The two student political organizations at UTM are planning various activities leading up to the Nov. 8 general election.
Alex Joyner, president of UTM College Republicans, said the group will hold a kickoff informational meeting at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 8, in 111 Boling University Center. Everybody is invited to attend for free pizza, to discuss T-shirt ideas, and to make plans for the upcoming year.
Brandy Cochran, president of UTM College Democrats, said the group will meet at 5 p.m. every Thursday in 309 Gooch Hall. Cochran noted that the group participated in the Soybean Festival parade with the Weakley County Democratic Party and will also be working the Weakley County Democrats’ booth at the festival.
As for Homecoming activities, “we plan on having a brilliant tent at Tent City this year with Hillary Clinton campaign activities, local candidate information and explanations why not to vote for (Republican) Donald Trump,” she said.
Cochran said of the College Democrats’ informational meeting that “most students we have polled have said that they did not know they could vote in Weakley County and thought they would have to drive all the way home in order to vote, which has kept most of them from voting at all, so we want to change that.”
While many students and faculty already may have decided on which candidates they support, locally and nationally, the presidents and faculty advisers for both College Democrats and College Republicans have some points for potential voters.
“We are running a negative campaign against Donald Trump. At this point, especially, because we know a lot of millennials and college students wanted Bernie (Sanders) to win the primaries and didn’t, and instead of trying to get people on the Hillary (Clinton) bandwagon,” Cochran said. She added that despite the publicized email scandals and no matter what is going on, “a Democratic administration is better than a Republican administration, period.”
“What we want to do is as (College Republicans) is we want to show students on campus and provide information about the election to keep them informed,” Joyner said. “We focus more on the right side of things, but we definitely inform on the sides of the issues basically just to equip them with information.”
Dr. Chara Van Horn, faculty adviser for the College Democrats, said the students will be campaigning for the local Democratic state representative candidate, Angela Callis, as well as for the Hillary Clinton campaign.
Dr. Joey Mehlhorn, faculty adviser for the College Republicans, said, “In this presidential election, we see a spike in people being interested in things like that but as far as that goes, we’re focused on the local campaigns, on our congressional campaigns; we don’t have a senatorial campaign this time, of course, so on the presidential campaigns as well.”
Mehlhorn said the organization members are “actively volunteering for different campaigns and things like that.”
When asked about how the different demographic groups influence the political parties, Cochran said, “We all are about the different demographic groups.” Van Horn added, “Democrats in general do very well with the younger demographic with people of color, minority groups, as well as the LGBT community, and women. I have to say that people with disabilities are probably more prone to vote Democratic, especially in this election.”
Joyner said the College Republicans don’t discriminate on any race, gender, etc. “The Republican Party is open to anyone. I don’t think that they’re racist or discriminating.” Mehlhorn added, “The Republican Party is open to all demographic groups. We believe in a ‘big tent’ policy, traditionally. Southern voters are typically a stronghold for most Republicans, but not everywhere. Like in every major political party, we can always do better in our demographics with all groups, for that matter.”
When asked about issues that are most important to the political parties at this time, Cochran said, “The easiest way to sum it up is equality. Everybody in America, period, has the right to worship what they want to or not worship, be the gender they want to be, marry who they want to be in love with. Without these civil liberties, we’re not America in a way.”
“I think that Republicans focus on the fight against ISIS. I think that right now our security is being questioned that Democrats, so far, have done a terrible job with national security,” Joyner said.
“The economy is always a top priority as an important issue for the Democratic Party and without a strong economy, nobody is going to flourish,” Van Horn said.
Mehlhorn also mentioned the economy. “One of the biggest issues that we see in the Republican Party today is still going to be the economy and it’s pretty much always a standard one or two, so I would say it’s a big issue. The economy’s still not doing exactly as well as we would like to see. We still have lots of people out of work that don’t have jobs. The business climate is definitely shifting and changing in the global market and how are we going to compete and go forward as a concern for a lot of people,” he said.