Q&A: Political RSO leaders discuss the presidential inauguration
With the inauguration of President-Elect Joe Biden occurring Jan. 20, two of leaders from Central Michigan University political Registered Student Organizations are weighing in.
Tecumseh senior Lance Wood is the president of College Democrats at CMU. He began working with the group's executive board in 2018. Wood said he is grateful for the opportunities he has been afforded with to grow within politics because of College Democrats.
Grand Rapids sophomore Olivia Ammerman is the president of College Republicans at CMU. She has been serving the group's executive board since June 2020. Ammerman said being a part of College Republicans has given her a judgment-free zone where she can freely express her opinions and beliefs.
Central Michigan Life spoke with both presidents on what this year's inauguration means to their campus organization.
What are your organization's thoughts on this year's election?
Wood: We're definitely happy with how the election turned out. It was kind of nerve-wracking there in the beginning, it was a waiting game in terms of when we were going to get those final results, but once we finally got those, it was relieving. Then we kind of had to wait again until January to see the outcome of Georgia. But now, with all of that combined, I would say, overall, the feeling is pretty good. It's good.
Ammerman: Many of us tried to get President Donald Trump reelected. We worked on his campaign. He was the candidate that we supported. But as people of a democratic republic, that's not the way the election went. So, we're bummed that Trump isn't going to be in office for another four years, but I would say we're interested to see what Joe Biden has in store.
Do College Democrats have plans to celebrate Biden's election?
Wood: These next couple meetings, it'll be our first time being all back together since we had the election results. So it's going to be a little bit of like a recap of what's happened the past two months since we've seen each other, and then celebrating, and reflecting on the hard work that we put in that. We kind of did that a little bit already after the election. We're just kind of taking a moment to breathe and celebrate all the hard work that we did, because we're in the midst of a pandemic, which is challenging in and of itself, so making sure that we're still being involved and knocking on doors, making phone calls and doing anything we can to get people elected.
What are College Republicans' thoughts on Biden being elected?
Ammerman: He was the candidate that the democrats put in front of us. We're definitely bummed that Trump isn't going to be in office. We're worried about what Biden has in store. But it's four years, we'll have another opportunity to elect our own candidate in four years, and if that's what the American people decide, that's what's going to happen. But unfortunately, this time, at least unfortunately for us, the majority of America didn't want our candidate so we just kind of have to live with that.
What are some predictions you have for Inauguration Day and the days following?
Wood: I know here at the state level, and then obviously at the federal level, they are pretty concerned with how things are going to be on Inauguration Day and even past that. I don't want to see anything bad happen, but I think we're all just kind of being aware and being prepared that it is a very real possibility. I want to think that after the Inauguration things will calm down a little bit, but at the same time, I don't think it's going to happen that quick. I think we're going to see protests in some form continuing at least for a few weeks after, and I think especially claims with voter fraud aren't just going to go away. That's going to be something that's brought up continually, I mean, I still hear people bring it up continually. I think realizing that it isn't just going to solve itself overnight, and it's something we're going to have to work together to change that kind of rhetoric around the 2020 election and elections in general.
Ammerman: I don't foresee any more violence at the Capitol or in state capitals. I'm obviously not a clairvoyant or anything, but we're definitely praying and hoping for peace and a peaceful transition.
How has the election impacted campus?
Wood: From what I've heard at least, things have been different with us not being on campus. There's the split -- there's the people who are definitely happy and celebrating and there's people who are happy, but kind of happy that Trump's out of office and that's it. So then it's that next step of making sure the policies they want to see enacted, are enacted by the Biden administration. Then there's obviously people who are not happy in any way, shape or form. We hear things about voter fraud, things like that. So it's definitely pretty split. I don't really know if that's going to change, I want to think it is but as we've seen things are not getting any easier by the day.
Ammerman: I think it's acted as a very divisive instigator. We tried to get our candidate elected, and we weren't going to bash the other side or make fun of them. But we found that a lot of people bullied on social media, or when we went out to demonstrate that there was a lot of aggression and hate toward our group when we weren't really doing anything wrong. We were just voicing our opinions. So, I feel like there's been a lot of hate on both sides. I think there's a lot of misunderstanding. But this election, in particular, has made life on campus very divisive and if you're not on one side or the other, you can't be friends with me because you're a Democrat or you're a Republican, which is not how campus life should be. We all have different opinions and we need to all respect everybody's different opinions.
Does the RSO have any plans for Inauguration Day?
Wood: (Monday) was the National Day of Service that's put on by the Biden Inaugural Committee, so we took part in that. We are having a meeting on Wednesday evening recapping the inauguration and all of the events because they've turned the inauguration into a week-long celebration. We're working on shifting that focus to what the next first 100 days and the next four years are going to look like and making sure that people stay engaged throughout that process.
Ammerman: Since we just got up to campus, we haven't started meetings yet. I've encouraged our members to watch at least a bit of the inauguration. It is a national event, but we don't have anything as a group planned.
Does the RSO have any events planned for the Spring Semester?
Wood: We don't have anything big planned for the semester. I'm kind of working to put something together, since we will be virtual, obviously, throughout the semester. So I'm just figuring out ways to keep people engaged, involved and hopefully bring in some bigger name, exciting speakers. The goal was to have Gary Peters speak in the fall, and it didn't happen. I'm hoping we can bring him here in the spring, to kind of just recap, celebrate his election. I know last year, we had worked for Black History Month, which is next month, and putting out something with possibly Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence, who's actually a CMU alumni.
Ammerman: We're not probably going to have a whole lot of campus events here. We are taking a small number of members to Florida this year for a conference. CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference) is the National conservative convention. It's normally held in D.C., I guess like National Harbor, Maryland to DC area. This year it got moved to Orlando, Florida. So, we'll be going to Florida in February. But other than that, we don't have much planned.