Political Affiliations Duke it Out
By Madeline Perez
Unigo Campus Rep at Duke
A sole banner hangs outside of a dorm window on Duke’s West Campus, baring one word — Obama. Aside from an occasional bumper sticker or flyer, the banner serves as the only visual cue of political activism at the university.
But Duke students are far from politically dormant. Despite the less visible approach of student activism, students are finding ways to show their support for their party.
Both the Duke Democrats and the Duke College Republicans have had greater turnout in their sponsored events leading up to the Presidential Election. Each organization has scheduled events corresponding with the road to the presidential election, from debate watches to phonebanks for local races.
“One thing I’ve noticed just from being here for four years and for my first election, and this is true among our ranks and I think among all the other ranks, is just a massive excitement and massive generation of a ‘we need to do something’ mentality,” said executive director of Duke College Republicans Samuel Tasher. “For regular events the excitement has really increased, especially with the amount of people you get.”
Recently, the Democrats brought in NC Representative David Price to speak at a town hall meeting. Last spring, the College Republicans sponsored a speech from former Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove for one of their biggest events in recent years.
Although the Republicans and Democrats at Duke have a tendency to disagree on the issues, both organizations share the same common goal—to get as many students as possible to register to vote.
Past participation in political races for Duke students has been less than stellar. In the North Carolina Democratic Primary on May 6, only eleven percent of eligible voters in the population came out to the polls. However, both organizations have had various registration drives throughout the semester to encourage students to vote in November.
“I think, probably the greatest thing we’ve seen is really kind of remarkable voter registration,” said Vice President of Internal Affairs for the Duke Democrats Gregory Morrison. “Increased voter registration on campus is a really good indicator of people’s interest on campus. And we’re having two polling places this year, one on West Campus and one on East Campus, will let students vote on their way to class.”
Although younger voters have often been given the reputation of being apathetic or less inclined to participate in the voting process, Duke students recognize the power they wield in this election.
“A lot of people who say that are focused more on the ’80s, ’90s generation,” Tasher said. “And that whole generation of apathy is really coming to an end now. I don’t know if we’re ever going to be at the level we were in the ’60s, but we’re much more engaged now than people may have been 10 years ago.”
With North Carolina edging closer and closer to swing-state territory in the national election, both organizations representing each party have begun pushing for students to register in the Tar Heel State. After all, students are aware that even though the presidential election is the main goal, other positions are up for grabs in the state. Both organizations have supported respective candidates for governor and the available seats in Congress.
“It’s an outside shot, but I think that [North Carolina] is still in play,” Morrison said. “I point to the strength that Kay Hagan is showing in her race with Elizabeth Dole to show that Democrats can win in the state. The state is not adverse to Democrats, but you just have to run a solid campaign.”