Bipartisan event draws students with diverse political perspectives

While Democrats and Republicans across the country rallied to voice their opinions in what has been a particularly contentious primary, Notre Dame students gathered in the Knights of Columbus building to await the results of the Super Tuesday elections.

Traversing party lines, this event was hosted by the Knights of Columbus Assembly No. 3600, BridgeND, NDVotes ‘16, College Democrats, and College Republicans. These groups sought to stimulate conversation amongst a diverse range of Notre Dame students about the candidates and the pertinent issues of the 2016 presidential election.

On the building’s first floor, members of College Republicans, as well as other conservative students, watched commentaries on Fox News. Downstairs, CBS and CNN were projected onto screens in the Council Chamber and the movie theater, where many members of College Democrats, as well as others in attendance, gathered to view the results.

Despite this tangible separation of viewpoints, lively conversation took place among each group of viewers, and many students ventured into their opposing party’s camp to discuss their opinions with those whose perspectives differed from their own.

Roge Karma, a sophomore and president of BridgeND, described his group’s motivation for supporting the event. “One thing about this campus is that students basically do care,” he explained. “But there hasn’t been a structure in place for students to express that interest. I believe we need institutional change to provide that structure.”

The purpose of BridgeND, as a 2014 interview with the club’s founders published in the Observer states, is “to foster constructive and actionable debate, to promote a sense of camaraderie between members, regardless of political ideology, and to connect politically interested students to their ideas.”

Although BridgeND does not endorse any candidate, Karma proposed John Kasich, who is currently seeking the Republican presidential nomination, as most reflective of Bridge’s stated goals. “There is only one candidate who has based his platform on building bridges, on what Bridge is founded on,” Karma explained. “This is engaging both Democrats and Republicans … [Kasich’s] mindset, regardless of his ideology, lines up best with our mission.”

The efforts of the results watch to engage students were fruitful. As the evening progressed, manifold perspectives were expressed, candidates’ platforms were evaluated, and vigorous but nevertheless respectful political discourse sounded throughout the building.

Kyle Palmer, who spearheaded the results watch with the Knights of Columbus, described his desire to host a uniquely bipartisan event to the Rover. “I sought their sponsorship two weeks before the event,” he explained. “This was the first time all of these clubs came together.”

Candidate for the Republican presidential nomination Donald Trump received the most attention from both Democrats and Republicans. In fact, one sentiment that frequently united the differing ideologies was a common distaste for Trump. “Voting against Trump will motivate people,” Karma suggested. “Do you know how many people in my dorm have said that they’ve never been interested in politics before but they are willing to be in order to be against Trump?”

Upstairs, freshman Liam Dolton remarked, “I hope the same people who haven’t been taking Donald Trump’s candidacy seriously start realizing that he’s doing things that past nominees and past presidents have done—such as winning key states on Super Tuesday—and start taking his campaign seriously and doing something about it.”

Nevertheless, when asked who would receive their vote if Trump won the Republican nomination, students from College Republicans overwhelmingly responded, “Trump.”

Regardless of their respective ideologies, attendees recognized the uniqueness of the event. Not only was it thoroughly bipartisan; with the support of the Knights of Columbus it reflected Notre Dame’s  distinctive ability to engage the academic and political spheres from a Catholic perspective.

According to an anonymous student, “The fact that we’re in [the Knights of Columbus building] makes this the most Notre Dame thing of all time.”

Nicole O’Leary is a sophomore majoring in theology and history and living in McGlinn Hall. She prefers that you contact her by way of carrier pigeon, but she can also be reached at