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College Democrats look to revitalize their party after Nov. 8

By Bonnie Meibers, Senior Staff Writer

Just as the 2016 presidential election brought many American citizens into the political fold, the same seems to be happening here on Miami's campus.

Miami's student body leans slightly to the right, according to Miami's CIRP survey results, a survey administered to incoming first year students to the Oxford campus. The percentage of students who consider themselves "conservative" at Miami is about 10 percent higher than at other public universities.

This political tilt can be seen in student organization participation on campus -- College Republicans has long been a larger organization than College Democrats. Since the beginning of the presidential election cycle, however, College Democrats has been closing that gap, said College Democrats' Tsar of Communications, Nick Froehlich. And yes, Tsar is his actual title.

There are currently 281 registered College Democrats on the Hub and 723 registered members in College Republicans.

The organization has seen a steady increase in membership since last year, when a lot of people were energized by the Democratic primaries, said Froehlich. According to many members, the meeting the evening after the Nov. 8 general election saw record breaking attendance.

First year Kelsey Demel attended her first meeting that Wednesday after the election.

"I just thought that was the perfect time to go," Demel said. "I wanted to see how the College Dems would react."

Froehlich said after the election, College Democrats is focusing on discussing policy issues and education on those issues during their weekly meetings.

"I think the Democratic Party [as a whole] has realized after this election that not engaging with the other side at all is not a winning strategy," he said.

Because of this, College Democrats at Miami has undergone some changes.

"A couple semesters ago, we would talk about where we lie on the left, how liberal or moderate we were," said Charles Kennick, Secretary of College Democrats. "Now we talk about what we can do to promote our issues."

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This change in agenda at College Democrats' meetings mirrors another shift in the organization. Its members are becoming increasingly interested in ground-level activism and mobilizing their volunteer network.

"We can get in a room and we can complain about Republicans and we can complain about Donald Trump all we want, but at the end of the day that's not changing things," Froehlich said.

College Democrats plans to collect funds and supplies until the end of the semester to send to the protesters in Standing Rock Indian Reservation over J-term.

Going forward, some specific issues that the organization is passionate about activism surrounding the living conditions of the staff on Miami's campus and the environment said president of College Democrats, Maggie Bender. College Democrats is also looking to pair up with other student organizations on campus that are passionate about some of these issues as well.

"That's the kind of stuff that, even as small scale as it is, had an impact in a sense, even if it was just an impact in the [Miami] community," said first-year and member of College Democrats, Jim Zedaker.

Other members of the organization agree. Sophomore Cameron Kadis is a member of College Democrats and he believes that the move toward activism is not only good for the organization, but for the Miami community.

"I think [activism] gets the word out and it helps people to develop a sense of community," Kadis said.

This semester specifically, Froehlich said, the organization has seen an increase in members getting out and volunteering, registering students to vote or campaigning for Democratic candidates.

"We're trying to build off momentum from the election," Kennick said. "We're trying to keep them involved in the process, even if they weren't all that interested in politics. The election is not the end of the political cycle."

With the results of the presidential election in mind, Froehlich said that College Democrats is more motivated and their sense of urgency is even greater than it was before the election.

"Sure we were sad Tuesday," Froehlich said. "But Wednesday we were already planning on what comes next."

Another large change that the organization will see this academic year is Bender stepping down as president due to a heavy course load in the spring.

"I've been here for three years now, and Dems is undoubtedly better than it's ever been," she said. "It's only going to continue to get better."

On Wednesday, Nov. 30 in Pearson Hall College Democrats participated in a debate against College Republicans in which they discussed education, healthcare and foreign policy. The organizations took questions that originated in the audience to wrap up the debate.

"I was impressed with the debate on both sides and continue to be impressed with [College Democrats]," Demel said. "The message is not so much, 'let's give up and pout.' It's 'let's work toward communication and negotiation between both the parties.'"

Many in both organizations were in high spirits following the debate.

"I think it was a good event to focus on how we can move forward and govern after a campaign season just filled with blood rhetoric, scandal and personal attacks," Kadis said.