Political involvement on college campuses across the United States is a known — and accepted — part of student life. Defined by Johns Hopkins University as “work to cause political, environmental, economic, or social change,” student activism in the post-secondary sphere shows no signs of disappearing.
A classic example already exists here at UCCS, with both the College Republicans and College Democrats working year after year to find participation and collaboration from students on campus. The two organizations received their start and influence from their respective national committees, focused on electing candidates and supporting various political agendas.
The clear differences between them can be directly traced back to the national committees that they stem from. On campus, both organizations are led by students that question those differences and the way that each political party in the U.S. is representing them as young Americans. With the national conventions occurring over a month ago, there is a feeling of failure and misrepresentation on both sides.
Nicholas St. John is a second-year Physics Ph.D. student who got involved with the College Democrats in August 2019.
“UCCS College Democrats represent the young, new-age democrats filled with compassion and an understanding that the society we currently live in has already failed millennials and Gen Z,” St. John said.
On the opposing side, Ramon Reyes is a first-year graduate student, and is currently the chair of the College Republican chapter at UCCS.
“College Republicans here stand for social capital…it is the ability to solve problems without government.” Reyes elaborated, “I noticed that the right allowed me to be me, I was freer to do what I wanted in order to succeed.”
Both association leaders expressed frustration in the perception of their political parties, and how the national conventions failed to reflect the parties’ ideals.
After stating that he chose to not watch the Republican National Convention (RNC), Reyes said that he sees “current debates and conventions as a worship party and not much of a substance discussion, which I wish more were.”
St. John held similar viewpoints on the Democratic National Convention (DNC).
“I watched a lot of both, and I have to say that neither was particularly inspiring,” he said. “I thought it was a terrible idea to have Obama, Clinton and other old-guard Democrats speaking in prime slots of the DNC, because they do not inspire the young people of this country.”
The RNC dropped 28 percent in viewership in comparison to the 2016 convention, and the DNC dropped 26 percent, according to the New York Times.
Both Reyes and St. John have decided to turn their attention to registering voters for the 2020 presidential election, and by continuing to focus on community efforts to engage with students on campus.
“Our campus is actually a national leader for voting, at 70 percent, much higher than the average turnout for young people in general. I do hope that we get more active in local, college, and state politics,” St. John said.
UCCS had a voter turnout of 60.9 percent for the 2016 presidential election, according to the National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement (NSLVE) report for student voting rates. Both party leaders are hoping that that number will be higher in the 2020 election.
When asked about what to focus on now, Reyes and St. John both recognized that staying involved with UCCS students needed to be a major focus for the 2020-2021 academic year.
“Societal problems would be better off solved at the community level,” said Reyes. “Far too many people focus on national elections, not local/state elections.”
His sentiment was echoed by St. John, who said, “I think that our main push will be just to make sure people are registered and vote early.”