New to East this year, the Political Action Club hosts both democrats and republicans in the same classroom. The Young Democrats and Teenage Republicans join together every Tuesday to debate pressing political issues and work to reach compromises.
In years past, East had three politically based clubs, the Young Democrats, Teenage Republicans, and Government Club. This year, all three clubs have been combined in hopes that students will be able to work on finding compromise rather than more division. President of Young Democrats Enan Srivastava and President of Teenage Republicans Carolyn Humphrey collaborate as Co-Presidents of the Political Action Club.
“I think that one of the main problems America has with its political system is that the parties are so divided. When there isn’t any unity in the government nothing can be changed and nothing new can be implemented because none of the lawmakers can agree on anything,” freshman Megan Schwab said.
At each meeting, the Young Democrat and Teenage Republican clubs separate to discuss the topic of the day with their own political party. Once both the democrats and republicans have had time to prepare, the group comes together and each party shares their views, with the end goal being a solution to the problem that both sides agree on.
“Some of the policies are good on the republican side, some of the policies are good on the democrat side. We need to incorporate both of them to create a fully functioning government because one of the biggest things we have seen in the history of the world is that one party doesn’t work, you have to have that balance,” senior and Young Democrats President Enan Srivastava said.
According to a Pew Research study, partisan animosity has increased dramatically over the past few decades. Twenty-seven percent of Democrats now view the Republican party as a threat to the nation’s well-being, while 36% of Republicans feel the same about Democrats. Despite division on a national level however, the Political Action Club hopes to work with each other, rather than against each other, when facing opinionated issues, such as their latest debate on healthcare.
“I think that the students are finding common ground with other people who disagree with them, which is an unusual thing in the world of politics today,” club sponsor and AP Government teacher Tyler VanLandeghem said. “I think it’s valuable that we’re seeing that yes, other people, the president, Congress, people in national politics, don’t agree on anything but we here can agree on [issues], we can come to a compromise, we can come to some middle ground, even if the national politicians can’t.”
Surprisingly, the club has not faced many challenges despite the fact that many of them hold their own unique opinions. In fact, some students attend both the Young Democrat and Teenage Republican meetings to further shape their own personal views and to allow other perspectives to inform their opinions.
Young Democrats secretary, senior Ethan Summers, sees Political Action Club as a place where people can come to get informed and get involved.
“Anyone who is interested in politics, or isn’t and wants to learn a little bit more about how it works and how it affects our community could come and be a part of this club and have discussions, to find out what they agree with, to find their views,” Summers stated.
What would it take for you to take a greater interest in politics?
Aside from their weekly debates, Political Action Club seeks to live up to their name and has several plans to take action in the school and throughout the community. Recently, the P.A.C. had tables set up during lunch hours at which they registered 18 year old students to vote. With the midterm election quickly approaching in November, the club hopes to spread awareness about the importance of voting and the impact one can make, no matter how young.
“I honestly want to see more people get involved,” Summers said. “I feel like there’s a lot of voter apathy in America and people don’t feel like their vote matters…If we want our government to be representative of our values, if people want things to change, they themselves have to get involved.”
According to Time, a record 800,000 people have registered to vote for the midterm election, already passing up the midterm election numbers of past years. Political Action Club hopes to bring this number higher and spread awareness about the importance of participating in politics, even as a high schooler.
“As a club I hope that we can get students more involved with topics about government and politics because the people in this school are the voters and lawmakers of the future,” Schwab said. “When it becomes their turn to make those kinds of decisions they will be able to decide with their own views and not with what everyone else says they should.”
From a poll taken of 514 East students, it becomes apparent that many are unaware of the upcoming election and what will be taking place. Only 46 students polled understood that the November 6th midterm elections have nothing to do with the Presidency. Meanwhile, 69 students chose Hillary Clinton, 116 Bernie Sanders, 122 Donald Trump, and 161 Kanye West.
Who do you anticipate will win the November 6th midterm election?
Political Action Club seeks to tackle problems like voter apathy, identity politics, and a simple general lack of awareness in the student body. Although most of the students in Political Action Club are not old enough to vote yet, they still want to make a difference doing what they can right now.
“I joined [Political Action Club] because when I am older I want to do something that helps people, and I didn’t realize that until last year…So this year I joined and since I can’t really do much right now because I can’t vote yet, I wanted to feel like I’m doing something for now,” Young Democrats Vice-President and junior Ashlyn Pearson said.
Not only does Political Action Club seek to make an impact at the polls, but they also are reaching out into the community, and are hoping to meet and talk with local candidates and elected representatives. The Young Democrats are closely affiliated with the Kendall County Democrats, and are the first high school in the county to have a dedicated Young Democrats club. Teenage Republicans are working to gain affiliation as well.
The group has already participated in canvasing events at which they inform the public about candidates, and in February the club will be attending Harvard Model Congress in Boston, Massachusetts. Getting the opportunity to participate in these events helps the members to be able to start making an impact on the world today, even while still in high school.
“I really [enjoy] this club because it is a great learning experience to become more knowledgeable about different political ideals and stay updated with current events. The opportunities we also get like meeting with local law makers really puts into perspective that even though we are just a group of high schoolers, we have the chance to start making differences in our government,” Schwab said.
Overall, Political Action Club has managed to overcome the traditional political divide and has pressed on to show that compromise, even between seemingly uncompromising groups, is possible.
“We all have more common ground than we think,” VanLandeghem said. “But we put ourselves into camps and tribes and think the other side is the worst in the world because it’s easy, it’s easy to hate somebody … That’s the easy thing to do. We’re doing the hard thing of trying to come together and trying to find compromise. If we all did the hard thing, we would be better off, and [have a] much calmer political climate.”
Political Action Club’s next meeting is Tuesday, November 13th, in F128.
Ashita Wagh is an arts & entertainment editor for Oswego East High School’s online news magazine the Howl