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A spirit that is not afraid

As midterms approach, Auburn College Democrats and Republicans ramp up engagement

<p>After the primary election in May, the Republican primary winner for the District 27 senate race could be decided by a coin toss.&nbsp;</p>

After the primary election in May, the Republican primary winner for the District 27 senate race could be decided by a coin toss. 

It is November in Auburn. On campus, students have begun to bundle up in their oversized sweatshirts as the air grows chilly and crisp. And with that fall feeling has come the long-anticipated 2022 midterm elections.

Since January, Auburn College Democrats and Republicans have been organizing for the midterm elections on campus and beyond to ensure their party retains or attains power at the federal and state levels by knocking on doors, making phone calls and engaging fellow students in conversation about issues that matter to them.

As the runup to the Nov. 8 midterm elections enters its final, crucial week, Jack Clem, junior in political science and Vice President of Auburn College Republicans, detailed how various chapters of College Republicans across the state have collaborated to support candidates not just in Alabama, but across the country.

“We've done some door knocking in Georgia and phone banking, you just do that sitting at home, but we've done that for Governor Kemp (R-Ga.) just because our races in Alabama are not looking all that competitive,” Clem said.

In fact, according to Clem, most of College Republicans’ efforts were expended between January and May during the leadup to the primaries, which are typically more bruising than general elections as candidates seek to differentiate themselves from the crowd.

For College Democrats, the nature of their organizing has been dramatically different when compared to their conservative counterparts. 

According to Seth Johnson, senior in political science and President of Auburn College Democrats, much of Democrats’ organizing has revolved around on-campus voter registration and education from their table on the Haley concourse every other Wednesday.

“They make it hard for college students to vote, especially kind of knowing you might not vote here, where my [voting] precinct is at, how to get an absentee ballot, all that kind of stuff,” Johnson said. “So we really try to educate our members on all the pathways to do that, voter registration deadlines, how to get absentee ballots in, organizing and election days.”

As expected, the issues both organizations have heard about from prospective student voters have been drastically different. 

For College Republicans, the problems frequently discussed are inflation and gun rights. For College Democrats, student loan debt relief and climate change are typically invoked. Yet there was only one issue both sides mentioned: abortion.

The concerted effort to overturn Roe v. Wade has been an unexpected source of political energy among conservative-leaning voters, even months after it was successfully overturned in the Supreme Court on June 24.

“Something I didn't expect kids our age to care as much about is abortion. [We’re] seeing a lot of a lot of students that are really getting behind pro-life and pro-life movements and trying to help out with that,” Clem said.

Inversely, Democrats have mentioned that the threat to reproductive rights has energized their more progressive supporters as they consider the banning of abortions an existential threat to their freedom and privacy.

“A lot of us are very concerned, especially with the Alabama abortion ban going on; we want to protect a woman's right to choose,” Johnson said. “All of those issues are really national issues, but are also compounded with being in a state that has a lot of regressive politics and seems to keep going in the wrong direction.”

Yet despite the vitriol present in national politics and high-profile races at the state level in places such as Pennsylvania and Arizona, relations between the two organizations have remained friendly on The Plains.

“The College Democrats here, they've always treated me with the utmost respect,” Clem said. “We can disagree on things, but it never goes too far and I feel like that's something in the media that they like to push and they like to sell. But it's great to see that people can agree to disagree and be respectful.”

While College Democrats acknowledge that there are obvious disagreements on fundamental issues, there is also mutual respect and understanding.

“We have our differences politically with Republicans, especially the College Republicans, but I think we have a lot of similar views on campus about wanting to further engage in constructive conversation, and they've always been helpful and open for that, so I've always appreciated them,” Johnson said.

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As an anxious nation waits with bated breath to see which party will dictate the direction the country will take for the next two years, that civility indicates that the future may not yet be hopelessly lost to hostility and division. 

Daniel Schmidt | Assistant News Editor

Daniel Schmidt, senior in journalism, is the assistant news editor for the Auburn Plainsman. 

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