Campus political groups gear up for 2020 election

Mackenzie Bookamer, Contributing Writer

With the presidential election only five weeks away and a particularly volatile political climate, the youth vote — voters ages 18 to 29have the ability to wield significant political power. Millennials and Gen Zers make up 37% of eligible voters, and the youth voter turnout jumped 16 points between the 2014 and 2018 midterm elections. 

Tulane University has several groups on campus focused on political education and engagement. Students are invited to participate, regardless of previous political experience. These groups aim to engage young, would-be voters and encourage them to be more politically active. 

One of those political groups on campus is the Tulane College Democrats

Our mission is to help Tulane students get involved with Democratic campaigns up and down the ballot,” Brendan Cuti, president of the Tulane College Democrats, said. “Obviously, we want to do our part to help Democratic candidates win, but oftentimes College Dems serves as an entry point for young people to get involved in politics.”

Typically, the club hosts phone banks during election season and weekly meetings, including appearances by speakers. Due to the onset of COVID-19, their weekly meetings have shifted from in person to over Zoom. 

This year, the club had Adrian Perkins, mayor of Shreveport and Democratic Senate candidate, speak over Zoom for their general meeting.

“He’s mayor of Shreveport in north Louisiana, so it might’ve been a bit difficult to have him come all the way to New Orleans in person,” Cuti said. “But it was easy enough to have him hop on a Zoom call. So there are a few upsides.”

College Democrats hopes to educate its members on current political issues to help them be informed voters, and to spread this voter knowledge to the rest of Tulane through tabling campaigns, Cuti said. Cuti expressed that although the club provides strong support to the Democratic party, the ultimate goal is to create a welcoming environment on campus, one where everyone’s ideas are respected. 

Tulane College Republicans is another political group active on Tulane’s campus. 

“The main purpose of Tulane College Republicans is making sure that conservatives and Republicans have a voice on Tulane’s campus and have a nice space to discuss political issues of the day in a comfortable environment, while also learning more about political thought and theory and philosophy,” Carson Neeves, president of Tulane College Republicans, said. 

Neeves said that College Republicans is joining forces with College Democrats to host debates this fall related to current policy issues pertinent to the upcoming presidential election. 

“We want to make sure that everyone, regardless of political affiliation on campus, votes in November because it is your right as an American citizen to do that,” Neeves said. 

Neeves said that getting students registered to vote is the main way to increase civic engagement among the Tulane Community. College Republicans will offer assistance to anyone who comes to their meetings in regards to registering to vote, whether that means registering in their home state or in Louisiana. 

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Non-partisan campus groups, such as The Wave Center for Policy and Enterprise, are also seeking to engage and educate in this politically important time. 

The Wave Center’s Executive Director Rachel Altman told The Hullabaloo that the Wave Center operates a student-led think tank, publishing students’ writing regarding various policy issues. 

In addition, Altman said that the Wave Center “do[es] events and tabling campaigns to raise awareness of important policy issues towards our community, and we also provide professional development so that our members and our leaders can be the most effective policy advocates that they can [be] in the future.”

As an organization, the Wave Center holds large speaker events focusing on relevant community issues present at that time. These events have turned virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year, the Wave Center hosted a talk with a Holocaust survivor and a North Korean refugee discussing anti-authoritarianism. Looking to the future and towards the upcoming election, the Wave Center hopes to promote civic engagement on campus and has multiple partnerships underway with other organizations to accomplish this goal. 

“We want people to be engaged, but unlike other political organizations [we] don’t support any one candidate,” Altman said.  

In conjunction with this notion, the Wave Center seeks to promote an inclusive environment on campus and believes sound political education will create a mutual respect between people from different political parties. 

Brian Brox, associate professor of political science and director of the Summer Minor Program in U.S. Public Policy, serves as the faculty adviser to both the Wave Center and College Democrats. As the adviser, he serves a more logistical role, helping with budgeting and approving events.

“I am not generally involved in their programming, though from time to time they ask me to join them at their regular meetings to talk about politics,” Brox said. 

Brox believes that having political organizations on campus is not only beneficial to the members in the group, but all Tulane students. 

“These organizations encourage political debates on campus and provide information for the entire student body related to important policies that are being discussed in government, how to register to vote and when/where to turnout for elections,” Brox said.