Young Democrats and Young Republicans experience excitement and challenges in 2020

The+Young+Democrats+Club+poses+during+one+of+their+masked+debate+parties+in+October.+Both+COVID+restrictions+and+the+election+are+making+2020+an+engaging+year+for+both+them+and+the+Young+Republicans+Club.+Photo+submitted+by+Olivia+Hovland.

Olivia Hovland

The Young Democrats Club poses during one of their masked debate parties in October. Both COVID restrictions and the election are making 2020 an engaging year for both them and the Young Republicans Club. Photo submitted by Olivia Hovland.

The Young Democrats and Young Republicans clubs are student-lead organizations that meet weekly to bring together like-minded students for discussion skill-building, and community improvement. Given that this year is an election year and they are simultaneously dealing with a pandemic, 2020 has proven to be an exciting yet challenging year for these clubs.

Traditionally, the two clubs engage students in politics and teach them valuable skills through a number of activities. Among other things, they discuss views, contact legislators, organize protests, review life skills and provide voting information and resources.

“For example, last week talked about how to disagree with opposing viewpoints. While this clearly represents itself in politics, disagreement manifests itself in different ways in every other aspect of life,” Alex Steil, one of Young Democrats’ two student presidents, said. “We use politics as the vehicle for teaching them something — it’s not strictly about politics.”

Nathalie Loehr, one of four senior leaders of Young Republicans, said “It is also an outlet for those who are looking to know where they stand in the political spectrum. By attending our meetings, they get to see first hand what republicans stand for.”

The upcoming general election is making 2020 an interesting year for Young Dems and Young Republicans. The presidential debates offer many talking points in the clubs. Young Democrats are emphasizing helping out with campaigns and the two clubs collaboratively held a voter registration drive.

Steil said, “Since we’re in an election year, an important one I might add, we’re emphasizing ways to help out campaigns. We’ve already been in touch with Josiah Hill, who’s running for Minnesota state senate, or provided basic tips for helping out on other campaigns. We’ve also, in conjunction with the Young Republicans club, held a voter registration drive.”

Like a lot of things, we’ve had to adapt in a way that I don’t think we ever would have envisioned happening and making itself work.”

— Alex Steil

The COVID-19 pandemic is another situation that has made 2020 an interesting year for these clubs, and they each are handling it differently. The Young Democrats meet weekly over Zoom and have an in-person meeting monthly, while the Young Republicans meet weekly in-person. Both meeting formats present challenges in providing full engagement.

“Face-to-face meetings encourage a more authentic, connected environment,” said Loehr. “One of the most upsetting effects is that we can only have 19 people in the room at a time. In order to meet the guidelines, that is what is required but it’s a bit of a bummer, as the club has racked up almost 40 eager members who can’t make it to all the meetings. We try our best to do a rotation, allowing everyone to come to at least a few, but it’s hard to make everyone happy.”

Despite being presented with recent difficulties, these clubs are still enthusiastic about their following, activities, and future.

“Regardless [of the challenges], myself and the other leaders are extremely proud of the members we were able to recruit and are looking forward to the future of the club!” – Nathalie Loehr