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ASU political clubs work to create civil debate despite national divide

Through events like "How to Fight a Leftist" and on-campus debates, political groups hope to set an example of bipartisanship


Turning Point USA Vice President and ASU senior, Karan Shukla, presents an event aimed to teach those in attendance how to "fight a leftist" in Tempe, Arizona, on Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018.

Ahead of the midterm elections, the divide between political parties has deepened with all sides increasing their attacks on one another. But on campus, the story is different. 

Polarization between political groups across the nation has reached a peak, but political clubs on campus are attempting to combat the nation’s divide and increase bipartisanship with events to spur productive and civil debate.

With the election of Donald Trump, some historians are worried that we’re currently witnessing potentially dangerous public and political discourse. A Pew Research Center study in May 2018 showed that few Americans experience respectful conversations surrounding politics. 

Only a quarter say 'tone of debate among political leaders in respectful'

The Chairperson of the Arizona Federation of College Republicans, Judah Waxelbaum, said that the groups' discourse with the Democrats on campus is one of respect and diplomacy. 

“The ASU College Republicans and (Young Democrats at ASU) have a great relationship," Waxelbaum said. "We talk to them on a regular basis, and for the last several years we’ve hosted a bipartisanship Halloween party with them. The state in that aspect is not like the national scale when it comes to the political discourse. We have a great relationship with them and in that aspect, I believe we should be like that as a nation.” 

One of the ways that clubs are trying to come together is having events on how to politely debate opposing views. 

On Wednesday, Turning Point USA hosted an event on “How to Fight a Leftist,” where they discussed how conservatives can have civilized debate with liberals. They suggested listening and acknowledging the sides' opinion without resorting to attacks. One of their takeaway points was that despite your demographic or party, it's OK to have opposing views. 

Vice president of the Turning Point USA ASU chapter and senior marketing major, Karan Shukla, spearheaded the presentation and said he hoped that he gave his members the right tools to have a constructive debate. 

Shukla said he wanted the event to give people the tools needed to have constructive debates instead of fighting, contrary to the events name.

"What needs to happen is people need to stop saying that their way is the right way and only way that’s going to work," he said. "We need to move closer toward the middle and have compromise and I think that’s what needs to happen in D.C. — they need to realize the best answer needs to help both sides."

The Young Democrats at ASU co-hosted an event on Nov. 9, 2017 alongside Turning Point USA's ASU chapter last year in which Turning Point’s founder and executive director Charlie Kirk and progressive activist Randy Perez engaged in a civil debate. 

See more: Conservative speaker faces off against student activist during packed event

Shukla said he hopes more events like the debate between Kirk and Perez happen in the future. 

President of Young Democrats and political science senior, Jesse Avalos, said he believes the effort toward civil debate between clubs on campus is a model that their counterparts in D.C. should follow. 

“If we can get along on campus as college students with opposing views on policy and perspective and can come together and have a discussion, then that means we can create an example for other people across the nation," he said.

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