OPINION: We need College Democrats & Republicans

By Connor Heffernan | November 19, 2019 5:52pm
Connor Heffernan, sophomore ASUP senator and political science and economics major. Photo courtesy of Connor Heffernan.

Our chaotic and tumultuous political climate can be exhausting. Every day, there is a new bombshell news story that would have shaken a pre-2010 world to its core. Between school shootings, historical elections and political leaders acting like children, we have seen our fair share of crazy. Despite the insanity dominating our zeitgeist, we must stay passionate and involved in our country’s political decisions. For this reason, we need College Democrats and Republicans on campus.

I say this understanding the full weight that these organizations would bring. Before I delve further into the topic, I would like to reveal my own partisanship. That is because it influences my voice and defines my political identity. This opinion submission should not be read as a piece of fact. Instead, it should be read as a representation of my point of view. With that said, it is important to disclose that I myself am a Democrat and part of the founding committee for the College Democrats.

I think that we need both College Democrats and Republicans, however. UP, like the rest of Portland, is very liberal. An April 2019 Beacon article references the Multi-Institutional Study of Leadership surveys, in which UP's Office of Institutional Research participated, revealing that 55% of UP students surveyed in 2018 identified as liberal or very liberal while 13% identified as conservative or very conservative (a total of 1,878 students were surveyed). Because of this, we can conclude that there is inherently a liberal majority on campus that will make it more difficult for College Republicans to organize. But this shouldn’t prevent both parties from being represented.

Coming from a Democratic perspective, it may seem contrary to want both organizations to exist. After all, I disagree vehemently with virtually the entire Republican Party platform and believe that a majority of Republican figures are a disservice to the values of our country. It is for this exact reason why College Republicans should exist. Rather than allowing hot heads to prevail, as the national party has done, cool heads must form this organization.

The respectable, compassionate style of conservatism that used to exist under Eisenhower and Ford’s party no longer exists. Instead, populist-based hatred, guided by fear, has taken over the Republican Party under President Trump’s supervision. This needs to be countered by cool-headed conservatives, ready to deliberate. On the liberal side, the College Democrats need to be cool-headed as well. While defending their principles, liberals should still have the door open to work across the aisle.

Maybe I am just naïve, but I believe that we can still have a “West Wing”-like renaissance of political dialogue between both Democrats and Republicans. The prerequisites for this to happen though are entirely based on respect. We must have respect for others, no matter their gender, ethnicity, sexuality and immigration status in order to deliberate and actually have a discussion. If we cannot recognize this respect for others, neither side will be able to have a productive dialogue.

The timing for these organizations is also important. Being on the eve of an election year, it is crucial for students to politically mobilize and vote. Issues important to students like student debt, climate change, and wealth inequality will only be brought to the forefront if we students vote. Many (if not most) politicians are guided by self-interest and they want to be re-elected. If there are record numbers of students voting and getting involved, the politicians will be more likely to listen. That is, if they want to keep their job.

If you are interested in the College Democrats, please find us on Instagram @collegedemsup. If you are interested in forming the College Republicans, please contact the Instagram page and I would be more than happy to work with you. We have a rare opportunity on campus to bring productive, informed and civic political deliberation for the benefit of our community.

Connor Heffernan is a sophomore ASUP senator and political science and economics major. He can be reached at hefferna22@up.edu