Baylor political groups talk upcoming midterm elections

WE ARE THE WORLD | With the upcoming midterm elections, Baylor’s political clubs push students to register to vote and to use their voice enact change in the current political climate. Liesje Powers | Multimedia Editor

By Bridget Sjoberg | Staff Writer

In a nation where politics is a significant part of every day culture and young voters have the ability to voice their opinions on important topics, College Republicans and Baylor Democrats seek to educate college students on our country’s policies and conflicts.

Portland junior Eric Soo, chairman of College Republicans, and El Paso junior Aldrin Ballesteros, president of Baylor Democrats, seek to use their leadership positions to inform Baylor students about their respective party.

Soo values limited government and the reward of hard work, with his family playing an important role in inspiring his political views.

“My father’s family were refugees from China after the Cultural Revolution, and they had their land taken away,” Soo said. “For me, a smaller government that is not socialist is something that I want to maintain. My family was very poor, but both parents worked hard and became doctors. When I see the examples of my parents, I am inspired and have faith in the American dream — that’s something I want to fight to protect.”

Ballesteros, originally planning to major in entrepreneurship, decided to switch his major to political science after discovering that he could potentially influence important decisions in his community as a politician.

“I came to Baylor seeking a BBA with a major in entrepreneurship and corporate innovation,” Ballesteros said. “I wanted to learn the best ways to create businesses that could help my communities back home grow and further develop. As my freshman year progressed, I realized that politicians have the opportunities to impact communities in the exact same ways I wanted to be able to. It was then that I decided to major in political science.”

Both College Republicans and Baylor Democrats seek to educate the Baylor community on political issues and involve their members in spreading information on campus and in Waco. Both groups hold regular meetings that include guest speakers and involvement opportunities in their programs.

“Through Baylor Democrats I was able to interact with other students who deeply cared about our current state of politics and was able to learn many things from them,” Ballesteros said. “It exists to allow students to have a space to share and express their political opinions, ideas and concerns. Our goal is to help students learn and talk about the current state of politics. We also actively try to inform our members of the opportunities that exist in both Baylor and Waco to become involved in politics.”

Soo notes that he appreciates College Republicans as a place for students to voice their opinions and concerns in a safe environment.

“I grew up in Oregon, which is a very blue state — my county was one of the highest registered Democrat counties in the United States,” Soo said. “My school was of a particular view and our teachers were open with that. I wasn’t antagonized, but I didn’t feel represented ideologically. Having a community where I can safely talk about stories of my family without offending anyone and where people agree with me ideologically is important.”

With the midterm elections fast approaching and the intense Senate race between incumbent Republican Ted Cruz and Democrat Beto O’ Rourke, both campus groups hope to encourage students to vote and become informed on both candidates and what they stand for.

“I think it’s easy to voice your opinion but hard to make politics a priority,” Soo said. “There’s a real need for youth enthusiasm, and that’s very encouraging. People think that in this age of social media if they’re not leading a protest of thousands, they’re not making a difference — but we’re all making a difference. If you believe something, your voice counts, and youth do make an impact.”

Ballesteros noted how Baylor Democrats also encourage students to use their voices by registering to vote and mentioned his group’s involvement in Beto O’ Rourke’s recent visit to Common Grounds.

“The midterm elections will be one of the most important political events happening in our country this semester,” Ballesteros said. “We’ve encouraged our members and students at Baylor to register to vote and become deputized. We’ve also shared important registration dates and information on social media. We worked closely with the O’Rourke campaign and were highly involved in supporting his event at Common Grounds. Our members felt extremely proud to see him speak to so many Baylor students.”

An issue both College Republicans and Baylor Democrats hope to better understand is the United States’ political division and tendency to develop stagnant political views without proper communication.

“It’s extremely important for organizations like our own to understand that both parties can have good and bad ideas, and to pause and see things from the perspectives of both sides of the argument,” Ballesteros said. “The [Brett] Kavanaugh confirmation is a great example. It’s perfectly okay to have your own firm opinion on the issue. However, it’s also important to understand that someone who was either for or against the confirmation can have a valid concern or reason backing their decision. We encourage this approach to politics.”

Soo sees several conflicts as the cause of the United States’ division — including the media and political correctness, as well as the fact that the United States is naturally an antagonistic system — leading to inevitable tension between both parties.

“As a Republican, most of the media is left-leaning, and that’s something I’m used to. Republicans do this too, and I’m not saying we’re not guilty — but I think late- night TV and political satire in general goes too far to get advertising revenue,” Soo said. “I also struggle with the idea of political correctness, and that if you disagree with someone, you must hate them. I think we should have stronger borders, but that doesn’t mean I’m anti-immigrant — my dad is an immigrant. However, the media would say that I must hate immigrants.”

Both groups believe an important way to make progress and eliminate unnecessary tension is by having honest discussions and communication among both sides, and by respecting other viewpoints without making assumptions.

“I love how close our group has been with the Democrats,” Soo said. “As club president, I’ve made it a huge priority to get closer with them. We’ve had a bipartisan lunch and bipartisan bowling party — it’s important to not only have a presence on campus, but also to make sure that we get along with the other side.”

Ballesteros agrees, noting how both groups, despite disagreements in viewpoints, are present on campus to encourage students to get involved and use their voice in a positive way.

“Our club encourages our members to reach across the aisle and have a healthy political discussion with someone who disagrees with them, since this is how we learn to understand each other and work to find solutions together,” Ballesteros said. “In the end, both the Democrat and Republican parties are made up of people who work hard every day to do what they believe to be best for the country.”

Both Soo and Ballesteros encourage Baylor students to become informed politically and take action in meaningful, significant ways.

“If you’re a student looking for a space to voice your opinions or to learn about our current state of politics, both Baylor Democrats and College Republicans are great clubs where you can do this,” Ballesteros said. “One thing I highly recommend if you’re a student wanting to become involved in politics is the Baylor in Washington program. I’m fortunate to be part of the inaugural class, and it has been the best decision that I’ve made at Baylor. You’ll make amazing connections, meet great mentors, gain unique experience and a whole new in-depth perspective on how politics work.”

Soo agrees and motivates students to realize that younger generations can make a significant impact in our country by becoming informed and active politically.

“Many people don’t make politics a priority and would rather complain about it on Facebook,” Soo said. “If you make politics a priority in your life, you’ll start to use your time in a more productive way towards that end. At the end of the day, what happens in Washington doesn’t define who I am or who my friends are. It’s important to have humility and not take things too personally.”