Wilkes University students bond despite different political affinities
WILKES-BARRE — In at least one spot in the Wyoming Valley, republicans, democrats and independents gathered together to watch election results in harmony.
Wilkes University’s Political Society held an election night watch party in Breisith Hall on the school’s campus. Students of different political affiliations watched as the numbers rolled in from polling stations across the U.S. in the closing hours of a turbulent and polarized presidential race.
Society members kept a close watch on the swing states, particularly Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan, via a CNN live stream displayed on a projection screen, but demeanors stayed temperate as early percentages were reported.
The Society, which is new to Wilkes University this year, allows students of different political affinities to discuss politics in an environment that values academic pursuit over party passion.
“We’re a non-partisan, non-affiliated group,” society vice president Kyle Snyder-Strausser said.
The sophomore political science major from Sunbury said the society gathers to share thoughts and ideas without the constraints of the defined dialogues of Republican and Democratic Parties.
“The problem with college campuses is they’re always viewed as voting typically liberal or conservative,” Snyder-Strausser said. “We’re on our own making our own decisions for the first time in our lives. I don’t want to see people following their parent’s rhetoric.”
Society secretary, Nicholas Whitney said he entered this presidential race as a staunch Republican but had trouble identifying with the national party after nominee Donald Trump “stole the Republican Party and destroyed everything it stands for.”
The sophomore from Plymouth Meeting said he hopes Trump causes a ‘Goldwater effect’ — 1964 Republican presidential nominee Barry Goldwater alienated many from the party with an extremist platform — and the party restructures for 2020.
The Political Society, Whitney said, is an important outlet for him to discuss his views in a diverse and accepting environment.
“It’s cool to be able to talk about it,” Whitney said. “We have students from abroad who provide different perspectives. It’s done in such an amicable way that it’s more progressive and productive than the three degenerative debates we’ve see this year.”
Society president Christie O’Brien said she thinks the society can gather with such diplomacy because the members have accepted their differences and realize expressing their views doesn’t make it any more likely that someone else’s views will change.
The senior from Goshen, N.Y. said she doesn’t fear for the future of the country regardless of the evening’s outcome.
“I don’t think four years is enough time to destroy this country,” O’Brien said. “Whatever happens we’re going to move forward.”
Moving forward together, O’Brien said, is accomplished by the Political Society through education — not specifically their formal, college education, but their study of politics beyond the quick information hits of blogs and social media posts.
“Our interest in politics makes us more aware and understanding of each other,” O’Brien said.
Delmar Guziewicz is a freshman from Duryea who was attending his second society meeting Tuesday night. He majors in history and international studies and hopes to becomes an ambassador to Iran.
Guziewicz said he appreciates the society for its lack of bias and its open discussions.
“Until we get to a point of mutual respect for each other, we can’t accurately discuss politics,” Guziewicz said. “This way we can discuss problems and analyze solutions.”
Mackenzie Egan, of Beach Lake, is a sophomore English major with a minor in history, who approaches politics from a historical perspective, calling herself an “outsider” in terms of political perspective.
She said regardless of the election’s outcome, Americans have to find a way to regain a sense of normalcy.
“Tomorrow everyone is still going to work with the same people,” Egan said. “Everybody needs to come together, but it’s going to take some time. Tomorrow will change the course of our country, but we have to face that as a country.”
Josh Groves, a junior from Birmingham, England, said members of the society are “friends first and politicians second.”
“You can disagree with someone without calling them an idiot,” Groves said. “It’s a discussion, not an argument. We’ve just had the E.U. referendum, and it was polarizing, and had similar rhetoric. We have to accept that we have conflicts and move on to living with them.”