At a time when national politics are riddled with polarized partisanship, Temple College Democrats and Temple University College Republicans have taken a different approach than their respective national platforms: both have embraced ideological diversity within their ranks.
Temple College Democrats find cohesion in social issues such as gay rights and abortion, while economic thought ranges across the political spectrum. Temple University College Republicans have the opposite situation, with conservative fiscal policy largely agreed upon but a diversity of opinions on social issues.
Joe Oleksak, chairman of TUCR, said a large number of members in the organization support gay marriage. He said these varying viewpoints are good for the party.
“I really enjoy the diversity of opinion,” Oleksak said. “It makes us stronger as an organization.”
While both TCD and TUCR accept diversity within their ranks, straying from party lines at other college political organizations has, in at least one instance, been met with criticism from higher levels.
After the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a key section of the Defense of Marriage Act in June, Stephanie Petelos, chairwoman of the College Republicans Federation of Alabama, was quoted in AL.com as saying, “We’re governed by the Constitution and not the Bible.”
Afterward, the online media site Buzzfeed reported that “some members of the state party’s leadership were furious…and they began discussing ways to oust her from the party’s steering committee, which always guarantees a spot for the college Republican chair.”
Petelos has not posted anything regarding gay marriage since.
On Thursday, Aug. 24, the Alabama state GOP voted not to oust Petelos from the steering committee.
“[Gay marriage] is an issue that is currently in the midst of internal Republican debating,” Anthony Christina, chairman of the Pennsylvania Federation of College Republicans, said. The issue is especially relevant in Southeastern Pennsylvania, where a Montgomery County clerk began issuing marriages licenses to gay couples in defiance of the commonwealth’s definition of marriage.
“[The Temple University College Republicans] are one of our best chapters,” Christina said. “They’re entitled to make their own decisions as long as they stick to our core beliefs.”
Oleksak explained that TUCR has rarely taken official stances on issues and doesn’t plan to for the near future.
“I try not to go out and speak for the whole group,” he said.
The issues TUCR members are closer aligned on are fiscal ones affecting college students, such as the graduate unemployment rate and student loan debt. These will be the issues that TUCR will be more focused on for the coming year.
TCD members don’t have the same solidarity in economic thought, but find strong unity in their beliefs on social issues. Jess Cooper, president of TCD, said almost every member is in agreement on these issues.
“The fight for social justice is what brings us together,” she said. “It’s like 99.9 percent [who agree].”
Oleksak believes views on issues don’t have to be seen as absolutely divided by party.
“Some people think all Republicans believe this and all Democrats believe this,” he said. “That’s not necessarily the case.”
Last year, two individuals within the ranks of TCD and TUCR, Sonia Galiber and Darin Bartholomew, respectively, teamed up on Temple’s Student Government, of which Bartholomew is now student body president.
TUCR and TCD do have one requirement: supporting and promoting the election of their parties’ candidates in all levels of government for the general elections. Supporting a candidate in a primary is not allowed.
Temple University College Republicans will have their first meeting Sept. 5 at 5 p.m. The location has yet to be finalized but will be posted on their official Facebook page.
Temple College Democrats meet on Tuesdays at 6 p.m. in Room 220 of the Student Center.
Marcus McCarthy is the TSG beat writer for The Temple News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow on Twitter @Marcus.McCarthy6.