With election season around the corner, Americans continue to reinforce their lines in the sand with respect to where they stand politically. As more lines are drawn, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the Republican and Democratic Parties continue to stand as giants over their third party contenders.
Northwest’s community is no different with student political organization numbers reflecting the national parties.
College Democrats has over 30 members with College Republicans close behind at roughly 20. Meanwhile, one person is the single member of both No Labels and Young Americans for Liberty.
This is due to low student civic engagement, polarization and a lack of cross-club coordination.
A Washington Post article from 2017 cited a study that recorded where students at the University of California at Los Angeles aligned politically. The study found 20% of UCLA students identified as conservative, 38% liberal and about 42% as middle of the road.
These numbers, alongside the member counts for political groups on campus, reveal a severe lack of student civic engagement on campus. If the majority of Northwest students were engaged civically, No Labels and Young Americans for Liberty would be thriving right now — both with more members than College Democrats and College Republicans.
Students should be engaging with the clubs much more. By doing so, they can convey their opinions and share their voices, leading to stronger understandings of the side they align with and the opposing side.
This is especially important during election season. Electing a president impacts everyone, so everyone should be voicing their thoughts on the issue to learn from one another.
Engagement shouldn’t decrease outside of election season, however. Every year important issues arrive, and students should do their best to learn about them and share their opinions on them.
Take municipal elections and voting issues for an example. They often have far less engagement than national elections, however, they have far more direct consequences for their communities.
The Use Tax passed in Maryville in April is a direct example of this.
In Nodaway County, the Use Tax passed in April 2019, implementing a local sales tax on all online purchases, angring Northwest students. If students had been engaged with the issue, they could’ve turned the vote the other way.
To help increase this engagement, College Democrats and College Republicans should strive to avoid polarization in their organizations. Polarization and focus on extreme issues leads students to avoid getting involved due to feeling a group is too liberal or too conservative for them.
Combine students feeling like a group is too extreme for them with the desire to go home and eat carry out and you have a recipe for low engagement.
This issue can start to be addressed by having more coordination between both College Democrats and College Republicans as well as No Labels and Young Americans for Liberty.
All four organizations should work together to have more times and events to engage with each other. In the past College Democrats and College Republicans have had debates, but this isn’t enough.
They should also host events without the competition aspect of a debate. This would help promote an atmosphere where students feel more comfortable to ask questions and share their ideas without the fear of “losing.”
It’s also important to include No Labels and Young Americans for Liberty in these events. This would bring their equally important views to the table while also reining in College Democrats and College Republicans from getting too extreme.
If the political clubs of Northwest work toward these goals, they’ll hopefully see an increase in numbers across the board, and No Labels or Young Americans for Liberty might have a shot at the race to 250 members.