Colby students watch debate, discuss politics

On Tues., Oct. 15, the fourth democratic debate was held in Columbus, Ohio. Here on campus, Colby for Warren, a club founded by Josh Goldberg `20 and Carter Wynne `20, hosted a watch party for those looking to watch the debate on a more intimate scale than in the Spa. 

Colby for Warren is a new initiative on campus to help mobilize support for Senator Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign and provide a space for discourse on campus about the Senator and her policies. While the club’s primary goal is to foster conversation around Senator Warren, not all attendees were Warren supporters. 

Goldberg explained why he and Wynne chose to start this club on campus.  

“We started Colby for Warren, or students for Warren, here because students are a really important demographic these days,” Goldberg said in an interview with the Echo.

“They are both huge activists in terms of knocking on doors[…]and doing all these really important canvassing activities, but they’re also a demographic that doesn’t get out to vote enough. We were really excited to get back to Colby and start a group that can really change that.” 

Wynne explained the goals of the club, along with what they wanted to accomplish to create a strong foundation for continuing the club’s efforts. 

“One of the first things that we need to do is create a really organized group of students that are passionate about seeing Warren affect structural change,” Wynne said in an interview with the Echo. “That begins with organizing on Colby’s campus and then moving outwards. Right now we’re in the stage where we are trying to get people to come to our meetings and get a little bit of a better idea about what [Warren] is about.”

Amongst those who supported Warren, there was a theme of doing more to contribute to Warren’s success in the democratic primaries. 

Bentley Meyer `21 explained his desire to get more involved with the primary. 

“I want to get more involved with Elizabeth Warren’s campaign, but I am also very interested in how the primary’s progressing,” Meyer said in an interview with the Echo. “There’s definitely certain ways I feel like the party should move going forward, and I’m interested to see how my own ideas pan out against candidates behave in this debate.”

Morgan Honor `22 became involved in the club through an experience in a class she took at the College in the spring semester. 

“I’m here because last spring, in my government class, I wrote a paper at the end of the year about a candidate’s path through the democratic primary, predicting who would win the nomination. I chose Warren,” she explained to the Echo. “I did not know a lot about her, but after learning about her views, her path and what she stood for, I truly believe in a lot of her opinions. I decided that I should continue supporting her, and this club provided me a platform to do so.”

Fifteen students showed up to the event, with varying reasons for watching the debate. 

Lily Setharies `21 expressed her desire to watch the debate as a way to better understand the reaction of the media to the comments of candidates. 

“If I don’t watch the debates, after there’s a lot of commentary from news sites that I don’t understand entirely what the candidate’s themselves said,” Setharies said in an interview with the Echo. “So I’m here to just get it from them, first to compress it on my own and to understand, and then to analyze it in a larger group context.”

Ben Retik `20, the third president of Colby for Warren, found watching the debates important because they gave him a chance to inform his vote, as well as an enjoyable opportunity to engage with political discourse. 

“I watch the debates mostly because I think it’s really important that as a voter and as a student to be really engaged,” Retik said. “For me, that means learning as much as possible about the candidates and their platforms, along with the policies that they support. Watching the debates I think may not be the best way to inform yourself about different candidates policies and whatnot, but it’s certainly important, and if you’re invested at all in politics it can just be a lot of fun to watch.”

While not all of the students who attended the event were Warren supporters, all identified as Democrats. When asked about whether opinions of Republicans at Colby are heard, or respected, the viewers had varying responses. 

Max Abramson `20, said: “I think there is becoming more of a sentiment that there are certain views that aren’t accepted and don’t need to be respected in the same way. I think that I’m okay with that, but I don’t think those views are Republican views. I think that they are the extreme views on what most people think of as the Republican side. I think that Republican views are often listened to and respected in some amount, but I think it’s the extreme conservative views that are not.”

Honor felt differently, believing it to be hard to be a Republican with a voice on campus.

“I do not believe that values across the aisle are heard or respected at Colby. I believe that Colby is very liberally dominated, and I do have friends who are rather conservative,” she said. “They have shared that they do not feel comfortable voicing their opinions in class for fear of being ‘cancelled,’ and I do not think that is a symptom of a community in which all sides are heard.”

Colby Republicans co-president Meredith Allen `21 explained her opinion on the culture surrounding political debate in the Democratic primaries at Colby. 

“Primary elections are incredibly polarizing and set a poor example for how essential compromise is in the political process,” Allen said. “The lack of exposure to conservative ideas on campus limits the education that Colby provides because we’re unable to engage in thoughtful and constructive intellectual debates. In all of Colby’s concern for inclusion and free speech, the political environment on campus should prioritize diversity of thought over homogeneity. Building a more respectful community that values honest debate and a truly civil discourse would be a good place to start.”

Many believed that the political conversation at the College is still quiet, but would discourse would become increasingly more popular as the primaries and general election draws nearer. 

Retik felt that the lack of conversation at the College was fueled by the relevance of so many other issues and discussions fostered by other communities at Colby. 

“I think that, at least right now, there probably isn’t a lot of discourse around the elections. It isn’t super unexpected because we’re a ways out, but I have been surprised by the lack of discussion, given that I think Colby is a place where a bunch of people are coming together and thinking about shared issues,” he said. “I feel there’s a space for discussion that isn’t always used when it comes to politics because there’s so many opportunities to discuss other events. I think discussion around politics is useful though, and we should probably encourage more of it.”

Wynne expressed her desire to use Colby for Warren to encourage conversations around politics across the field of issues. 

“Something that we’re aiming to do at the beginning stages of our organizing is to have a conversation and engage people about policy directly,” Wynne said. “Of course, we’re running this club and we care about Elizabeth Warren and want her to win, but at the same time I think we really want to engage students about issues that just aren’t being talked about. I feel there could be a lot more political discourse on campus than we see currently. It would be interesting to see the people who want to talk about these issues coming up with frameworks and creating spaces for these conversations to happen.”

Goldberg seconded this interest in using Colby for Warren as means of fostering conversation.

“We look around ourselves and we see a student body that’s super smart, generally super engaged and super passionate about oftentimes really specific policy and specific ideas. These ideas are not ones are necessarily tied into campaigns themselves and the exact political climate of the day in the primaries, so we’re just hoping to channel that enthusiasm, that intelligence, that caring into Elizabeth Warren for 2020.”

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