Attention poli sci majors, Wall Street Journal aficionados, those who claim not to care about politics and Reagan-Bush-tank-wearing frat stars: Please play nice. As the 2016 presidential election approaches, the politics-infused rants regarding Donald Trump’s hair and Bernie Sanders’s Twitter have gone from zero to 100 in a hot second. Students and professors on college campuses typically swing lefty, which can leave right-handed batters in the minority. If mature congress officials have trouble practicing bi-partisanship, the chances of broke 20-year-olds engaging in cordial conversation over minimum wage are slim to none. Republicans on college campuses may feel voiceless and underappreciated at times. Before you threaten violence just so you can tell your “Intro to Political Science” professor your opinion on social security, try voicing your opinion in a more legal manner.
Learn About the Other Side
Before you can back up your own argument, you have to understand the opposing argument. College campuses are notorious for know-it-alls on both the right and left, but an understanding of both sides will help solidify your opinions. Don’t assume someone’s ideas are wrong just because they contradict what you read on Drudge Report. The opposing side takes the issue from a fresh angle by referring to different statistics or attributing the source of issues to different officials or entities. So read them, study them and know them like the back of your hand.
Learn About Your Own Side
Many college students choose a candidate based on dinner table discussions at home. Before you take what your thirsty uncle says at Christmas to the bank, make sure you figure out why you think that way. It’s cool to have the same views as your family, but be able to refer to a more legitimate source than an overheard conversation. If you can’t, you’ll be way more liable to giving in to the opposing side. Sid*, a sophomore economics major at UC Berkeley, said, “The biggest thing for me was knowing [conservative views] are unpopular opinions to have, and also knowing why you agree with them. If you can actually believe in them, then you can stay steadfast in your beliefs.” Take Sid’s advice and go read a book (or two).
Don’t Let Emotions Get the Best of You
Students often let their emotions run wild as they pour their heart and soul into a particular issue, such as the protection of eggplant farmers in third world countries. While passion is important to the protection of eggplant farmers, make sure your emotions aren’t absent of action. Robert, a sophomore at Dartmouth, said, “Normally in order to stay true to my values, I just focus on what really matters and how to actually accomplish those goals. I don’t rely on purely emotional solutions.” Let your emotions flow into your issue of choice, but also get your hands in the thick of the action.
Have a Liberal Mind
Even if you don’t rock the liberal title, try to have a Liberal viewpoint. Liberalism embraces conversation, argument and debate among the issues. More importantly, liberalism teaches respect for all opinions regardless of whether or not you’re on the same side of a debate. There are two sides to every argument regardless of what CNN, Fox News or MSNBC anchors tell you. Embrace your counterpart’s views and don’t resent them for having a different view on immigration policy. If you don’t, you risk slipping into the category of “douche canoe” instead of conservative.
Don’t get hot and bothered if you’re in the minority of a political opinion…Fire and brimstone tactics to change the cumulative mind of your school will only leave you outcasted. The chances of you changing the minds of stubborn college students are slimmer than Arnold Schwarzenegger getting elected governor of California…wait a second. Did that actually happen? If you’re an easily agitated and stirred up individual like me, let your actions—not words—do the talking. You don’t have to debate Chris Christie’s cutting of public school funds with your roommate to be active in political change. Paul, a sophomore physics major at Princeton, said, “I try to stay away from the politics people at school. They’re just so annoying. But vote Trump.” The legend of the Donald lives.
Remember to Vote
A trip to the voting booth can enact change, voice your opinions and help you be an effective member of society. As college students, we often get lost in the football games and forget there is a world mere steps off of Campus Drive. Consequently, the number of college students voting in recent elections has spiraled downward. As exasperating as it is to wait in a hot gym all day just to press a couple buttons, it’s still essential as a grown-up ‘Merican to take advantage of the democratic system we choose to embrace. Words, protests and rallies mean nothing unless you check the box for your policy or candidate of choice. So Uber out to your local community center (or—novel idea—apply for an absentee ballot) and actually make a difference.
Future leaders will inevitably sprout from the political atmosphere on college campuses nationwide. In order to fulfill your aspirations in the most successful way possible, keep a level head, respect others and act. The only revolutions that succeed are organized ones. God bless America.
*Last names withheld for privacy.