As DePaul’s political student groups hold their first meetings of the year, they are all beginning to decide how best to engage the DePaul community with their groups’ messages.
The beginning of the quarter was kind to the university’s main political groups – the DePaul College Republicans, DePaul College Democrats and the DePaul Socialists – with the Student Involvement Fair bringing in heaps of new students looking to get involved with the groups’ causes.
The College Democrats are focusing on “giving people the political and activist tools they want and need to resist President Trump’s agenda in Chicago at a local and federal level,” according to Mikaela Ziegler, the president of the College Democrats.
The College Democrats wasted no time getting started, already holding an event on Saturday, Sept. 16 to canvass local areas to put pressure on Gov. Bruce Rauner to sign House Bill 40. The bill – which as of Sept. 17 sits on the governor’s desk awaiting a signature or veto – would protect abortion rights in Illinois if Roe v. Wade is overturned by the Supreme Court.
All of the groups held their first official meetings last week where they discussed how they will engage the DePaul community. The DePaul Socialists held their first event Wednesday, Sept. 13 called “Fight the Right, Build the Left,” which attracted 128 students, according to Sam Peiffer, one of the Branch Committeemen of the group.
The College Democrats have not yet landed on a firm plan for which speaking guests they might invite to campus in the 2017-18 school year, but said they would like to bring at least on big-name guest as they have in the past.
The College Republicans, on the other hand, have a few ideas for potential speaking guests they would like to invite, but they are not yet “at liberty to disclose who those people are until contracts are signed,” according to Olivia Polony, the secretary of the College Republicans.
With the Illinois gubernatorial primary elections right around the corner, both the College Democrats and the Republicans are both focusing on supporting their party’s candidates.
Polony said one of their main focuses for the College Republicans this year will be working towards the reelection of Gov. Rauner.
“We really want to get members involved (in the campaign) – whether that’s with internships, volunteer work like canvassing or door-to-door work,” Polony said. “That’s going to be a big thing for us this year.”
Ziegler and the College Democrats are also making an effort to get members engaged in the gubernatorial race. With so many candidates running for the Democratic nomination, it is too early for them to have thrown their support behind any particular campaign. But they are going to try to increase literacy of Chicago and Illinois’ political structures that may seem foreign to students not from the area.
“A lot of our members are freshmen and a lot of them are also from out of state,” Ziegler said. “We want to make sure they have the tools they need to make a good decision about the gubernatorial race.”
The DePaul Socialists, on the other hand, don’t have stake in the gubernatorial race. For them, it’s about organizing people on the ground to pressure who is in office to enact the policies they believe in.
“We think it’s less important who is sitting in the office than who is sitting in the streets,” Peiffer said. “If you have tens of thousands of people who struggle in their workplaces and schools, we can pressure change regardless of who is in office.”
Ziegler said the College Democrats are in a transitional period. She noted the focus of the group shifting from classic liberalism to more progressive ideologies. On the other hand, Polony said the College Republicans encourage discourse among its members about their differing views on what it means to be a conservative.
“At our meetings, it’s not just a group of people preaching to the choir. Not only do we have debates with liberals, but we also have debates with each other,” Polony said. “We also have ideas that bind us together; we all believe in small government, fiscal responsibility, and a lot of love for the constitution.”
In the wake of numerous controversies on campus last year, the College Republicans are making it a priority to improve their public image within DePaul’s community.
“We’re working more on becoming a friendly face on campus that people can talk to,” Polony said.
In such a divisive political climate, political pundits and politicians alike have been calling for people to be less apprehensive about reaching across the aisle. Polony said there had been talk within the College Republicans of reaching out to the College Democrats to organize a friendly dodgeball game to encourage a dialogue. Ziegler was not very receptive to the idea.
“In the past, there had been a relationship between our two organizations when politics weren’t so polarized,” Ziegler said. “When I became president, I said were not going to do any kind of friendly competition with people who voted for Donald Trump. I don’t want to play dodgeball with racists. I don’t want people to say: ‘they aren’t that bad because the Democrats played dodgeball with them.’”