears going forward even if Biden remains the president-elect and takes office in 2021. 

Bears said he worries about too many concessions from Biden and there will be gridlock between parties until Senate and House reelections in 2022. Unger worries that the sides will become more polarized. McMullen said the amount of misinformation in the world right now is concerning. Bears agreed.

“One of the most damaging things that Trump has done to this country is the amount of doubt that he is trying to instill in our institution or about our institution,” Bears said. 

The uncertainty of the future weighs heaviest on the students. Until the several lawsuits the Trump administration has filed are dealt with, and regardless of whether he concedes, America anticipates a new president in January.

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