Political clubs adapt to a virtual campaign season

Members of the Republicans of CSUF club gathered to campaign for U.S. Representative candidate, Young Kim, wearing masks (Republicans of Cal State Fullerton)

As election season approaches, political clubs at Cal State Fullerton would normally advocate for candidates throughout campus, but the ongoing pandemic has forced the organizations to find new ways to support their contenders.

“We're trying to make the best out of the situation,” said Kenneth Gonzalez, a third year criminal justice major and president of the Republicans of Cal State Fullerton club. “The silver lining in that is that the Zoom is accessible to anyone. You don't have to drive all the way to campus or be on campus to participate in the meeting.”

Republicans of CSUF is a political activism club that holds weekly meetings to discuss local, state and national events. The club holds various social events like parties, barbecues and movie nights in order to foster a community of conservative students who do not feel represented anywhere else on campus, Gonzalez said.

Previously, the club promoted republican politicians through tabling events on campus and had Republican candidates speak to club members in person.

Despite the challenges the club currently faces, Gonzalez said he hopes for a boost in meeting attendance since it is easier for students to attend online. He said that he also plans to book more speakers as the 2020 election approaches.

Gonzalez added that certain apps now allow people to politically phone bank, which is the process of reaching out and persuading potential voters, from the safety of one’s home. While wearing masks, the club gathered on Saturday to phone bank for Young Kim, the Republican candidate for California's 39th Congressional District.

“Some campaigns are doing in-person precinct walks, with social distancing, masks, hand sanitizer, all that stuff, to make sure it’s safe for the people walking,” he said.

The College Democrats of Cal State Fullerton has expanded its outreach on its social media platforms.

College Democrats of CSUF is a club that allows students to discuss important political issues and assists students with voter registration, promotes voter turnout and offers internship and volunteer opportunities with democratic officials, said Claudia Lazaro, a third year political science major and president of College Democrats of CSUF.

“I think it is a little more challenging just because when you post something online, you can't guarantee that people are even engaging with it,” Lazaro said. “If you're out on campus, you know that whoever you're speaking with is listening to you and not just scrolling past the screen.”

Although they are not currently campaigning for specific politicians, the club has connections with multiple democratic campaigns including Gil Cisneros, the U.S. Representative for California's 39th Congressional District, and Josh Newman, a state Senate candidate.

Lazaro said the club will hold meetings via Zoom and hopefully get politicians to speak to students virtually. The club will continue to offer opportunities for members who are hoping to build a career in politics.

A new student club called Forum - CSU Fullerton will begin operating under this virtual semester and hopes to create a healthy discourse through political discussion.

Eli Lawrence, a third year business and marketing major, is the director and creator of the club. He said his idea behind Forum is to bring together students with opposing viewpoints and allow them to better understand each other.

“Conversations alone about socio-political issues have just become incredibly angry and polarizing and so this program is sort of an emotional response to that. I just want people to come to more of an understanding of where everyone else is coming from on whatever issue it may be,” Lawrence said.

The club will structurally operate like a presidential debate, Lawrence said. A moderator will feed questions to a panel of three to four people; some questions will be specifically tailored to a person's belief and other students will have a chance to rebuttal one’s argument.

Each debate will be livestreamed online and when a show is over the club will upload five-minute segments showcasing the highlights on Instagram, he said.

“People will be able to do it from home. It’s less of a commitment for people to participate because they don’t have to go anywhere for it,” Lawrence said.

When the university returns to in-person instruction, the club intends to rent out tables and rooms where speakers can engage in live discussion and audience members can interact with the panel, he said.

The club will reach out to different organizations that they feel will best fit a specific political discussion but students can apply to publicly debate on the clubs social media platforms, Lawrence said. On Sept. 10, the club will hold its first virtual political debate surrounding the topic of defunding the police.

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