The UAA College Democrats and UAA College Republicans have more in common than you might believe.
The two clubs represent opposite ends of the ideological spectrum. Yet, if you combine their recent history and stated goals, you will find more similarities than differences.
Heather Aronno is a journalism and public communications junior and president of the College Democrats. The club was basically defunct before she was named president last year, according to Aronno.
Ryan McKee, a political science senior and president of the College Republicans, said his club had been dormant before he and a buddy got involved last year. Since their respective reinventions, the Democrats now have 12 active members and the Republicans have 20 active members.
These membership numbers reflect common student sentiment about politics. Students tend to find politics either boring or to divisive for their tastes.
Junior Mitchel Veenstra echoed these feelings when asked if he would want to join these clubs.
“I have no desire in (joining) because I personally don’t feel like getting involved on campus with a bunch of opinionated people,” Veenstra said. “I do have my leanings one way or the other, but I don’t want to worry about it while I’m going to school.”
The clubs have targeted that sentiment by refining their goals.
“The goal of the College Democrats is not so much to convert people over to our way of thinking as much as to just get more young people involved in the community,” Aronno said.
“When it comes down to it, both of our goals is just to get young people involved and that’s the reason we’re here,” he said.
Both clubs also focus on continuing students’ interest rather than redefining them. McKee matches new club members to their preexisting interests, such as technology or public relations. Similarly, Aronno believes it is her responsibility to get resources to students about causes that they find important and worthwhile.
It is not likely a meeting for either of these clubs plays out like anything on cable television.
“If people want to look at what’s happening on a national scale they can pay attention to the news and pick up a paper, watch TV, go online,” Aronno said.
Likewise, McKee has found that social issues have no place in his club because they create a bitter divide and hurt people’s feelings.
“What we found with the social issues – gay marriage, abortion – there really isn’t a lot of facts on either sides,” McKee said. “It’s more emotion, which means you know you’re not going to get anywhere on an argument, you’re not going to win.”
Although each conversation found its way to traditional issues, such as tax cuts with the Democrats and research and development (i.e. mining) with the Republicans, the rhetoric was neither hostile nor rigid.
Both clubs are active in local campaigns and have regularly scheduled meetings. Recently, the College Republicans held fundraisers for charities like the Haiti Relief Fund and the Alaska Women’s Aid in Crisis (AWAIC).
The College Democrats hosted an event on Sept. 1 for Congressional candidate Harry Crawford. They have also been working to get students registered to vote.