A monumental election awaits and students have been connecting their voices in support for who they think is the best fit for the future.
There are two presidential candidate organizations on campus. One is for Sen. Bernie Sanders; the other is for President Donald Trump.
Students who support Trump believe he has rebuilt the core of the country, while students who support Sanders believe that pressing issues continue to fragment the country.
Both groups have been diligent in their efforts to recruit students since coming unto campus. The candidates and their supporters are not only representing different ideologies, they’re also up against different circumstances.
Kent State for Bernie 2020 is dealing with the fact that the campaign for Sanders is over. Meanwhile, Students for Trump at Kent State is seeking the reelection of President Trump in November.
For Sanders, his decision to suspend his campaign came a day after the Wisconsin primary and shocked many of his supporters including Adam Schroeder, the president of Kent State for Bernie 2020. Looking past the sadness, there is hope.
“This campaign, yes it was about getting Bernie Sanders elected but it was so much more than that in the sense that it really challenged people to rethink what they thought was possible in this country,” Schroeder said. “We can have ‘Medicare for All.’ We can save the climate. We can have a decent living wage.”
More than just a campaign, Schroeder said it is a progressivist movement that will live on. The election of congressional members like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, and Rashida Tlaib was cited by Schroeder as being a result of the movement.
“He’s honestly probably the most influential person in politics of our lifetime,” Schroeder said.
Sanders’ ability to shift the talking points within the Democratic Party is something that stands out to Nicole Wloszek, the vice president of Kent State for Bernie 2020.
“Raising the minimum wage, getting Medicare for All as a talking point, legalizing marijuana, you know, all of these Bernie pushed the party to consider,” Wloszek said.
Despite a strong showing early on in the primary race by Sanders, former Vice President Joe Biden still managed to pull out in front, which Schroeder partly attributes to the endorsements that Biden received.
“I know like a lot of people are going to be quick to say, ‘oh, Bernie lost because he’s too radical,’ but in actuality he won the first three states which included a blowout in Nevada,” Schroeder said. “Right before Super Tuesday, it took a historic consolidation of the establishment to stop him.”
With Biden becoming the presumptive nominee for the Democratic Party, supporters of Sanders find themselves in a tough situation with Wloszek saying that Sanders was often labeled as an outcast in the party by others due to his Independent affiliation in the U.S Senate.
“It’s a really difficult thing to do, to be a Bernie supporter and feel like you want to stay true to your morals, you want to stay true to what you believe but obviously you don’t want Trump to win,” Wloszek said. “I think [Biden] knows that he needs Bernie supporters to be on his side if he wants to win against Trump and so I think the only way he can do that is by adopting more progressive policies.”
Many of Sanders’s supporters don’t feel comfortable voting for Biden, Wloszek said, as they question his voting record and whether or not he’ll care to implement any of the policies that Sanders called for.
With the campaign being over, Schroeder confirmed that Kent State for Bernie 2020 will also be coming to an end, but members will be redirected to other student organizations on campus like Young Democratic Socialists of America. Together they will be hosting a web seminar titled “Beyond Bernie” on Friday.
Creating Kent State for Bernie 2020 helped unite progressives on campus and ignite student activism, said Schroeder.
“I think what we did by bringing this campaign, this movement to campus, I think it was very cathartic for people to realize that there are so many other people on campus that share their values, beliefs and passion,” Schroeder said. “It was such a student-led movement and to be a part of that history is just really cool.”
That student commitment and call for youth activism displayed in Kent State for Bernie 2020 is mirrored by members in Students for Trump at Kent State. If there is one thing they can relate to, it is their willingness to be a part of history – to make it clear that both of these candidates have a foothold within their generation.
When it comes to President Trump and his reelection bid, the president of Students for Trump at Kent State, Alexa Schwerha, is confident in his chances.
“A lot of the campaign promises he made when he was campaigning back in 2015 and 2016, he made them a reality,” Schwerha said. “To this day, he continues to fight for the American people.”
Some of those promises that Schwerha talked about included his improvement of the economy and his call for immigration reform.
“Since he took office, unemployment has had record lows for Hispanics, for Asians, for African Americans, for women, for the youth,” Schwerha said. “And as students that’s something that should really excite us because we do want jobs when we graduate.”
Prior to the closing of the university, the group consistently tabled at the Student Center and invited local candidates to come speak. They also talked to students about voter registration at least two times a week. The group remains active digitally.
The biggest thing that Trump can do to increase his chance for reelection is staying true to what he’s been doing all along, said the group’s vice president, Ben Adams.
“In just four years, he’s brought up the economy and enabled all people of different backgrounds to do their best and make a living for themselves honestly,” Adams said.
Not being complacent is another factor that Adams pointed to as he feels supporters might make the mistake of underestimating Trump’s opponent. They should still turn out and vote and not rely on the idea that it will be an easy win.
With the ongoing pandemic in the country, many voters are keeping a close eye on Trump’s efforts to combat it.
“I believe that President Trump is handling this outbreak to the best of his ability,” Schwerha said. “One of the better things that’s doing is keeping an open method of communication with the governors of each state.”
Even with the circumstances facing the country, Adams says Trump offers hope.
“He’s trying to enforce a level of positivity in the world, in the country. It’s not a great situation but you can’t instill fear,” Adams said.
During their time on campus, Schwerha says the group received a warmer reception from students than she had expected. While tabling, they were able to have conversations with supporters and those that oppose Trump, finding middle ground in the process.
This reception also impressed Adams, who feels as though the group brought a conservative voice that was needed on campus given the liberal atmosphere.
Students for Trump at Kent State is hoping that the outbreak will have been under control by the fall so that they can return on campus. They’re looking forward to setting up in-person meetings and events, picking up where they left off.
“We definitely wanted to make an impact and show that our generation is here and we do support President Trump,” Schwerha said. “That he does have young voices behind him.”
Sanders has recently endorsed Biden, making it all but certain that Biden will represent the Democratic Party in November. His running mate has yet to be announced.
Students for Trump at Kent State will make their presence felt in the fall as the race intensifies. Although Kent State for Bernie 2020 won’t be around by then, its members will still continue to fight for their political revolution.
Chris Ramos covers politics. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.