A look into College Democrats and Republicans

Elizabeth Golden

Politics are involved in most aspects of UMKC’s College Democrats’ and Republicans’ lives.

The “Daily Show” and “Colbert Report” are listed among group members’ favorite television shows. The majority of conversations revolve around politics. Even their Facebook statuses tend to be political.

“I talk about it a lot, but I guess it’s relative,” said Andrew Miller, junior political science major and College Democrats chairman. “Most people now identify me as a ‘political guy.’ I love it. I wouldn’t say it consumes me yet. I have a lot of other interests. But this is a big one.”

A College Democrats meeting features  a relaxing atmosphere, with an average of 20 students in attendance, filled with entertainment and heated debates.

“We start off with the business stuff,” Miller said. “Here’s the event we’re doing, here’s how the past event went, etc. Then we’ll watch an episode of  ‘The Daily Show’ or ‘The Colbert Report,’ whichever one is funnier that day. Then we’ll spend about half an hour just discussing.”

Miller said students attend for different reasons.

“Some want to help elect Democrats, some want to find out what being a Democrat is about and some just want to talk trash on Republicans,” Miller said. “We try to satisfy all these.”

On the other hand, the College Republican meetings attract anywhere from five to 20 students, along with a National Field Representative in attendance.  Members typically share ideas and historical insights.

“Our meetings are very casual,” said Carrie Smith, political science graduate student and College Republicans co-chair. “We talk about internship opportunities, upcoming activities and have several topics for discussion. For instance, how the government should handle certain situations.”

Although both organizations have a relaxed attitude, members have a firm basis for their beliefs.

Some members have personal experiences that influence their political beliefs.

“My father grew up as a non-wealthy Italian immigrant and worked odd jobs until he was 18 and joined the Air Force,” said Allie McGown, junior communication studies major and College Republicans co-chair.

“He knew his family would never have money to pay for him to have a better life, so he had to make it for himself. I can’t imagine kids in college or kids that dream of going to college just expecting the government to pay for anything due solely to their citizenship.”

Rachael Fenlon, the College Republican National Committee Field Representative, spends the majority of her time recruiting for the organization and sharing information with students in many Missouri colleges about the College Republicans.

“I love the number of people I get to meet, hearing their stories and understanding what creates their beliefs and the idea that maybe I can make them understand mine as well,” she said. “Politics is something that I grew up with a passion for without even realizing it.  It was such a huge part of my everyday life that I lost the sight of it, as many of us do.  But politics affects everyone every day, so it’s something that we need to at least be aware of.”

Fenlon also has a strong basis for her beliefs.

“My beliefs are based mostly on personal experience and my upbringing,” Fenlon said. “I grew up as an expatriate in Saudi Arabia.  My parents were there together for over 20 years and had each worked there individually for some time before that. They taught me that hard work and sacrifices lead to good things. I believe in conservatism in the truest sense of the word. I would like less government involvement in all aspects of life, including the personal side as well.”

Smith shares a similar viewpoint and also strongly stresses her “conservative values” in regards to her political stance.

“I’ve always been in the conservative mindset,” Smith said. “I believe in individual rights and liberty, but that doesn’t mean the government should pay anyone’s way. I have a house, which I earned by working hard. I’m all for helping out, but it’s not the government’s job to take care of people.”

Miller, on the other hand, has different reasoning behind his political stance.

“I care about these [Democratic] policies because they affect real people,” Miller said. “It’s not just numbers and rhetoric. I see my gay friends every day, and I want them to marry the person they love. I’m a Type I diabetic, so I know what it’s like to be denied health insurance, and I know how much strain hospital bills put on a middle class family. These are real issues.”

Although Miller identifies with the Democratic Party, he is not solely influenced by the party’s stance and votes for whomever he feels best represents his beliefs.

“I do not hold an absolutist position,” he said. “That’s really the problem facing America today. People don’t care who the candidate is, only their party identification. I vote for the candidate who fights for me, and the things I care about.”

Smith, however, always tends to vote for the Republican Party because of her strong beliefs.

“I always tend to vote for the Republican candidate because they uphold conservative values which I strongly agree with,” Smith said. “That doesn’t mean I won’t ever vote for another party, just I have yet to find one that matches my values.”

McGown usually agrees with Smith, but prefers another party.

“I identify more with being a Libertarian,” McGown said. “But I’d be throwing my vote if I chose them. I just want a government that will stay out of my life.”

Both organizations have been extremely active this election season by attending conferences and actively campaigning to register voters.

“We help Democrats get elected by organizing phone banks and canvasses for local candidates,” Miller said. “We register voters on campus. We engage in civil discussion of policies and world events at our meetings, and educate members on policy matters.”

The Republicans partake in similar activities, especially registering voters and supporting the party’s candidates.

“Regardless of party, we just make sure people can vote,” Smith said. “But for those who do vote Republican, we offer many rewards to our benefits. For instance, we have VIP access to some Republican events.”

Fenlon agrees.

“I feel that it is important for people to be involved, no matter which side it is that people are involved on,” she said. “Every person’s vote counts.  Every decision politicians make affects your life in some way.  A lot of people complain about the government, but unless people are knowledgeable and active, nothing can change.”

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