Red state/Blue state: Students talk politics

Written by Muleskinner Staff


(WARRENSBURG, Mo., digitalBURG) — Student leaders from UCM College Republicans, UCM Democrats and Students for Liberty came together to discuss their favorite presidential candidates Thursday, Oct. 13, at a “Party Animals” event hosted by Spotlight.

Sean Ryun, the Ideas and Issues coordinator for Spotlight, mobilized on-campus political groups to create a forum for UCM students to talk about national politics.

“I really wanted to create an event where students could be informed about their actual policies, let them know that they have options that aren’t just Republican or Democrat,” said Ryun, a sophomore studying marketing and photography. “They have the Libertarian, they have the Green Party, and they can write in a candidate.”

Ryun is using his new position to help millennials participate in the political process. As the presidential election heats up, Ryun said he wants to increase voter turnout among UCM students.

“I think it’s really important for these organizations to help students get involved and engaged because nobody really gets excited about politics, and as students these are the candidates that we’re going to be choosing that are going to be growing with us. These are the people that are going to be creating policies that are going to affect us now and later in our lives.”

Like Ryun, Rob Twitchell wants more students to vote on Election Day. As the executive director for UCM College Republicans, Twitchell said he is supporting Republican candidates at the state, local and federal levels.

“Conservatism is about freedom,” Twitchell said. “As college students we take pride in having the liberty to choose our own decisions and really that is the heart of conservatism. We believe in a government that wants to encourage people to succeed on their own, be successful in their own way instead of having government as a hindrance.”

Twitchell said he thinks fiscal responsibility is an important issue for college students to consider.

“I believe that one of the most important issues that college students should pay attention to (are) fiscal issues such as tax rates,” Twitchell said. “Immigration plays a part in that but only somewhat. Both candidates really have vastly different tax plans and as a college student who will soon be paying a large percentage of my income in taxes I feel that our future pretty much depends on electing the right person for our financial benefit.”

The next president will also appoint a new Supreme Court justice, and Twitchell said voters should be aware of the impact their nominee will have on constitutional issues.

“The president gets to name and appoint the next Supreme Court justices, and they will have a legacy that will carry on far beyond just the next four to eight years,” Twitchell said.

Danyale Fleming, communications director for UCM Democrats, is also concerned about the problems that millennials face. Fleming said civil rights and affordable health care are important issues for young voters to consider.

“A big one that’s going on right now is race relations in this country – how the candidates will handle the tensions that are going on,” Fleming said. “Another big thing is health care: one candidate wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act while another one wants to fix it. Students need to look at that because we are going to graduate and this is going to be our reality, so we definitely need to know what is going on.”

Robynn Kuhlmann, assistant professor of political science and faculty advisor for Students for Political Action, said she is committed to educating students about these issues. Kuhlmann said college students are less likely to vote than older Americans.

“Unfortunately for students, the ages 18 through 30 are the least likely to vote out of all the age groups,” Kuhlmann said. “With this particular generation being the largest generation, it’s very important for them to realize that they are really going to be the future.”

Kuhlmann said millennials view politics differently than previous generations.

“There’s a significant difference in how millennials view different policies than what we currently have,” Kuhlmann said. “Millennials are the least trusting generation, they tend to be more liberal, (and) they’re more likely than other generations not to affiliate with a political party.”

Kuhlmann said this generational shift has a huge impact on how students vote and who they vote for. Although Fleming is an active Democrat, she said she believes in supporting individual candidates more than their political parties.

“I’m super liberal but I’m more of not voting for the party, I’m more about voting for the candidates,” Fleming said.

This year, Jacob Davis decided to vote outside of his party lines. As chairman of the UCM College Republicans, his decision to support a third party candidate had serious repercussions.

“I voted for Gary Johnson,” Davis said. “I’ve received a lot of pushback from my party asking for my resignation as chairman…I will always vote my conscience and I will never vote strategically. A lot of people say that voting third party divides your vote or it’s giving your vote to the opposing party, and I think that’s foolish. I think that the only vote that’s wasted is the vote that isn’t cast.”

Tyler Slinkard, president of Students for Political Action, said he is also voting for another party’s candidate. Slinkard said he is far more interested in promoting social justice than foreign policy.

“Technically I’m affiliated with the Republican Party but I am currently backing the Democratic candidate,” Slinkard said. “My most important issues are generally social. As a student, economics are not the biggest issue to me; foreign policy is of interest, but it is not a primary focus. My focus is on things such as sexism in politics and racism in politics.”

As students from every part of the political spectrum prepare to vote in the next presidential election, Kuhlmann said their votes can change this country’s future.

“If they were to all vote, if they were all to be involved, then the government that exists now would be really a more accurate reflection of their generation,” Kuhlmann said. “If they don’t like what they see now, then certainly as the largest generation they can have a significant impact in what we see in 2017.”