Life of the Political Party

 

David Parkhill

President, Ohio University College Republicans 

Junior studying business management

 

What did the College Republicans do to mobilize voters during the 2016 presidential election season?

We register people to vote at meetings, but we realize that Athens is very liberal and that it’s mostly Democrats that we would be registering. … So, the College Democrats take that, but we kind of let them run with it.

 

How difficult was it to engage people in the voting process?

It’s just such a blown-up campaign on both sides that I think it’s bringing, actually, more people out. That might not necessarily be for the presidential candidates, but I think it’s giving down-ticket candidates a lot more press, like your congressmen and senators. Rob Portman, I don’t think there’d be as much attention on his race if it wasn’t Hillary and Trump.

 

How does your organization promote political involvement on campus?

We are very close with a lot of our candidates. Jay Edwards, who’s running for state representative, is at every single one of our meetings. We have a very awesome relationship with him. Congressman Bill Johnson has three of our alumni working for him, so we have an awesome relationship there as well. Congressman Steve Stivers, two of his interns are College Republicans, so we’ve met him, I would say, a handful of times already this semester. Same with Congressman Johnson. …  Senator Rob Portman we were able to meet last Saturday at a parade. So, I think pushing opportunities we have to meet our representatives is one big way we get our members involved. We really don’t promote much outside of our club because …  it’s such a liberal campus.

 

How has the presidential election influenced the organization this year compared to previous years? 

So much busier, it’s unbelievable. Last year was an off year. In 2014, I was a freshman, and maybe it was just my freshman naiveté, but we weren’t as busy. Our president last year was Anna Lippincott, and she did a great job, but there wasn’t nearly as much to do and it’s really hard to get people involved when there is nothing to do. We would try to put on events; we’d watch certain movies or documentaries we thought were interesting. It’s going to be an interesting change of pace after Nov. 8, that’s for sure. It’s going to be interesting to tackle that. … I love the environment that we’re in right now, and I think it’s attracted a lot more members to the club. We’ve had record turn-outs.

 

How do you plan to keep involvement consistent after the presidential election?

My plan — we haven’t really talked about it as an executive board — but I would say we just focus on issues week by week and pick a topic to talk about. We were going to start that this semester, but it just seems like every week we have a new speaker or a new topic related to the election. YouTube videos are always a great conversation starter. I tried to do that last year as political director, so just pick a topic and maybe watch a five-minute YouTube video and then just have a conversation around it. I think that will be one of the big plans, just have meetings where we watch an hour-long documentary or movie at my house or someone else’s. I think those are going to be some of the big points that we do.

 

Do you have any interesting stories or reactions that you encountered during the campaigning process?

I don’t know, most people are pretty friendly. I knocked on doors all summer for a campaign, and there are a lot of crazy stories, but the majority of people are very nice and I think that’s something to note in such a crazy election season where people are so pitted against each other. … I was not at the table [outside Baker Center] when this happened, but I guess someone took a picture of three of our members at the table and tweeted, ‘This is what stupid looks like.’ It is what it is, but I think it’s part of the fun of being a minority political party on the campus. Just getting to deal with all the reactions of people who don’t like us. We know what we’re coming into, so we just come into it with the mindset of ‘OK, how are we going to be made fun of today?’

 

Sam Miller

President, Ohio University College Democrats 

Junior studying strategic communication

 

What did the College Democrats do to mobilize voters during the 2016 presidential election season?

The most important thing we’ve been doing is voter registration. People can not voice their opinions if they’re not registered to vote, so we’ve been reaching out to students. We’ve cast as large of a net as we possibly can to let them know that even if you’re registered in the primary elections, if you’ve moved, you have to re-register. Also letting them know that this election is very important. There’s a lot at stake, keeping the progress of President Obama, but also the opportunity to appoint up to two new Supreme Court justices. That’s a huge thing that could happen in this country. So just letting them know that you really have to think about who you’re voting for and the issues that you care about and which politician really aligns with those.

 

How difficult was it to engage people in the voting process?

Yeah, it’s difficult, only because students are just like, ‘Well, my voice doesn’t really matter. No one really cares how I vote.’ But our demographic is the largest pretty much in American history thus far. [Millennials are] bigger than the baby boomers. If you really are passionate about something, if you go out there and make your opinion heard, it really can make a difference. It really has been hard engaging students with the candidates that both parties have put up, but I think that’s it really important that they realize that a lot is at stake and they have such an opportunity to make history.

 

How does your organization promote political involvement on campus?

I think just letting people know that if you care about a specific thing, there’s an outlet for that. If you’re passionate about, like, saving animals, you can engage people and have them see your point of view and letting them know that every issue is important and every issue has policy that goes alongside of it. Politics are a huge part of that. … So, we really try to let people know you don’t necessarily have to align with a party or work with a party. You can work on a specific issue and still work to have it make a difference.

 

How has the election season influenced the organization this year compared to previous years? 

Oh, it’s been way busier. Our membership has really increased as well. And also we’re just able to do a lot more than we have before because we have the support of the campaign. Ohio Together has really given us the resources to make sure we’re reaching as many students as we possibly can and having really awesome events on campus to get them engaged, and that’s something we never could’ve done on our own.

 

Do you have any interesting stories or reactions that you’ve encountered during the campaigning process?

Oh, yeah. There’s this kid. Every time he sees us tabling, he always makes it very clear that he’s not registering to vote, and then engages with us how the ‘state is the root of all problems.’ And then he once yelled at me, ‘No Gods, no masters!’ while I was just asking him if he was registered to vote. And I was like, ‘Great. Have a nice day.’ But then on the other side of the spectrum, there are people that once we start going into a conversation about how they’re not registering to vote, I say like, ‘Well, at least hear me out first.’ And then by the end of the conversation they’re like, ‘You’re right, I’m really passionate about this thing, and if I want that to advance then I [have] to register to vote, I’ve got to vote for candidates.’ So, you definitely get some people who are very against it, but it’s also really rewarding when you see people whose mind you got to change.

 

 

 

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