Hindsight is 2020: Pacific’s political science breakdown

Shelby Cokeley, Editor-in-Chief

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Who will gain enough traction and votes to be elected the next President of the United States on November 3, 2019? A better question might be which candidates will even make it on the ballot.

As of Tuesday, Sept. 10, over 20 notable officials and public figures have entered and maintained their stay in the 2020 presidential race. The democratic party sports a dense 20-candidate field all still fighting for a spot during debates, while just three Republicans — including President Donald Trump — have formally announced their interest in the position.

“The problem with the debates is all you hear are soundbites and people then trying to do some acting,” said Dr. Jim Moore, Director of Political Outreach and political science professor at Pacific University. “It’s more about ‘How can I dominate this conversation?’ than debating, but better information can always be found elsewhere.”

Looking at both the plethora of candidates running and the immense power young people could potentially have on the 2020 election, Dr. Moore believes it’s more important than ever for students to think independently and vote.

“The first thing [college students] need to do is think for themselves about what issues they care about whether that be the environment, the future job market — whatever it is,” Dr. Moore said. “Then they need to do a little research on some candidates. All of the candidates have position papers that are a little more in depth about certain ideas and proposals. Just see what jumps out to you.”

According to Dr. Moore and other political enthusiasts on campus like College Democrats of Oregon Vice President and Pacific University Senior Sophia O’Neal and Pacific’s own College Democrats President Max Lien, 2020 is not the time to make excuses for a lack of civic engagement. 

 “I want students to understand that cynicism and apathy aren’t our only options,” Lien said. “It is most often young activists throughout history who have led the charge on massive social reforms.”

Sure, the extremely preliminary debates airing on television right now can be frustrating for viewers looking for more concrete platform information. However, as Dr. Moore points out, there are many different ways for students to learn more about candidates, communicate their thoughts and have their voices heard. On Pacific’s campus alone, students can join a multitude of activist groups that target the core issues swirling debates and political conversation.

He advises students to find local campaigns going on and push them. “I’m a new voter, I’m willing to support you and vote… but I need to hear more about my issue,” Dr. Moore says, posing himself as a student.

“Another thing to do is be a part of the student groups we have on campus — a group has power in numbers.” Dr. Moore said. “They help you gain recognition, credibility and immediately make you part of a greater conversation.”

Clubs on Pacific’s undergraduate campus include: Criminal Justice Club, Public Health Club, Social Work Club, Black Student Union, College Democrats, College Republicans and Students for Environmental Activism — just to name a few with political ties.

If students cannot find a group on campus or in the greater Forest Grove area that fits their interests and ideals, Dr. Moore suggests these young adults take initiative and start their own. Being a leader is always an option, and a good one at that, both Dr. Moore and Lien agree.

“Students should ask: How is my issue doing? Is it at the top? Are they discussing it? And if that issue is important enough to you, get involved — start pushing until it’s a part of the conversation,” Dr. Moore said. “You have to be an activist.”

Before a mass of students huddle together in the University Center (UC), waiting and watching patiently for Electoral College numbers to roll in a year from now on election night, there’s still time to make an impact.

“At this point college students really need to pay attention to who’s going to turn out to vote,” Dr. Moore says with emphasis. He stresses that students should ignore the ever-changing waves of bipartisan voting trends and the tendency to say ‘Oh, well they don’t need my vote then.’

Lien echoes this point, “Political engagement and political activism are not reserved for some special few, all it requires is the compassion to acknowledge when others are suffering, and the conviction to speak out against it.”

With just over a year left in the 2020 race things are just starting to heat up, but now presents the perfect time for those interested to get more involved. Students can visit Pacific’s website under “Life at Pacific” to learn more about opportunities for activism and clubs. 

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