Conservative political orgs to vote in state caucus

Three of Macalester’s conservative political groups are working together to send students to the Minnesota Republican Caucus next week to vote in the non-binding straw poll and participate in the precinct delegate election.

MacGOP, Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) and Youth For Ron Paul (YFP), an unchartered org that recently branched out of MacGOP, hope to get around 20 people together to show student dedication to the Republican Party and the overall political process. Unlike many states in which an individual candidate wins through a primary process, Minnesota will undergo a caucus this Tuesday in which residents can vote in a non-binding straw poll and elect precinct delegates to represent their districts.

“The caucus is kind of an unusual thing, it’s not like a primary where you can go and cast a ballot and you’re gone,” said Drew Ojeda ’14, Co-Chair of MacGOP and President of YAL. “A caucus is a little more hands-on, a little more unorganized.”

Though many students at Macalester are not Minnesota natives, caucus rules allow room for students and other short-term citizens to get involved.

“It’s an open caucus, so all you have to do is be a resident of the state for 20 days,” Ojeda said. “And you don’t need to show ID, you just need to have someone to vouch that you have existed at that place of residence. So for a Macalester student, bring a friend.”

Ojeda will be running as a precinct delegate at the caucus, showing to the country that young voters are engaged and to Macalester that conservative ideologies do exist on campus.

“The most important thing people will be voting on is that delegate, not necessarily the presidential candidate,” he said. “The thing about the delegate is he will vote for you, so if the entire precinct says they want Candidate X, the delegate can vote Candidate Y. That’s why we’ll be there the whole time representing YAL.”

Ojeda clarified that because MacGOP members do not endorse candidates, he will be formally representing YAL at the caucus.

“I do endorse the democratic process with which we run things,” he said. “But as far as endorsing a candidate for MacGOP… I don’t do it.”

Because of this, those who will attend the caucus mainly through MacGOP are going to be “more of a support network,” said Robert Williams ’12, Vice-Chair of MacGOP.

“Some MacGOP members are also members of Youth for Ron Paul, so those people have a little bit more of an influence on the caucus… they can move up the ladder a little bit and have more of a direct impact on the caucus process rather than just a ‘go up and take a straw poll’ deal.”

That MacGOP members cannot formally endorse their preferred candidates was a considerable motivation for the many Paul supporters on campus to start a YFP chapter last semester. Though the two orgs have overlapping memberships, they keep their business separate.

“YFP is not a chartered org or anything, so we kind of treat it like that, like it doesn’t quite exist,” Ojeda said. “But it’s just a bunch of people on campus who like Ron Paul.”

Though unchartered, YFP is working hard to declare its presence on campus. This is best exemplified by attempts to get the candidate to speak at Macalester. Though ultimately unsuccessful, the group got closer to having a Republican candidate on campus than Macalester has seen since Nixon’s speech here in 1960.

“We were on the short list of two schools, Bethel and Macalester,” Ojeda said. “There were scheduling conflicts and Macalester wasn’t able to accommodate them. Macalester was the number one choice as far as I know from one of their reps.”

Even knowing that Macalester is a stereotypically liberal campus as far as rankings go, members of MacGOP were not actually concerned that students would inappropriately protest a Ron Paul event had they gotten the bid.

“I think students here have the candidate that they want, but Ron Paul is the Republican most people can see being supportive,” Ojeda said. “I would imagine some people would do stuff, but it really wouldn’t be as bad as someone else. The campaign was concerned about that, but we got a lot of student signatures.”

Though not a member of YFP, Williams held similar faith in the student body to appreciate such an opportunity no matter the political disagreements.

“I think that because Macalester has a high political intensity you would get a good turnout,” he said. “Quite frankly, it’s not every day you get to watch a presidential candidate speak… I think students at least on the surface would’ve been very against it. However, deep down inside it would’ve sparked interest… It would’ve been fascinating to watch not only him speak but see the Macalester reaction to it.”

According to Williams, this political tolerance is more reflective of MacGOP’s membership than meets the eye. Though many people may not see it, he says, MacGOP has a more varied mix of political preferences than its name suggests.

“If I told someone who didn’t know much about it that I’m a member of MacGOP they’d think I’m an extremely right-wing conservative, but by no means am I anything close to that,” he said. “That’s one of the disadvantages of being labeled as MacGOP, but obviously our ‘arch-nemesis,’ even though it’s not really like that, is MacDems. So MacGOP came out of that title. But it creates an interesting dynamic in our meetings when not everybody sees eye to eye.”