Nathan Bales, chair of Southwestern College Young Democrats, makes calls during a Bernie Sanders Call bank in Deets Library on Jan. 21. (Taylor Forrest/Collegian Photographer)

Nathan Bales, chair of Southwestern College Young Democrats, makes calls during a Bernie Sanders Call bank in Deets Library on Jan. 21. (Taylor Forrest/Collegian Photographer)

By Taylor Forrest
Staff Reporter

He juggles with his phone while also remaining concentrated on the script in front of him. “Good afternoon sir, is this Andrew? I am a volunteer for the Bernie Sanders campaign… OK well thank you for your time.” Another person politely hangs up on him, but he perseveres. He picks up the phone and dials a new number.

Nathan Bales, chair of the Southwestern College Young Democrats, has hosted several events trying to build up the membership of the Southwestern College Young Democrats, the Bernie Sanders call bank being the most recent event. Bales formed the group last semester during the midst of the presidential campaign.

“I decided to form the group because I hold a great degree of resentment toward my generation in regard to the high degree of political apathy that they ascribe to,” said Bales. “Another notable influence was the encouragement by the Cowley County Democrats who helped me realize that I am responsible for the changes that need to be made to my generations’ view of American politics.”

Yet, Bales isn’t alone in being a political activist on campus. Jay Buffum, chair of the Southwestern College Republicans, also formed a political organization, the Southwestern College Republicans, to spread conservative values and to help facilitate students with an opportunity to become more politically active.

The Southwestern College Republicans are a small chapter that stems from, and works in conjunction with the larger organization, Kansas Federation of College Republicans. When the campus Republicans aren’t meeting Buffum often meets with other chapter chairs from around the state.

The Southwestern Republicans have 29 members and two sponsors. During their meetings, they discuss current events, and often-times vote on various political topics during their meetings.

“The votes are set by the Kansas Federation, and our chapters vote on things such as the death penalty, gun rights, or that sort of thing,” said Buffum. “We do this in order to see how our generation votes in comparison to the Republican Party.”

The Southwestern Democrats have four active members, and 15 interested members. The group has gotten the opportunity to meet once. Despite the lack of regular meetings, Bales has continued to try and grow the base by hosting different events, such as the call bank.

Bales will soon be hosting a voter registration booth at College Hill Coffee. Any person who registers to vote at this booth will be given a $1 off coupon to use at College Hill. He has also been in contact with Ed Trimmer, Kansas representative, to tentatively come speak to the campus political group. If this event takes place, it will be at 6 p.m., Jan. 30 at the Pounds Lounge.

Southwestern College Young Democrats spring meetings will be at 11 a.m. every other Friday. Bales said that he just hopes to provide interested students with a like-minded community to immerse themselves in an encouraging environment, where they can become more educated voters.

“It is imperative that students pay close attention to the politics of their various governing bodies because it impacts everything that forms the experience of being a student, from curriculum to tuition,” said Bales.

The Southwestern College Republicans is also gearing up for the presidential election by hosting more events as well. They have hosted debate watching parties, and Buffum said that for the next three months, the group will focus on the Kansas presidential caucus on March 5.

“During the caucus we will go work as a group,” said Buffum. “We will basically be doing the grunt work, promoting for people to get out there and go vote.”

Not only will they be working during the Kansas caucus, but Buffum along with two other members, Taylor Humphrey, vice chair, and Chase Carr, public relations officer, will be traveling to Iowa at the end of January to work on Carly Fiorina’s campaign during the Iowa caucus.

Buffum and Bales both encourage students to join a political organization on campus, saying that it gives students an opportunity to have a voice as part of the electorate. But Buffum also said that if you don’t want to join a political organization, you should still pay attention to the news and vote to contribute to our representative democracy.

“It’s our civic responsibility to know who is running for office, and to vote for those who we think are best,” said Buffum. “With all the benefits that we receive living in the U.S., it is our duty to contribute to help sustain our functioning democracy.”

Despite being on opposites sides of the playing field, the two political organizations on campus have discussed coming together to encourage bipartisan political engagement, a unique thing in the highly polarized political world we see today. This polarization often-times stems from surrounding oneself with like-minded individuals. In a study by the Pew Research Center, it revealed that 63 percent of conservatives, and 49 percent of liberals say that most of their close friends share their political views.

This political polarization is something that the Southwestern College Young Democrats and the Southwestern College Republicans are hoping to overcome in the future.

“As a generation, it is our duty to go into the political world not hating each other,” said Buffum. “Our political parties are so polarized now, that it is imperative to create a bipartisanship environment now while we are young.”

Taylor Forrest is sophomore majoring in communication. You may email her at taylor.forrest@sckans.edu