Northwest students have created two nonpartisan political groups on campus in the last three years, but they are only kept alive by one student.
When senior Taylor Moore came to Northwest in 2016, Lauren Harris, who has since graduated, had just started No Labels, a nonpartisan group that discusses political issues. However, Moore didn’t join No Labels at first, instead helping alumnus Daniel Foose rebuild College Republicans.
Moore, from suburban Kansas, was raised conservative and identified with her parents’ views until she came to college.
While she didn’t know much about the Libertarian party at the time of the 2016 election, Moore said she remembered being frustrated with the polarization of the country and students.
“I’m a big fan of bipartisanship because I don’t like arguing,” Moore said.
While working on former Kansas Congressman Kevin Yoder’s 2018 campaign, Moore made a friend who introduced her to Libertarianism. When she came back to campus in the fall of 2018, she started a Young Americans for Liberty group at Northwest.
Moore said YAL is a group that accepts members of all parties or people who identify with no political parties. She served as the YAL president for the school year, but the group has not met this semester due to lack of student interest.
“What I liked was that they can pretty much find common ground on at least one issue,” Moore said. “For example, I could be completely libertarian-minded and someone could be completely socialist, but we could find common ground on humanitarian issues.”
Moore said she is the only remaining member of No Labels, which met regularly until Harris graduated in April 2018.
Political science assistant professor Luke Campbell, adviser for No Labels, said the group had 10 or more students at each meeting, but lost traction following the election.
Campbell said there have been efforts to put the group back together, and it has met a few times, but it suffered in the lull between presidential elections.
Both College Democrats and College Republicans have experienced surges in interest from students this semester in the lead-up to the election year.
Campbell said it’s difficult to maintain any political group during an off-year, but especially during a time in politics that feels polarizing.
“Talking to some of the partisan groups on campus, they’re going through some similar stuff as well,” Campbell said. “But with a group like No Labels, it’s harder to attract because it’s something that takes a lot more sustained and focused energy because it’s easier for people in politics to find their team.”
Nationally, nonpartisan voter identity tends to drop around elections and rise in off-years.
According to Gallup polling, independent voter registration usually dips by around 3% in the lead-up to a presidential election year, then rises about 1% in the year post-election. In 2017, independent voter registration rose 3%, landing just 1% shy of the three-decade record high of 43% in 2014.
The average percent of registered independent voters, according to continuing Gallup polling, was 42% since January 2018.
Campbell said he hopes No Labels can come back and serve as an intermediary or a third voice in debates or discussions with College Democrats and College Republicans.