A national shift toward conservative political values has ASU College Republicans riding the trend as the club’s membership increases.
With Congressional elections coming later this year, many signs point to a more conservative shift in the nation’s thinking: the election of Gov. Bob McDonnell, R-Va., the victory of Republican Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown and the rise of the Tea Party movement.
History senior Andrew Clark, chairman of the Arizona Federation of College Republicans, the organization that oversees the state’s College Republican chapters, said membership has seen a boost this school year.
“It has gone up tremendously,” he said.
The same grassroots tactics that helped elect Obama in 2008 are being utilized by the College Republicans today, Clark said.
“[It’s about] who’s online — who dominates the blogs, Twitter and Facebook,” he said.
Republican candidates running against Rep. Harry Mitchell, D-Ariz., are calling on the College Republicans to use these grassroots tactics in the months to come.
The candidates addressed ASU students at a debate held at the W. P. Carey School of Business on Thursday.
“The most important thing is to have a level of youth involved in this campaign, because at the end of the day … what is going on in Washington, D.C., is going to affect you,” said candidate Jim Ward.
Ward said he wants to see the College Republicans at ASU and other students getting out in the community, knocking on doors and spreading the word.
Lee Gentry, a 2008 District 5 Republican primary candidate, however, said even though more citizens are aligning with the right, the most important thing Washington lawmakers need to focus on is working together.
“There is this shifting of the pendulum, but we need to focus on moving forward instead of being combative, instead of name calling,” Gentry said.
Political science senior Jessica Bolitho, president of the ASU College Republicans, said the current generation of college students is more libertarian and conservative compared to other generations.
“I think that you’ll find that our generation gets it when it comes to conservatism,” she said.
College students these days are seeking more freedom in order to do what they want, Bolitho said.
“They want their parents off their backs; they want the government off their backs,” she said. “They want to do whatever they want to do.”
Because of this movement, Clark said the group is far more developed right now than the ASU Young Democrats.
For example, a decline in membership led the Young Democrats at NAU to become inactive last semester, Clark said.
Political science junior Erica Pederson, president of the ASU Young Democrats, said there is still a strong liberal sense on college campuses.
“Our membership [at ASU] is strong and still growing,” she said.
Looking at the nation as a whole, Pederson said some people are frustrated because they have not seen the changes President Barack Obama promised them, and they do not understand the lengthy process required to bring about change.
College students must hold on to their values and be active, she said.
“You have to be engaged in order to effect these changes,” she said.
But Pederson admitted living in a predominately red state can be difficult for the Democratic Party.
“For Democrats in Arizona, every election year is a tough election year,” she said.
Mark Spinks, a Republican candidate for Arizona’s Congressional District 5 primary, acknowledged that college students in general tend to lean toward the Democratic Party.
“The reality is that the ideas and the ideals offered by the Republican Party and by conservatives better fit what [college students] hope to achieve,” Spinks said.
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