Tonight, one of six Democratic presidential debates will take place at Drexel University. Not at Temple.
Damien LaVera, a spokesman for the Democratic National Committee, said Drexel has the positive attitude about politics that the DNC was looking for.
“Drexel students are excited about the issues,” LaVera said.
There is no doubt the Drexel community is politically active, and students there are involved in the issues.
That being said, if the DNC, NBC and the candidates vying for the presidency want to make a statement about their connection to, and understanding of, the average citizen, Temple would have been a better place to hold these debates.
Again, this is not to take anything from Drexel or their involvement in politics. However, Temple is more connected to the working class and average Americans, and the issues playing themselves out within it. This connection can be seen in different aspects of the university, from the working class neighborhood it lives in to the higher percentage of rural and urban working class families whose children attend Temple. Another area this becomes obvious in is Temple’s political activity itself.
One example of this was the protests against the Jena Six prosecutions that took place this semester. These protests were spread first through historically black colleges and picked up by Temple students. Besides the on-campus rally and march, a bus sponsored by Temple student organizations traveled to Jena, La., to take part in the protests there.
Another example is the speech by former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum last week, hosted by Temple College Republicans.
It showed that Temple does have a diversity of opinion in its events and its students. A striking aspect of the event was the mixture of supporters and opponents of the controversial former senator. Santorum was not preaching to the choir, nor was he facing an onslaught of criticism.
“I was surprised as to how many Republicans came out,” said Ryan McCool, president of the Temple College Republicans.
McCool added that Temple has students coming from conservative Pennsylvania areas like Lancaster County and the Poconos, who often bring conservative ways of thinking along.
At the same time, “Temple is a liberal college in a liberal city,” he said.
Temple is liberal, but as evident from the activity on campus, we have voices coming from more than one side of the spectrum.
By contrast, Drexel did not have any event to correspond with Temple’s, and does not even have an active college Republican group. Perhaps this made Temple less desirable to the DNC and its candidates.
In the polarized political climate we have today, neither political party can afford to surround itself with its own supporters and ideology. If the Democratic Party wants to reach out and have swing voters listen to what it has to say, then it should make an effort to engage the public in a place where the opposition has at least some voice.
Stephen Zook can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.