SESP junior Matt Davis is taking over the reins of the Northwestern College Republicans for this quarter after the group’s previous president left to study abroad. Fresh off his own study abroad experience in Montpellier, France, Davis talked to North by Northwestern to discuss his plans for NUCR winter quarter.
North by Northwestern: How did you get involved in the College Republicans?
Matt Davis: I’ve been involved with the College Republicans since the very first week of my freshman year. I’ve always been interested in conservative politics, and I liked it a lot from the beginning. Right away I started participating in weekly meetings, and at the beginning of my sophomore year I was elected vice president for special events. During that time I was really involved in planning a debate between Howard Dean and Rick Santorum, which we held in conjunction with the College Democrats. Then at the end of my sophomore year I was elected vice president, and when the last president left I became the new president, at least until we hold new elections in March.
NBN: What will the College Republicans have in store for the rest of the year? What kinds of events?
MD: One of the biggest things we have coming up this quarter will be our Republican primary debate. We have at least a few people who support each Republican candidate, and we’ll have a public forum where all the students make arguments for the candidates they support. We want to try as best we can to expose the differences between all the candidates. It’s really important for people to know what’s going on in the race and how the candidates differ. It’s a really big deal for the country, so even if you’re a Democrat, it would be good to come and hear arguments for each candidate. Sometime during Spring Quarter we’ll have a speaker who’s yet to be determined, and of course on top of that we have weekly meetings both quarters where we talk about policy issues and debate.
NBN: The Republican Primary season officially kicked off last night with the Iowa caucuses. Have the College Republicans gotten more attention or more support as a result of the primaries? Will the College Republicans endorse a candidate for nominee?
MD: Well in 2008 a lot of students voted for Barack Obama because they thought it was cool, but in 2010 we saw a lot of them start getting involved with us, because they realized it wasn’t cool. We’ve always been very diverse ideologically — we encompass fiscal conservatives, social conservatives and a lot of moderates — and in 2010, a lot of independents showed up and volunteered their time for us. And in the time leading up to this election, we’ve started to see even more of an uptick in membership and participation as more and more people are starting to recognize themselves as conservatives. We don’t endorse national candidates, and everyone in the group is free to campaign for whoever they want, but we do work as a group for local Republican candidates.
NBN: How difficult is it to run a Republican advocacy group on a campus with a predominantly left-leaning student population? Does this ever present any problems?
MD: I’d actually say that Northwestern isn’t really liberal — it’s just politically apathetic. National candidates typically don’t ever come campaign at Northwestern, because it’s basically Chicago, and Illinois isn’t a swing state, and so there’s sort of a lack of political enthusiasm here. We have found, though, that the Republican ideology is widely accepted here on campus, and we’ve never had any problems with anyone. We’ve worked closely with the College Democrats, the Rainbow Alliance and a bunch of other groups, and it’s a pretty accepting environment. Running a political organization always has its challenges here, though, because people mostly see politics as secondary to all the other stuff they have to worry about.
NBN: You spent Fall Quarter studying abroad in France. How did that influence your political views, and your worldview in general?
MD: After living in a socialist country for four months, I’m even more in favor of capitalism than I was before. I loved my time there, a lot of things they do there made me glad that I’m American. For instance, public employees seemed to go on strike all the time there, like the transit workers seemed like they were always on strike, so the transit system just didn’t work a lot of the time. In the U.S. that can’t happen because we have laws against those kinds of strikes. To me it reinforced the idea that there needs to be a balance between employers and employees so workers can’t just halt an economic entity like that. I also talked to people all around Europe, and a lot of them were shocked when I told them that I didn’t like Obama, because he’s a lot more popular over there. It definitely broadened my worldview to talk to so many people who didn’t share my opinion.
The College Republicans meet every Wednesday at 6 p.m. in University Hall. More information can be found on the group's Facebook page.