“My main thing for college students is to be involved,” said Brandon Matthews, a senior political science major from Greenville and chairman of the Troy University College Republicans. “The politicians will never pay attention to the young people until they show up.”
“Do I speak for most individuals? Probably not,” Matthews said. “Most students will probably say student debt is an important issue.”
Matthews said he is more concerned with how the next president will handle business, national terrorism and national security issues before he or she tackles economics.
“For me personally, really and truly the president’s character, obviously, his policies and beliefs (are what’s most important),” he said. “And his or her history as an individual, too. I think religious liberty is huge, I think that’s the cornerstone of Americanism.”
Though Matthews recognizes that people will hold different views, he urges people to make theirs known in voting this year.
“I think it’s going to be different for individuals,” he said. “But I think people need to critically assess every candidate and vet them.
“In politics, people operate off of emotion too often. Though emotion can be a factor, it can’t be the most. I think you see that a lot with Donald Trump.”
He thinks the atmosphere will change before it comes time to vote, though.
“As people get closer to election time, they are putting more time and thought into voting,” Matthews said. “Not ‘who I enjoy listening to,’ but ‘who has a chance of winning.’ ”
The Troy University College Republicans have previously hosted Ben Carson’s campaign, according to Matthews. The organization will not have an official endorsement of a candidate until after the state primaries.
“Our goal as an organization is to educate members,” he said, noting a sponsored voting drive that is planned to take place later in the month. “It doesn’t matter what party you go for, we want you to vote.”
“I really encourage students to get involved — this is a huge election, and people don’t realize it,” Matthews said.
Jeremiah Baky is a junior political science major from Dauphin Island and the Deep South regional director for the organization Students for Liberty.
Baky said that “future economic freedom” was the most important issue to him as the primaries approach.
“Forty to 50 percent of students are coming out of college without the actuality of getting a job in their field,” he said.
“The only way to truly change that is to have more job opportunities.”
He believes that greater free-trade and reduced taxation on trade would accomplish this.
Baky became interested in politics after attending the 2014 International Students for Liberty conference held in Washington, D.C.
“Just going there opened my mind to a lot things and made me more empathetic than most college students are,” he said.
According to studentsforliberty.org, “SFL does not dictate the foundations upon which individuals justify their belief in liberty.
“Rather, Students For Liberty embraces the diversity of justifications for liberty and encourages debate and discourse on the differing philosophies that underlie liberty.”
Baky said that because the organization is a non-profit, it is “not allowed to promote or go against any candidate or legislation.”
While Baky is interested in politics, he hopes to work for a non-profit when he graduates from Troy University.
“Just be more aware of all of the policies a person has and actually watch all of their speeches and read into them,” he said.
“Don’t just take sound bites and what other people tell you to be true.
“We need to be more aware of the political process as a whole so as to identify good candidates and to be able to be good candidates in the future, for those of us who want to run for office.”
“Would you rather see this country continue to be an oligarchy controlled by a handful of billionaires or a democracy controlled by people like you and me?”
Paul Bower, a junior anthropology major from Enterprise, doesn’t identify with a single party, but aligns himself most closely with “democratic socialism.”
“Repealing Citizens United is at the forefront of political issues that concerns me,” he said. “It is outrageous that corporations are essentially allowed to purchase elections.”
Citizens United refers to a 2010 Supreme Court ruling in “Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission” in which the court had a 5-4 ruling in favor of the PAC. The ruling granted First Amendment rights to corporations and loosened restrictions on what money companies and organizations could spend in relation to elections.
Since this ruling, outside spending in elections has increased exponentially, according to the Washington Post.
“After this power is stripped away from billionaires, we can finally pass legislation that will help working-class families,” Bower said. “Income and wealth inequality, paid family leave, health care for all and free public college tuition are issues that need to be addressed so that working-class families have a chance to pursue the ‘American Dream.’ ”
Bower, who will be voting in the primaries in March as well as the elections, has chosen to support Bernie Sanders for this race. Sanders is running as a Democrat.
“Whether we love or hate the political realm, it influences all of us in both positive and negative ways,” he said. “If we want change, we have to be willing to use our voices.”